People walking in a field
Photo courtesy William Bronston, M.D

As part of a larger study, authors of relevant literature were asked to submit their definition of school inclusion. The content of these definitions was analyzed using qualitative methodology, and 7 themes emerged:

  1. placement in natural typical settings;
  2. all students together for instruction and learning;
  3. supports and modifications within general education to meet appropriate learner outcomes;
  4. belongingness, equal membership, acceptance, and being valued;
  5. collaborative integrated services by education teams;
  6. systemic philosophy or belief system;
  7. meshing general and special education into one unified system.

Unless services for students with moderate to severe disabilities reflect all of the first 5 themes, those services cannot be defined as reflecting school inclusion.

A major underpinning of the idea of inclusion is that Everyone Belongs. The continuum and least restrictive environment concepts, by their nature, encourage all kinds of assumptions about the "placement needs" of students with various types of challenges.