Children that interact with other children who have disabilities or special needs benefit from the interaction. Inclusive and supportive environments teach children about differences and about respecting and valuing other people regardless of ability. They learn to initiate interactions with those who are a bit more unique. Children want to help one another as they grow, and when they see adults take steps to help a child, the children will also take steps to help. If they see a teacher pushing a student’s wheelchair, other children will want to help and do the same thing.
Children also learn to share with children who have disabilities by having more interactions with them because they are more understanding of the other children’s abilities.
Teachers can support children by a concept known as material adaptation.
This means to modify materials to promote child independence. In a wooden puzzle for example, knobs can be added to make it easier for the child with the disability. The teacher can also add special equipment to facilitate child participation. Teachers need to allow children with special needs to participate in class activities by providing appropriate seating or equipment, such as plastic chairs near the water table for a child who uses a wheelchair. Teachers can also simplify activities for the child with special needs by breaking it into smaller parts or reducing the number of steps (giving the child one piece at a time). Materials can also be prepared in advance for easier use. For example, peeling the back part of a sticker for the student, having items pre-cut, etc.
Children and families with special needs want to be accepted and included in their community regardless of ability. They want to have the sense of belonging as any other person would.
Children with disabilities or other special needs may present unique challenges, but the care they need is very similar to that needed by any child. They spend most of their time doing what other children do because at the end of the day, they are still children and want to do children-type activities. They have the same curiosity, desire to play, and need to communicate as their peers do.
Research shows that children with disabilities or other special needs benefit from being in an inclusive environment with typically developing children. These studies show that an inclusive environment helps children to achieve more than they do in segregated environments due to social interaction, which is extremely important for children. When these children have the same opportunities as other children, they strive toward new goals and achievements, often attaining levels of ability that surprise the adults who care for and interact with them on a day-to-day basis.