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Inclusive Education: Barriers and Solutions

A disabled girl in a wheelchair and her friend look at a globe

What are the barriers to inclusive education, and how can we tear down those barriers? Find out below!

Barriers and Solutions

The barriers

The solutions

The barriers


  • There is still damage from a century of exclusion, segregation, and the association of special needs with deviance and total incapability.

  • Persons with special needs are rated as less capable than they are, and this carries over to educators’ perceptions as well (Wishart & Manning, 1996)

  • With many teachers believing that special needs students are needier than is the case, teachers often underestimate their capacity to effectively educate these students, and a perceived lack of competency is associated with

Reluctant Teachers

  • One implication of this is that, while most educators support the principle of inclusive education, or inclusive education in other classrooms, many are reluctant to embrace it in their own classroom, and will not take it on themselves

  • This attitude is captured in comments (Elias and Brahm, 2002) such as "I believe in inclusive education but I have not gotten the preparation. I support inclusion, but I do not yet feel confident in my abilities to carry it out"

Inadequate Training

  • In many areas there is no requirement in teacher schools or the schools themselves for teachers to complete any courses and training on inclusive education and how to support students with special needs

  • Teachers are often going into classrooms without an idea of how to respond to students who are not textbook typical, which contributes to the reluctant attitudes many hold about teaching an inclusively educated class themselves

  • Hesitant attitudes and stereotypes are then reinforced by difficult encounters and limited successes resulting from their skill deficits, leading to more self-doubt, faster burnout, and a lack of effective, sustained education for special needs students (Talmor, 2005)

Limited Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing

  • The segregation of special education teachers and general education teachers limited opportunities for knowledge sharing and passing on of skills

  • This, combined with the lack of a collaborative, inter-classroom framework at many schools means that educators lack colleague support and have little opportunity to share knowledge and experiences of what strategies work, and which do not for students with disabilities


  • Reduced education funding in many areas has meant larger class sizes, and hence more pressure on teachers and less time to address individual students

  • This shortfall has also led to the underemployment of teaching assistants and trained staff that can provide added support to special needs students, and are shown to play an important role in inclusive education.

  • Manageable class sizes, classroom support workers, ongoing training and professional development, and adaptive technologies—the provision of all of these depends significantly on financial support from the government, and it simply has not been there.

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The solutions

Pre-service Teacher Education

  • Teachers with greater training in educating special needs students produce better outcomes for both special needs and non-special needs students in inclusive classrooms (Gottfried, 2014)

  • To help more educators have this positive impact on their students, teacher education programs should include mandatory courses on inclusive education, including opportunities for applied experience working with special needs students

  • Without this, and having used the general student body as their model population, teachers are going into situations in which they are often underprepared, which serves to further damage perceptions of their competency and their willingness to inclusively educate

Keep On Learning

  • Once in service, teachers should also be supported through regular, ongoing professional development in inclusive education and supporting special needs students

  • This should include access to resources which keep them abreast of new findings and developments in inclusive education

Sustained Advocacy and Funding Identification

  • Parents, teachers, administrators, and community organizations should be in touch and work together to call on government and advocate for greater support

  • Advocates can draw upon the evidence showing better academic outcomes for special needs students, the normative arguments that fit so well with public support of inclusion and diversity, and the heftier financial contributions that inclusively educated special needs students make to the economy

  • Methods of advocacy could include cultivating media relationships, letter writing to MLAs, petitions, factsheets, and the use of websites and social media to connect with people and form an information conduit.

  • Administrators should help teachers by identify funding opportunities, including from non-governmental sources, which can assist inclusive education efforts

A General Cultural Shift

  • There must be a cultural overhaul in people's views towards persons with disabilities. So many of the barriers faced by disabled people in education, and in countless other aspects of their lives, stem from general misconceptions, negative and attitudes

  • There must be an ongoing effort to change these views--one that goes beyond education and addresses the general well-being and much deserved respect of persons with disabilities

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