Inclusive Education

Community Living Ontario / Inclusive Education

Inclusive Education

What is inclusive education and why does it matter? 

Inclusive education means that all students learn together in classrooms that support different learning styles, abilities and experiences. Many children who have disabilities are still placed in segregated “special” programs. We know that when we create special places for special people, away from their peers, people are less likely to reach their potential, to build relationships and find a place of belonging.

  • Research supports inclusive education as the absolute best education for all students.
    The research has been around for decades and consistently shows that all students benefit from inclusive education. 
  • No student’s needs are too complex for inclusive education.
    You might be thinking, “Yes, but my child/student has complex needs and needs more supports.”While that can be true, both of these issues are reasons why kids should have every opportunity to have diverse role models, access to the curriculum and the opportunity for friendships with all the kids in their community. Supports and services that are delivered in separate special classes can be provided in inclusive classrooms as well.
  • Being clear about what inclusive education is can help you be an effective member of the school team.
    When you are crystal clear on what inclusion looks like and what it doesn’t, then you are able to contribute to the school team, advocate for your child, and creatively explore helpful and innovative solutions that support your vision of an inclusive life. 
  • Children develop over time and so can parents and educators.
    Despite decades of successful inclusion of students who have disabilities in general education and research on the benefits of inclusive education, our school systems still have a long way to go. Many schools have little experience with true inclusion. Teachers are still not taught how to design their classrooms and their lessons so that they support all learners. Inclusion can be seen as a journey and students, parents and educators are all walking along together. Learning about best practices in inclusive education allows you to be an effective advocate and a contributing member of the school team. 

Are you wondering if your child’s school is inclusive? Download this free guide so you can grade schools on their inclusion, identify areas for advocacy and work on what would make the most impact for students who have disabilities. 

How can inclusive education be achieved?

Inclusion depends on teamwork. Parents, educators, paraprofessionals and consultants work together to support student success. 

Sometimes, parents or educators might find that they need to advocate for inclusion in a system that is resistant to change. In some areas, inclusive education might be a radical shift from the way that students who have disabilities are currently educated.

Universal design for learning is an approach that supports inclusion. Instead of modifying lessons to accommodate students, teachers create lessons that allow students with different strengths and challenges to engage with the curriculum together. 

Watch this excellent video by BC educator, Shelley Moore on universally designed lesson plans.

How can I advocate for inclusion?

There are two important aspects to advocating for inclusion. 

  1. Become knowledgeable. 
  2. Connect with people who can help and support your advocacy efforts. 

In this video, Andy Willemsen explains how parents can gain and use their knowledge to advocate for inclusion in schools.

Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are used in Ontario to determine the goals, supports and accommodations for a student who has a disability. Once an IEP is in place a school is required to follow it. 

You can access a free video series on inclusive IEPs here

The Good Things In Life for Kids with Disabilities Podcast has dozens of podcast episodes to help you become knowledgeable and empowered to advocate for inclusive education. Listen to inclusive education podcast episodes below. 



Or visit the website for a full list of podcast episodes on supporting kids who have disabilities to build a positive and inclusive life at home, at school and in the community. 

You can connect with other parents and educators who are advocating for inclusion by contacting your local Community Living, Integration Action for Inclusion, or join Inclusion Academy for access to inclusive education courses, resources and a community dedicated to inclusion.