Making Inclusion Work - 10 tips to help you before school begins

The new school year is about to begin and it has already gotten me thinking about all the things I need to get down and prepared for before the students come on the first day. Below I will give you 10 tips to help you start the school year off to the right start for you students who are included in the regular education classroom.

About me and my classroom:
I work in an elementary school where all kids are included in their regular education classroom. That is where they goto first thing in the morning, where their desk/table is, where they take attendance and lunch choices. At our school, we make inclusion work and provide support to our students so they can be apart of their least restrictive environment. What that looks like varies by every child and every IEP. To have a successful school year, planning for our special education students starts with the IEP and happens before the first day of the new school year.

How can you plan and make inclusion work for your students, below I have a list of tips for special education teachers to help start the new school year off right.

1. Read IEP's
Before the new school year, read through your IEP's. I find writing down what supports they need in the classroom by myself, the case manager and by para-educator support (which class and how much time).

2. Organize  
I also write down pull-out times (do they need full pull-out support or am I just providing interventions for an area they struggle in?) so I know what I need to teach through out the day verses providing support in the classroom.

3. Meet with Regular Ed. Teachers 
Meet with each regular education teacher before the start of the school year. Run through the IEP with the teacher and if they do not have a copy, one is provided for them. Hightlight areas of strengths, weaknesses and go through the services provided for the student. Make sure they know what the services will look like- will the sped teacher be in the room or do they receive pull-out services, is there a para-educator in the classroom for certain periods- what will that look like? And don't forget the accommodations each students receives, make sure the teacher is aware of their responsibility to them.

4. Communication 
While visiting the regular education teacher, make sure you set up an open line of communication. When should they contact you if problems arise? I like to be on e-mails that my teachers send to parents and we discuss how that is handle, it helps so we are all in the know. If the student is being included the classroom during academic times and special education services are being provided when can you collaborate so you know what is being taught? For my high-needs students I meet once a week with my teachers when I support them in their classroom. That way I know ahead of time what is being taught, modifications I can make and for me to be organized and prepared. Sometime e-mail is the right method as well. Find out works for both of you.

5. Due Dates 
Make a list of all IEP due dates and make sure all members of the team are aware so they can put it in their calendar and plan accordingly when scheduling the meeting comes up.

6. Communicate with All Teachers
Touch base with specials teachers (PE, Library, Music, Art, ect.) to let the know of any accommodations your students may need (modifications to assignments/tests, longer processing time ect.). They like to know ahead of time and then no one is surprised.

7. Share 
Share behavior plans. Have a written documentation of the procedures and who handles what. Being overly prepared will come in handy when behaviors arise.

8. Sensory 
Sensory tools- provide fidgets, balls, seat cushions before the school year so students have their tools ready before the first day of school.

9. Have Fun 
Have a sense of humor! Laugh at the hard times and appreciate the good. Connect with the teachers you share students with and empathize with tough situations. Always ask how you can help or is there something more I can do for you.

10. Send an Appreciation 
Provide a thank-you- by card, email, or a small gift (who doesn't love a little chocolate). Never hurts to show someone you appreciate them and it helps when problems arise - they know you care and want whats best.

What do you do before the new school year starts? Share your tips and advise in the comments below.

Best of luck to you with the 2016-2017 school year!!


  1. I am an inclusion special ed teacher as well and do almost all items on this list. My summer to do is make sensory bags for each teacher whether or not they have a child with special needs-who doesn't love a squishy ball once in a while? Great list.

  2. Thanks for stopping by!! You sure will have some lucky teachers getting a sensory bags, every classroom can certainly use sensory supports for their room. Way to go on be proactive and such a helpful teacher!!! Lisa

  3. Hi Lisa,

    I am jumping back into special education and I'm trying to do a little prep at the end of this school year before I get back into the swing of things this fall. I would LOVE to pick your brain a bit about how inclusion works in your school. If you have a spare minute (I know those are hard to come by, would you be willing to shoot me an email?)

    Thank you!

    Teaching Tales Along the Yellow Brick Road


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