The Role of Social Development in an Inclusive Classroom

Are we fostering healthy self-esteem in children and adolescents today?

In the previous post, we talked about the effect inclusive environments have on a child’s academic development. Today, I want to look at the impact that an inclusive classroom has on their social development with their peers and their self-esteem.

A study in 1999 by Hughes found that teacher-student relationships can have a significant effect on peer perceptions of other students. Therefore, by having kids with disabilities working alongside mainstream kids, having teachers treat them and include them just as they do their peers, has a considerable impact on their social development and how their social interaction takes place.

Just Friends 

Blake teaches a “Positive Affirmations” lesson at a grade school.

I have seen this play out during my consulting with Portland Public Schools. In the last post, I talked about my friend, who is a 4thand 5th-grade teacher, and how she, as well as her colleagues, adapt assignments to provide opportunities for kids with disabilities to succeed. In addition, her interaction with the kids with disabilities has changed the perception of their mainstream friends. As a point of reference, kids with disabilities are often associated with labels, such as “Special Ed” or “Life Skills.” However, in my friend’s classroom because mainstream kids are able to work alongside kids with disabilities, they started referring to them as friends. I find it fascinating that although kids have dropped those labels for their peers, they still apply them to specialized teachers. I believe this is attributed to the sense of (or lack of) connectedness they feel with an individual.

Social Inclusion

Social inclusion, as it relates to development, is so vital to our success. In most cases, adults say that social interaction in school had a more significant impact on who they’ve become than academia. It is in school that we really learn to work with people and how to treat people. These intersections prepare us to enter the professional world. An inclusive academic environment can have a lifelong impact on kids with disabilities by providing them with the social skills required to hold a job. In addition to setting people with disabilities up for success, it teaches the broader community how to work with and appropriately communicate with them.

As I stated at the beginning, it starts with adults. Adults need to model how to interact with different types of people in an inclusive environment. It is not enough just to talk about it, we have to live it out. Let’s commit to building an attitude of perseverance and inclusion with our coworkers, friends, and students.

If you are practicing inclusion in your classroom or in your life, please leave a comment or email me and let me know how you’re modeling this concept of social inclusion. Click Here to send me a message.

Thank you again for coming on this journey of encouraging an attitude of perseverance.

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