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Promoting a Lifetime of Inclusion

by Renzaglia, A., Karvonen, M., Drasgow, E., & Stoxen, C.C

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A Inclusion allows all people to learn, live, work, and play in the same environments and across all social settings. Its roots trace back to the concept of normalization, which postulated that the lives of individuals with mental retardation should be no different than "the norms and patterns of the mainstream of society." (Nirje, 1993) The authors present a primer regarding best practices for the process of living within the mainstream of society for individuals with disabilities.

Inclusion involves "empowering individuals to have control over their own lives, providing individuals with the opportunity to select the lives of their choosing, and conferring individuals with the sociopolitical power to defend their choices" (Renzaglia, Karvonen, Drasgow, & Stoxen, 2003, p. 141). As a lifelong process, it crosses multiple environments and social settings. This includes the concepts of universal design, person-centered planning, self-determination, and positive behavior support.

Universal design extends the concept of mere accessibility to include natural partnerships among individuals, both with and without disabilities, in order to promote mutual interaction, support, and cooperation. Person-centered planning emphasizes the individual's unique combination of strengths, interests, and needs when projecting which resources and services, both existing and needed, will best meet his or her goals.

Family members and professionals have traditionally made most planning decisions for individuals with disabilities, but true inclusion demands that the presence of a disability not deter individuals from active participation in their own lives. For those individuals with behaviors that seriously challenge participation in an inclusive life, it is crucial that these behaviors are not merely extinguished but replaced by skills that will enhance full participation in the mainstream of society.