Successful Inclusion Models for Students with Disabilities Require Strong Site Leadership: Autism and Behavioral Disorders Create Many Challenges for the Learning Environment

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There is a legal concept in the United States that separate is inherently not equal. From the Civil Rights Movement to the establishment of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) all educators are mandated to provide an inclusive educational environment. Students with disabilities are to receive their education in the Least Restrictive Environment that will meet their needs. When a student's disability presents challenges to the structure and function of a classroom, such as when there are behavioral or compliance issues as can be evident with autism disorders, many pressures emerge that need to be reconciled. Classroom teachers may feel ill-equipped to manage both the behavior of the disabled student as well as the reactions and interactions of the rest of the class while also delivering quality instruction. Instructional assistants often feel overlooked as having valuable insight and perspective on managing behavior even though they are on the “front-line” in implementing behavior modification plans. Parents may have two very different points of view, both positive and negative, as they experience through their children the change of the classroom environment from what they might have experienced themselves. The school culture may need to be transformed as students learn to be inclusive, tolerant and accepting of one another. The school administrator is the one individual in this community that must emerge as a leader. This person must: Be well-trained on specific behavior management models such as Applied Behavior Analysis (A.B.A.), comfortable with working through a wide range of behaviors from non-compliance to physical aggression, be able to be an empathetic listener to staff and parents and demonstrate that perspectives can and should be shared, and be non-conflicted in the establishment and benefit of the inclusion model in all school governance decisions.


Keywords: Inclusion Model, Students with Disabilities, Autism Disorder, Behavior Management Plans, Site Leadership
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , , Successful Inclusion Models for Students with Disabilities Require Strong Site Leadership


Somer Harding

Principal, Chaparral Elementary School, Las Virgenes Unified School District
Calabasas, CA, USA

I am a principal of an elementary school with a great interest in special education. Our area has experienced a tremendous increase in the number of students diagnosed with autism and our school district has emerged as a leader in the successful integration of these students into the most appropriate learning environments to meet their needs. This has meant a great deal of professional development and training of staff, development of specific programming options at school sites, and the concerted efforts of leaders to change school practice and culture. As an administrator interested in this process I have worked with teachers to develop strong instructional practices, have been involved in specific negotiations relative to providing a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), worked with outside agencies specific to understanding the needs of the autistic child and provided leadership in understanding that the inclusion model can be successful.

Ref: L09P0919