What is an Inclusion Program for Autism?
Inclusion Benefits Everyone
Inclusion programs are defined by the presence and interaction of children with disabilities or other special needs with typically developing children. This includes interaction in community activities, services, and programs, including preschool.
Inclusive programs help children learn that all individuals are different and unique while providing children with special needs the same opportunities and experiences as that of typically developing children.
Benefits for Parents
Inclusive programs afford parents a variety of benefits. Having a child enrolled in an inclusive program provides the opportunity to teach a child about individual differences and acceptance of others. It also provides an opportunity to learn more about typical development while identifying areas where a child is excelling. Along with these developmental benefits, inclusion helps reduce a sense of isolation from the community and provides an outlet to establish relationships with a variety of families.
Benefits for Children
Inclusion benefits all children, both those with special needs and those without. Children without disabilities develop a better appreciation and acceptance of individual differences. Inclusion creates opportunities to practice skills and teach others, as well as to develop meaningful friendships. For children with special needs, inclusion offers an opportunity to learn age-appropriate language, social, play, self-help, and many other skills, while having fun and in the context of appropriate peer interactions. Inclusion is a great way to generalize skills learned in a one-to-one format or other setting.
Program Structure and Teacher’s Role
Each program is individually structured based on the child’s strengths and needs. Some children may benefit from access to social opportunities for much of the day, while other children may do better starting with fewer and shorter opportunities. Depending on what works best for each child, there are opportunities embedded throughout the day for intensive structured teaching, small group learning, and full integration.
A child’s therapist, who is present in the classroom, provides ongoing support by prompting him or her to participate in activities, interact with other children and follow the teacher’s instructions. The therapist is there to facilitate appropriate interactions and engagement with other children and teachers. The goal of an inclusion program is for each child to actively participate in everyday instructions and routines of the class, as directed by the teacher, with minimal to no prompting by the therapist.
Inclusion Programs for Autism like those developed by Trumpet Behavioral Health and Bright Horizons target a variety of skills. Each clinician works individually to determine what objectives to work on based on family input about desired outcomes and based on our assessment of each child’s behaviors and skills. The ultimate goal is to help children learn to be successful without our support.
Some examples target skills include:
- Social skills
- Following instructions
- Self-help skills
- Safety skills
- Adaptive behavior (e.g., engaging in appropriate behavior, reducing problem behavior)