Inclusion in education means educating students with disabilities in the same classrooms and community schools as other students of the same age. In an inclusive setting, the student with disabilities receives the necessary accommodations, supports and modifications allowing them to benefit from the general curriculum.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does not use the term inclusion. It does require that students with disabilities be educated in their Least Restrictive Environment. To the greatest extent possible, students with disabilities should receive special education services with students in the classroom where they would be served if not disabled (in their home school with students of the same age). They should receive the supports, supplementary aids and services that they need to be successful there.
If the IEP team determines that the student can not be successful in the general education classroom, even with the supplementary aids and services, then it is not his/her Least Restrictive Environment and an alternate placement is considered. Any alternate placement should still seek to give the student opportunities to interact with typical peers.
Inclusion is not a place. Inclusion is an approach to education in which all children have the right to be valued and participating members of their neighborhood schools, to have meaningful friendships, and to learn and make progress in the curriculum. It is the belief that having a disability, of whatever nature or severity, does not change a child’s right to belong, interact, and learn at school with his or her siblings, neighbors, and peers. It is the commitment to providing the supports and adaptations that children need so that they can be successful, and the recognition that success does not look the same for all students.
NOTE: There is not any research that shows any negative effects from inclusion done appropriately with the necessary supports and services for students to actively participate and achieve IEP goals.