FAQs

FAQs from Families

For students with disabilities, inclusion can improve social and communication skills, and provide greater access to the general education curriculum, and, thus, increase academic achievement. Students with disabilities who are included throughout their school years develop stronger connections to other students without disabilities through participation in classroom academic learning activities and non-academic school and community-based activities, like social gatherings, field trips, and football games. When students with disabilities have opportunities to form relationships with same-age peers without disabilities, they can create mutual bonds that may last a lifetime. Students without disabilities also benefit. They learn about respecting differences, form friendships, and often benefit academically since they often have the advantage of differentiated lessons and a universal design for learning.

Schools support students with disabilities in different ways, according to their individual needs and Individual Educational Plan (IEP) goals. Students with disabilities in all educational settings receive specially designed instruction. Teachers can support students with diverse learning needs through a variety of effective instructional approaches including, but not limited to, universal design for learningdifferentiating instruction, providing accommodations and/or modifications, and collaborative teaching approaches. Decisions about how to support your child are always made in collaboration with family members during IEP team meeting(s).

It is important for families to directly contact their child’s teacher(s), guidance counselor, staffing specialist, or school administrator to discuss any specific concerns they have about their child’s education. If you are unable to resolve concerns related to inclusion for your child, you may contact the district’s ESE office. All school districts have procedures in place to assist families in resolving disputes. Communication between schools and families is a critical component to making inclusion work for any child. Some effective strategies for communicating important information about your child may include:

  • Know your child well and find ways to share what you know.
  • Know your child’s rights and what the law requires.
  • Know school staff and their responsibilities for your child.
  • Know how to communicate effectively and work positively with all school staff.
  • Believe that your voice and your child are important!

FIN’s Family FACT Folios offer some great ideas for communicating your thoughts and working collaboratively with your school. For more information, download the family Communication Tips document from the FIN website: http://www.floridainclusionnetwork.com/

When families feel that appropriate services are not being provided to their child or have questions about their child’s progress in the general education classroom, they are encouraged to work together with their child’s IEP team. Again, it is important for families to directly contact their child’s teacher(s), guidance counselor, staffing specialist, or school administrator to discuss and resolve specific concerns.

FIN has several resources especially for families that provide strategies for communicating and collaborating with schools to support inclusive education for their child. Please check out the family resources section of our site for FIN’s Family FACT Folios. These offer some great ideas for communicating your thoughts and working collaboratively with your school. For additional  information, download the family Communication Tips document as well.

It sometimes seems that having children with disabilities in general education classrooms may take the teachers’ attention away from your child and his or education may suffer as a result. This has not been found to be the case. Students with disabilities are considered general education students first. Research has consistently demonstrated that the academic performance of students without disabilities is not compromised by the presence of students with disabilities in the classroom. In other words, effective instructional practices benefit all learners.

The Florida Inclusion Network (FIN) offers free resources and support related to the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms and other natural settings.

While FIN facilitators do not attend IEP meetings they can provide useful information about the following: effective inclusive practices, family-school collaboration and communication, opportunities for networking with other families, and ways to access local resources and support. For information about your child’s educational program or Individual Education Plan (IEP), please contact your child’s teacher or school administrator.

When families contact FIN for direct support and assistance, facilitators can provide families with a variety of information and resources and may, upon request, contact the district’s exceptional student education (ESE) office or school to discuss concerns on behalf of the family. Family concerns and needs are always carefully considered as part of FIN’s planning and problem-solving with schools and/or districts.

Every three years, each school and each district conducts a BPIE assessment in collaboration with FIN and district and school administrators. If you are interested in participating in the BPIE self-assessment, please contact your school’s principal to let him or her know of your interest. The Districts and Schools tab on the FIN website provides more information about the content and process for this self-assessment. To read the Florida law requiring districts and schools to complete a BPIE Assessment, please click on the following link: Florida Statute on BPIE.

FAQs from Teachers

There are a number of ways/models that schools can use to provide inclusive supports to students with disabilities. There must be a full continuum of services available for students with disabilities. The focus of inclusion, of course, is in-class supports for students with disabilities. Direct supports are provided through dual-certification, support facilitation, and co-teaching.

General education teachers can support students with diverse learning needs in in-class models through a variety of effective instructional approaches including, but not limited to, differentiating instruction, providing accommodations and/or modifications, and collaborative teaching. Decisions about the specially designed instruction that an individual student with a disability needs are made by the Individual Education Plan (IEP) team.

Measuring the impact of inclusion can be a complicated process that involves looking at a number of factors including:

  • All students’ current academic, social, and behavioral performance
  • Whether or not students with disabilities are making progress toward learning targets, and mastery of the goals/objectives on IEPs
  • Students’ performances on state and district assessments

As with any assessment process, multiple sources of data should be considered prior to making a determination about the appropriateness of the setting or the effectiveness of the supports.

Effective instructional practices benefit all learners. In addition, students without disabilities often gain a greater appreciation for diversity and benefit from real world learning experiences that they may not have had in a more traditional classroom setting.

Students with more significant disabilities can benefit greatly from being included in general education classrooms. Some examples of these benefits include:

  • Greater access to the general education curriculum
  • Greater access to their peers without disabilities
  • Improved social skills
  • Meaningful opportunities to use communication skills
  • Access to more appropriate behavioral role models

Decisions about how much time students with more significant disabilities should spend in general education contexts (and the supports needed in order for the student to be successful) are made by each student’s Individual Educational Plan (IEP) Team.

Inclusion is a civil right and has many benefits over time. The amount of time that any student with an IEP spends in your classroom is determined by the IEP team, of which you are a member. The team will determine any needed supports for school personnel that will be needed for the teacher, such as learning how to use a communication system, special software or training for a medical condition.

Access Points are setting-neutral, which means that they can be implemented across a variety of settings. They are based on the grade-level standards, with identified Essential Understandings (for ELA and Math) or Independent, Supported or Participatory levels (for Science and Social Studies).

Exceptional education teachers will support you and the students with disabilities who are on Access Points in your classroom, as specified on student IEPs, but at minimum using a support facilitation model. A collaborative approach is the best way to effectively include students with disabilities, including those with significant cognitive disabilities.

Additionally, a number of professional development opportunities will help you learn new skills. FIN, Project ACCESS and your local FDLRS center will be able to recommend professional development specific to your situation.

Florida Statute 1003.57specifies, in part, that students with disabilities receive education in a general education regular class setting, reflecting natural proportions.  This means that the ratio of students with and without disabilities reflect the natural proportions in the school. In other words, if 12 percent of the students are students with disabilities, then the classrooms should have approximately 12 percent students with disabilities and 88 percent students without disabilities. Additional guidance that the Florida Department of Education gives regarding the number of students in a classroom is found in the Class-Size Reduction Amendment. Class size limits apply to all students, not just students with disabilities.

The most important thing to remember is that effective inclusion begins with a growth mindset and effective instruction. Exceptional education teachers will work with you and serve the students with disabilities in your classroom, as specified on student IEPs. A collaborative approach is the best way to effectively include students with disabilities.

A school may also choose to implement FIN’s inclusive scheduling process to most effectively plan for the use of existing resources and staff. If you want to learn more about this process, please listen to the recorded overview on this topic, or contact your local FIN facilitator.

Every three years, each school and each district conducts a BPIE assessment in collaboration with FIN and district and school administrators. If you are interested in participating in the BPIE self-assessment, please contact your school’s principal to let him or her know of your interest. The Districts and Schools tab on the FIN website provides more information about the content and process for this self-assessment. To read the Florida law requiring districts and schools to complete a BPIE Assessment, please click on the following link: Florida Statute on BPIE.

FAQs from School Administrators

While there are common components (communication between general education and special education, collaborative planning, models of support, etc.) in all inclusive schools, there is no one “right” way to do inclusion. In fact, inclusion is a mindset, not a specific activity or program! FIN supports schools as they set goals that are focused on the needs of their students and teachers. For more information about the kinds of supports FIN provides to schools, please contact your FIN Facilitator. Additional information about establishing/expanding inclusion at your school can be found in our Instructional and Teacher Leaders F.A.C.T. Folio series.

Florida Statute 1003.57 specifies, in part, that students with disabilities receive education in a general education regular class setting, reflecting natural proportions.  This means that the ratio of students with and without disabilities reflect the natural proportions in the school. In other words, if 12 percent of the students are students with disabilities, then the classrooms should have approximately 12 percent students with disabilities and 88 percent students without disabilities. Additional guidance that the Florida Department of Education gives regarding the number of students in a classroom is found in the Class-Size Reduction Amendment. Class size limits apply to all students, not just students with disabilities.

Generally speaking, in collaboratively taught inclusive classrooms one would expect to observe two teachers actively engaged in the instructional process, flexible grouping of students, differentiated lessons and assessments, and interaction between both teachers and all students. More guidance about what collaborative teaching looks like can be found in Volume 3 of our Instructional and Teacher Leaders F.A.C.T. Folio or in the short recording on “What Administrators Need to Know.” Additional information and guidance regarding inclusion (and related topics) can be found in our Instructional and Teacher Leaders F.A.C.T. Folios series and CUE Cards on the Districts and Schools webpage.

The Florida Department of Education provides information on the requirements for different scheduling methods/service delivery and corresponding teacher certification requirements based on various types of courses in the Narrative section of the current Course Code Directory. Additionally, information on the codes associated with each scheduling method/service delivery are available from the Student Information System Data Elements manual under “Scheduling Method.”

Schools need to focus on getting the most out of their existing resources. The process of Inclusive Scheduling for students with disabilities is critical to the success of any school’s implementation of inclusion. It is essential that school-based teams work collaboratively to develop student and staff schedules that reflect student needs, effective supports for all students, and maximizes existing resources. For more information about this process, please review our CUE Card on Inclusive Scheduling or listen to the audio clip for an overview of Inclusive Scheduling, and contact your local FIN facilitator to set up a meeting to discuss how FIN can support you with this process.

The Florida Inclusion Network (FIN) offers free resources and support related to the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms and other natural settings.

While FIN facilitators do not attend IEP meetings they can provide useful information about the following: effective inclusive practices, family-school collaboration and communication, opportunities for networking with other families, and ways to access local resources and support. For information about your child’s educational program or Individual Education Plan (IEP), please contact your child’s teacher or school administrator.

When families contact FIN for direct support and assistance, facilitators can provide families with a variety of information and resources and may, upon request, contact the district’s exceptional student education (ESE) office or school to discuss concerns on behalf of the family. Family concerns and needs are always carefully considered as part of FIN’s planning and problem-solving with schools and/or districts.

Every three years, each school and each district conducts a BPIE assessment in collaboration with FIN and district and school administrators. If you are interested in participating in the BPIE self-assessment, please contact your school’s principal to let him or her know of your interest. The Districts and Schools tab on the FIN website provides more information about the content and process for this self-assessment. To read the Florida law requiring districts and schools to complete a BPIE Assessment, please click on the following link: Florida Statute on BPIE.

FAQs from District Administrators and Program Staff

There are many ways that you can support schools including:

  • Share the district’s goals to support Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
  • Establish “LRE Reports” so that each school can monitor their LRE data.
  • Monitor the priority School BPIE self-assessment indicators with schools throughout the district.
  • Develop a staffing plan that supports the continuum of educational placements and service delivery models.
  • Model inclusive practices at the district level by using person first language, and supporting schools in their efforts to address School BPIE self-assessment priority indicators.
  • Include School BPIE self-assessment results in district level short and long-term improvement planning for inclusive education.
  • Assist schools with embedding their School BPIE priorities in their School Improvement Plans.
  • Assist schools in planning and problem-solving for efficient uses of their existing resources.
  • Support and provide appropriate professional development opportunities for school administrators and staff.
  • Partner with and educate families of students with disabilities.
  • Enlist the assistance of the Florida Inclusion Network.

Students with disabilities who are educated in general education settings are counted for class size requirements exactly the same as peers without disabilities. Florida Statute 1003.57 specifies, in part, that students with disabilities receive education in a general education regular class setting, reflecting natural proportions. This means that the ratio of students with and without disabilities reflect the natural proportions in the school. In other words, if 12 percent of the students are students with disabilities, then the classrooms should have approximately 12 percent students with disabilities and 88 percent students without disabilities. Additional guidance that the Florida Department of Education gives regarding the number of students in a classroom is found in the Class-Size Reduction Amendment. Class size limits apply to all students, not just students with disabilities.

The keys to capacity-building are commitment and collaboration. The most successful approach involves a commitment on the district’s part to being present for all (or at least a majority of) technical assistance and job-embedded professional development offered on the topic of inclusion and best practices for all students. District capacity building is one of the services that FIN provides, and actions can be planned during sessions addressing the long and short term improvement planning process.

District leaders can focus on shared responsibility for meeting the needs and achievement goals of all students. Departments can meet, plan, and mobilize together to assist schools. Decisions made at the district level should involve input from each department. Shared decision-making, shared goals, and a commitment to improving outcomes for students will foster positive growth for a diverse population.

Inclusion has been shown to positively impact students with and without disabilities. Research has consistently demonstrated that the academic performance of students without disabilities is not compromised by the presence of students with disabilities in their classrooms. There is also growing research that students with significant cognitive disabilities can learn and make gains in general education settings, especially with peer mediated support. Evidence shows that the educational performance of peers without disabilities is not diminished and is at times even enhanced by their interactions with, and support of, their peers with significant cognitive disabilities.