Developing Inclusive Classrooms

By Laura Ferguson, M.Ed., BCBA


If you are a teacher in any school or classroom you will have individuals in your classroom that will have unique learning needs. It is important that if we are going to fully include everyone we have to make sure that all students in the class are accepting of each other. Here are some tips to encourage all students to be accepting of each other.


Lead by example. Teachers have the opportunity to lead by example throughout the school day. If you treat students with special needs differently then the students will follow your lead. Your actions and words will tell your child how to respond to his classmates, so treat them how you would like your students to treat them.


  • Point out strengths, not weaknesses. Teach every student that they have unique strengths and weaknesses. Encourage all students to seek strengths in his classmates and to respect each person for who he is.
  • Encourage all students to find items they have in common. Regardless of differences, it's important to encourage children to look for things that they can relate to in others. When they find preferences and activities that they have in common it will strengthen interactions among all students.
  • Teach them that it is fine to ask questions. When students do not fully understand situations or activities adults encourage them to ask questions, the same should be taught with understanding the disabilities of their peers. If students are unaware of certain behaviors their classmate demonstrates we should encourage them to ask questions in a respectful manner. If they better understand their classmate the more they will be respectful of behaviors or differences.


Learn about the disability

Reading or learning about a disability is a great way to further understand a student’s experiences. It may also help with any questions other students in the classroom may have. Here are some ways to learn about specific disabilities.


  • Read picture books with younger children and discuss them afterward. For older children you can use chapter books with characters that have special needs.
  • Watch programs or videos that show positive portrayals of children with disabilities.
  • Visit Websites that have explanations and activities can help students understand different disabilities.


Check out these helpful sites:



Laura Ferguson is a certified behavior analyst and a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.

KY Autism Training Center Spring 2013 Newsletter May 2013