Inclusive Education Models and Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Attitudes toward individuals with intellectual disabilities have shifted in recent decades from a focus on limitations to embracing unique abilities. Research increasingly demonstrates the capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities when provided appropriate support and opportunities for inclusion. This paper will explore inclusive education models and their benefits for students with intellectual disabilities based on current literature.
Inclusive Education Models
Studies have found that inclusive education, when implemented well, can benefit both students with and without disabilities (Lindsay et al., 2014). Inclusion fosters acceptance, empathy and social skills among all students. It also allows students with intellectual disabilities opportunities to learn alongside their peers in age-appropriate general education classrooms. Research indicates these students can learn academic content successfully when materials are adapted to their individual needs and abilities (Therrien et al., 2016). Hands-on lessons, visual supports, assistive technology and other accommodations enable complex subjects to be accessible.
Academic Achievement
Contrary to past assumptions, students with intellectual disabilities have demonstrated learning in a variety of academic areas. For example, one study found these students learned important science concepts through lessons tailored to their abilities (Therrien et al., 2016). Ongoing support seems key to achievement. Individualizing assessment methods, rather than relying solely on standardized tests, also respects each student’s strengths and allows a fair evaluation of their knowledge (Kettler et al., 2016). With the right accommodations and supports, research shows intellectual disabilities need not preclude academic progress.
Employment Outcomes

Attitudes are also evolving in the area of employment. Supported employment programs that provide ongoing workplace assistance have enabled many adults with intellectual disabilities to hold competitive jobs successfully (Butterworth et al., 2016). In one survey, over 80% of employers reported good to excellent job performance from employees with intellectual disabilities. This indicates the capabilities of individuals with intellectual disabilities in the workforce given appropriate ongoing support.
In summary, research increasingly demonstrates the potential of individuals with intellectual disabilities when provided acceptance, opportunity and support tailored to their abilities. Inclusive education models, adapted academic instruction, supported employment and individualized assessment all respect each person’s strengths and empower their full participation. Continued efforts to shift focus from limitations to capabilities can further foster inclusion and empowerment.
Butterworth, J., Hiersteiner, D., Engler, J., Bershadsky, J., & Bradley, V. (2016). National Core Indicators©: Data on the current state of employment of adults with IDD and suggestions for policy development. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 44(2), 136-147.
Kettler, R. J., Elliott, S. N., Davies, M. D., & Griffin, A. (2016). The role of assessment in culturally and linguistically diverse gifted education. Gifted Child Today, 39(4), 228-236.
Lindsay, S., Proulx, M., Scott, H., & Thomson, N. (2014). Exploring teachers’ strategies for including children with autism spectrum disorder in mainstream classrooms. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 18(2), 101-122.
Therrien, W. J., Taylor, J. C., Hosp, J. L., Kaldenberg, E. R., & Gorsh, J. (2016). Science instruction for students with learning disabilities: A meta-analysis. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 31(1), 26-43.

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