Comprehensive Inclusive Education: General Education and the Inclusive IEP

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The comprehensive inclusive education planning process described in this article is intended to support the creation and provision of a curricular and instructional program based on the acknowledgment that:

  • each child is a general education student. 
  • the general education curriculum and routines and the Individual Education Program (IEP) comprise a student’s full educational program.
  • the IEP for a student qualifying for special education services is not the student’s curriculum.  

Curriculum and instruction based upon these principles are often not in place for students with the most extensive needs, including those with significant cognitive disabilities (Wehmeyer, Shogren & Kurth, 2021). Therefore, this process focuses upon application for those students. Students who qualify to receive special education services, especially those with more intensive needs, have ended up with the IEP being their program and being seen not as a general education student but as a special education student only, when in fact, each and every child is a general education student.  In addition, when a student qualifies for special education services, those services are to be provided in collaboration with general educators to support access and progress in the general education curriculum AND on their IEP goals.  The IEP is intended to support a student’s progress in general education curriculum and routines, as well as other essential skills that support a student’s independence or interdependence across school, home, and other community environments.  A comprehensive inclusive education program based upon these principles is important because without that focus, a student’s learning opportunities and school and post-school outcomes are diminished.  In order to create an effective comprehensive inclusive education program, collaboration between general educators, special educators, and families is needed.

This planning process is based on a vision and expectation that each student can actively participate, belong, contribute, and learn in the school and larger community. These expectations benefit each individual student as well as the larger community, resulting in more diverse, vibrant, and caring environments that embrace and celebrate the contributions of each to the whole.