What are the best ways that we can prepare children for inclusion in the classroom?

There are two perspectives to consider regarding inclusion:helping neurotypical children accommodate to the children who are to be“included,” and the reverse: helping children with learning difficulties feel comfortable with their neurotypical peers.  For inclusion to be effective, both perspectives need to be taken into account.

As in any complex social situation, lots of factors are involved. But based on my experience, one is paramount to both groups. Specifically,it is the concept of inhibition. Years ago, when I was first trained in psychology, a fair degree of attention was paid to the work of Russian scientists such as Pavlov, Luria and Vygotsky. In contrast to American psychology, inhibition was a key concept in their analyses: that is, being able to hold back impulses so as to be able to respond in a thoughtful and considered manner.

Without this capacity, children are much more prone to impulsive behaviors including “acting out,” temper tantrums, etc. In that state, they do not have the base to think about and accept children, who are first glance,seem different—and possibly intimidating. With this capacity, that base is present, bringing with it the potential for positive change.

The concept of inhibition appears to some degree in American psychology and education in discussions such as those on the ability to delay gratification. But it receives far less attention than it merits. Our efforts tend to be directed more towards “stimulation” in the belief that this will accelerate development.

Development of inhibitory capacities are particularly challenging now in the high tech era where children are increasingly dependent on vast amounts of ever-available stimulation. But as the old saying goes,“where there is a will, there is a way.” It would be lots of fun and of great benefit to start devising programs in this realm. But for now, with rare exception, they are still a dream.

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