group of middle school students in the hallway at school, one has Down Syndrome

Inclusion is part of a much larger picture than just placement in the regular class within school. It is being included in life and participating using one’s abilities in day-to-day activities as a member of the community. It is being a part of what everyone else is, and being welcomed and embraced as a member who belongs. Inclusion can occur in schools, churches, playgrounds, work, and in recreation. Kids Together, Inc.

What is inclusion?

Inclusion is not mentioned in the law- the terms “placement” and “least restrictive environment” are. As the quote above shows, inclusion is not just a classroom placement. Families are often experts in adapting and including their children in family life.

The resources here can help parents learn more about inclusion at school. A Michigan Alliance for  Families Parent Mentor is also available, contact us.

“All children with disabilities are to be educated to the maximum extent with children who do not have disabilities.” Federal Law I.D.E.A. Sec. 612.5(A)

“Inclusion is a right, not a special privilege for a select few.” Federal Court Oberti v. Board of Education

“Separate education facilities are inherently unequal.” Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education

“Schools who let one criterion, such as a specific disability, automatically determine the placement are likely to be held in violation of federal law.” Supreme Court Board of Education v. Rowley

Is my child too (fill in the blank) to be included at school?

All students can participate and learn within the general education curriculum. 

Is a segregated program better than a general education program?

“Research shows when students with different support needs learn together, they experience better academic and behavioral outcomes, social relationships, high school graduation rates, and post-school success.” – SWIFT

How do I get my child included in their school?

Placement is an IEP team decision. Parents are part of the IEP team. Be sure to visit the Michigan Alliance for Families LRE webpage.

The level of commitment districts have for inclusion varies across the state, therefore how hard it will be for an individual parent to have their child placed in the Least Restrictive Environment varies as well.

  1. Contact Michigan Alliance for Families to speak with a Regional Parent Mentor
  2. Increasing Inclusion, Engagement, and Independence in General Education A tool developed by Michigan Alliance for Families and the Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START) Project to provide clarity for families and promote collaboration.
  3. Our School Doesn’t Offer Inclusion Kids Together
  4. Common Sense Tools for Inclusive Education MAPS is a collaborative process for planning for inclusive opportunities. CIRCLES of Support is an approach to understanding and building relationships with each other.
  5. IEP and Inclusion Tips for Parents and Teachers (pdf book)
  6. Including Students with Multiple/Severe Disabilities in the General Education Classroom Vanderbilt University
  7. Differentiated Instruction means tailoring instruction to meet individual needs.
  8. MDE Office of Special Education Parent Line For questions related to special education or the IEP process 1-888-320-8384 or email mde-ose@michigan.gov.

If the parents disagree with the placement decision, they have recourse through procedural safeguards, which includes mediation and due process procedures, as a way of resolving the conflict. A parent of a child with a disability can also file a State complaint.

 Always remember the purpose of special education…

The purpose of special education is to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a “free and appropriate public education” that emphasizes special education and related services “designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.” Special education services are provided at no cost to the parents and must be provided in the “least restrictive environment”.

Where can I learn more and get support?

Inclusion: Free Appropriate Public Education in the Least Restrictive Environment


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