In the pursuit of inclusive education, many students are taken out of segregated special education settings and brought into general education settings. For some students, this is a full placement move; for others, it is for only a part of their day. Support through this transition is necessary. Students who have been in a special education track have become used to certain expectations, often academically lower ones. They have been stigmatized by their segregation and often internalized that stigma. They have been learning a different curriculum or a modified version of the curriculum. Moreover, students are negotiating the disability or difficulty that spurred the segregation in the first place.
Bringing these students into a general education setting–one likely to have more students, different behavioral expectations, and a more challenging, faster-paced curriculum–can be traumatic to both the teacher and the student if it is done without some forethought and planning. It is necessary to consider both the social-emotional component of this type of transition as well as the academic. Students should have time, conversations, and support in moving out of the setting to which they have become accustomed. This should not be a “one day out next day in scenario.” The school environment needs to be one that anticipates student movement from one environment to the next. There need to be academic supports in all settings for the children who will be learning in them.
Moving a student from segregated self-contained to an integrated co-teaching class does not constitute an inclusive move in and of itself. To move away exclusionary practices, it is necessary to create an environment where students are supported in their learning and can feel socially and emotionally secure in transitions between environments. The goal of this work is to increase students’ successful access to the curriculum, not to throw them into an uncomfortable setting where they feel like an outsider and then give them work they have never seen before. That kind of move is setting students up for failure and can have seriously detrimental effects. Supporting transitions from segregated special education settings to general education settings is a practice that fosters inclusivity in schools.
Getting started with transitions:
- Schools should develop a general plan that administrators and teachers agree upon regarding how decisions are made for transitioning students. For instance: deciding who will be making the recommendations, how the receiving and sending teacher will be given time to meet, and how the student and students’ family will be consulted about the decision.
- Transitions are easiest when the student is prepared to be successful with the curriculum that is being utilized in the receiving classroom. This may require a longer transition so that specific skills and routines can be pre-taught before the transition.
- Students’ IEPs must be reviewed to determine if additional or different special education services are needed to be successful in the less restrictive environment. When the location of services changes, often the services themselves must change.
- School leaders should carefully consider the adults’ schedules to determine if indirect consulting teacher (SETSS) services are needed and the general education teacher or related service providers must be provided with co-planning time to create curriculum accommodations, modifications, instructional adaptations, instructional practices, and individualized supports.