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"If our goal is to train and educate our students with this disability so that they can grow up to function as contributing, independent members of society, then we must enable them to apply what they have learned. The inclusion classroom is the most practical place to do this." (Wagner, 2002)
Students with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) continue to grow in number, challenging educational communities to identify the best means of providing appropriate educational experiences. The topic of inclusion often raises inspired, passionate discussion and debate. On the one hand, many families are concerned that full inclusion in the mainstream may not afford the full range of necessary supports to promote success. Alternately, students who are in small special education (self-contained) classrooms have a more limited range of social and educational opportunities.
Research yields no conclusive findings on this topic, except to highlight what practice bears out: inclusion is highly individualized. Rather than inclusion or not, it is important for teams to consider the full range of options, including classrooms co-taught by both a regular and special education teacher, "reverse inclusion" when mainstream students join the special education environment, and social inclusion for nonacademic activities. Then the question becomes which inclusion experiences can contribute to a student's educational growth and what strategies can be used to support them in that setting. What follows is an overview combining research/literature on the topic and my experiences in a …