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7 Myths About Inclusive Education

Updated: Apr 1, 2022

This blog post contains content created and published by the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the TIES Center, and the University of Washington Haring Center for Inclusive Education. It is being shared with permission. Click here to access the full, original resource.

Despite decades of research that prove inclusive education benefits all students, there are persistent myths that permeate school communities and become barriers to moving inclusion forward. One way to challenge myths is to have facts to back up why we believe what we believe about inclusive education. So, OSPI, the TIES Center, and the UW Haring Center developed a resource called "Myths & Facts about Inclusionary Practices in Washington State." And we wanted to share a simplified version of that resource with you! Keep reading to discover seven myths and the facts that disprove them about inclusive education.


MYTH #1: Including students with significant cognitive disabilities costs more than educating them in segregated special education programs.

FACT: Providing flexible services in general education settings is not more expensive. In fact, it enables schools to maximize resources to meet the needs of each and every student.

The Truth Is... Schools do not automatically receive more funding for placing students in more restrictive placements. Students with significant cognitive disabilities do not always need 1:1 support to be included in general education classrooms. Special education funding is connected to student needs and not tied to specific programs nor the percentage of time students with IEPs spend in special education settings. Safety net funding (reimbursement for high-cost services) is based on the services in a student's individualized education program (IEP), not the student's placement or program.


MYTH #2 : Students with significant cognitive disabilities can only receive specially designed Instruction (SDI) from their case manager or assigned special education teacher.

FACT: SDI can be provided by any teacher or educational staff member as long as the SDI is designed and supervised by special education licensed staff.

The Truth Is... SDI should be delivered across all instructional environments. There is no minimum amount of time that a student eligible for special education is required to be in a special education setting (e.g., a self-contained classroom) to receive SDI. Special educators are not the only staff who can provide SDI to students. General education teachers and paraeducators can support the delivery of SDI to students with IEPs who are in general education settings. All SDI counts toward a student's complete education program. IEP service minutes include SDI provided by special education staff in any environment as well as SDI provided in general education settings by paraeducators and general education teachers.


MYTH #3: Students with significant cognitive disabilities must show they are ready for the general education setting.

FACT: Every student is a general education student. All students have the right to be educated in general education settings.

The Truth Is... Students should not be required to reach specified benchmarks (e.g., a 2nd grader at Kindergarten proficiency) before receiving instruction in general education. A student’s needs, rather than disability, should determine placement. For example, a student with an intellectual disability should not automatically be placed into a segregated setting. Mission and vision statements that read “all means all” should include the experiences of students with significant support needs. Students with IEPs, including students with significant support needs, should not have to "earn their time" in general education or "prove" they will not engage in challenging behaviors before gaining access to general education environments.


MYTH #4: When a student has a significant cognitive disability, their curriculum is their IEP, meaning they focus exclusively on their annual IEP goals.

FACT: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) require that all students make progress toward grade-level learning standards.

The Truth Is... All students eligible for special education should have IEPs that are aligned to grade-level learning standards, including students with significant cognitive disabilities whose instruction focuses on functional skills. Students with IEPs who are placed in special education settings should not have a separate/alternative curriculum with little connection/alignment to the general curriculum.


MYTH #5: All parents of children with significant cognitive disabilities want their children educated in separate programs or classrooms.

FACT: Inclusive education helps students with significant cognitive disabilities and their families feel a sense of belonging as part of the entire school community.

The Truth Is... Students with significant cognitive disabilities in inclusive settings build relationships with peers. Creating communities of belonging for students with significant cognitive disabilities and their families is central to meaningful inclusion. Higher education and/or integrated employment are options for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Planning with this end in mind supports the need for inclusive education throughout PreK-12. Post-school transition conversations and planning should start early for students with significant cognitive disabilities and their families, including strong agency linkages with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and/or the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA).


MYTH #6: A student's diagnosis or disability determines program placement.

FACT: Placement is not predetermined. A student’s disability category does not drive placement in more restrictive settings.

The Truth Is... For all students with IEPs, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, LRE is determined by student need, not disability category or label. General education placement should be considered before more restrictive options.


MYTH #7: Cognitive assessments (or a minimum IQ score) are necessary for academic goals and instruction.

FACT: All students are general education students. All students receive academic instruction.

The Truth Is... IEP goals and service areas—including academic, adaptive, social, and functional skills—should be aligned to grade-level learning standards and reflect student needs. They should not be determined by a single test score or measure. Students with significant cognitive disabilities should have access and exposure to age-appropriate, grade-level content in addition to instruction that meets their functional and adaptive needs. Online IEP systems used by districts should offer case managers flexibility to individualize service areas. For example, IEP service areas should not have "locked" categories that only map back to the evaluation.


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Kayla Kingston is the Communications Specialist for MCIE. A recent graduate of the University of Dayton, she loves reading, writing, and supporting all things inclusion.

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