SUBMITTED BY: Dr. Thomas Hehir, Silvana and Christopher Pascucci Professor of Practice in Learning Differences at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
Across the globe, students with disabilities are increasingly educated alongside their nondisabled peers in a practice known as inclusion. Inclusion is prominently featured in a number of international declarations, national laws, and education policies. These policies, coupled with the efforts of advocates for the rights of people with disabilities, have led to a substantial increase in the number of students with disabilities who receive schooling alongside their non-disabled peers. In this report we sought to identify research that demonstrates the benefits of inclusive education not only for students with disabilities, but especially for students without disabilities, since evidence of benefits for the former is already widely known. This report is the result of a systematic review of 280 studies from 25 countries. Eighty-nine of the studies provide relevant scientific evidence and were synthesized and summarized below. There is clear and consistent evidence that inclusive educational settings can confer substantial short- and long-term benefits for students with and without disabilities. A large body of research indicates that included students develop stronger skills in reading and mathematics, have higher rates of attendance, are less likely to have behavioral problems, and are more likely to complete secondary school than students who have not been included. As adults, students with disabilities who have been included are more likely to be enrolled in postsecondary education, and to be employed or living independently. Among children with Down syndrome, there is evidence that the amount of time spent with typically developing peers is associated with a range of academic and social benefits, such as improved memory and stronger language and literacy skills. Including students with disabilities can support improvements in teaching practice that benefit all students. Effectively including a student with a disability requires teachers and school administrators to develop capacities to support the individual strengths and needs of every student, not just those students with disabilities. Research evidence suggests that, in most cases, being educated alongside a student with a disability does not lead to adverse effects for non-disabled children. On the contrary, some research indicates that non-disabled students who are educated in inclusive classrooms hold less prejudicial views and are more accepting of people who are different from themselves. For people without disabilities, the benefits of inclusion extend into the workplace. In a study of Brazilian, Spanish, United States, and Canadian companies and institutions, McKinsey & Company researchers found that employing people with Down syndrome creates a positive impact on a company’s work culture and environment, fosters the development of conflict resolution skills, and increases the self-motivation of employees. Nevertheless, many students with disabilities still struggle to access effective inclusive programs. Long-standing misconceptions regarding the capacities of children with intellectual, physical, sensory, and learning disabilities lead some educators to continue to segregate disabled and non-disabled students. Abt Associates | A SUMMARY OF THE EVIDENCE ON INCLUSIVE EDUCATION 3 For the purposes of this study, inclusive education is understood in contrast to other common educational environments for students with disabilities: exclusion, segregation and integration.