There are other positive by-products that develop from an inclusive class.
In the late '80's and early '90's, a very interesting study was conducted at the Middle and High School levels in Jakarta International School. What started as a re-examination of the admissions criteria for special needs children evolved into an exploration of the factors that contributed to the success of a student with learning disabilities within the regular academic program. To the surprise of a number of participants, the single greatest variable contributing to student success was found to be parent support for students and their learning. Even students with moderate learning disabilities could experience relative success within the program, given appropriate parental support. With this important realization, the school set about developing a more systemic and holistic approach to student admissions - it was no longer to be solely dependent upon a score on a placement test. Other researchers have also underscored the importance of parent roles in their children's school success (Berliner & Biddle, 1995; Epstein, 1987; Lareau, 1989).
Increased positive parent involvement evolves from an inclusive class, even at the high school level. Because students are interested in what they have learned, we find that students go home and talk to their parents about the lesson or topic. Parents, in turn, ask questions which support and show interest in student learning. This type of dialogue strengthens the learning connections initiated in school. As teachers, we find suddenly that when we venture into the community to do our shopping and coincidentally meet a parent of one of our students, they will often make specific remarks about something that occurred in class. Within the classroom walls, we also hear students referring to conversations they have had with their parents. It is evidence that parents are aware of and interested in their child's learning. Such parent interest is an extremely powerful motivating force in students of all ages.
Another positive outcome of inclusive classrooms is the development of democratic classroom management. In university many years ago, a student teacher asked her supervising professor what was the best way to manage a classroom. The professor replied gently and perhaps a little wryly, that within the first two years of her teaching experience, the question would answer itself or the young woman would probably be seeking an alternative career. In other words, issues of student management and discipline diminish almost to the point of non-existence when relevant and engaging lessons are planned. We have seen students in inclusive classrooms become self-monitoring in order to keep each other focused. On the teacher side, lessons are carefully structured and scripted ahead of time so that during class time, attention can be paid to monitoring the cognitive and emotional climate of the classroom.
Teacher/student relationships also change in an inclusive classroom. A different relationship between teacher and student emerges - one that is more collegial and as teachers. Students have come to us seeking advice on a variety of topics, ranging from the personal to the academic.
All of this points to the creation of a caring, respectful community of learners, in which the membership is supportive of each other's learning and of each other as human beings. When mutual interdependence is established in the learning environment, the membership grows to value each other, to like school better and develop greater self-esteem. We see the development of empathy (Aronson, 1995).