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Frequently Asked Questions

Here, we address common questions and provide resources. Click on each section to display questions and answers. 

Have other questions not answered here, or need more specific guidance? Try checking out our resources and publications library. If your answer isn’t there, you can email us at mcie@mcie.org or call us at (410) 859-5400. 

    About MCIE

    What services does MCIE provide?

    MCIE’s mission is to be the catalyst for the meaningful and successful participation of all students in their neighborhood schools. Our specific services vary annually, based on grants, contracts, and emerging priorities in the field. The primary way to describe MCIE’s services is:

    Information dissemination:

    • Referral to advocacy or professional agencies, and individuals who provide consultation
    • Sharing of resources through our website and social media postings
    • Sharing information through publications and email messages


    • Individual student planning for schools challenged to design a comprehensive personalized program for a student with academic or behavioral challenges
    • Strategic discussions with schools, districts, and states related to policy and practice to promote successful student outcomes
    • Engagement in local or national think tanks for planning forums

    Professional learning opportunities:

    • Presentations at local, regional, and national forums
    • Courses, workshops and webinars for families and educators
    • Targeted assistance to develop school and classroom practices to promote student success in general education instruction
    • Intensive, long term partnerships with local school systems, using MCIE’s school transformation and systems change process to create effective and sustainable practices in partnership with school districts.

    Collaborative partnerships:

    • Support and engagement with organizations (state and local education agencies, universities, advocacy agencies, professional organizations) to achieve mutual goals
    • Collaborative consultation on specific topics to promote positive outcomes for all students through inclusive policy and practice.
    • Projects with local, state and national organizations (education agencies, universities, etc.) to strategically and systemically improve inclusive options and outcomes for all students

    General Inclusive Education Questions

    What are some quick resources I can provide to people on inclusion?

    • Resources within Reason at UNC’s Inclusion 101 guide [PDF]
    • SWIFT Schools offers the guide Why Inclusive Education? in English and Spanish (En Español): ¿Por qué la educación inclusiva?
    • There are several short (2 minutes) and longer (20 minutes) videos on the SWIFT YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/theswiftcenter

    What are the benefits of inclusion - why should it be done? Won’t students with disabilities hinder the learning of others?

    Evidence suggests that students with disabilities in the general education classroom benefit from increased peer relationships.  In addition to forming new and meaningful friendships, they also often gain peer role models who help them develop social and behavioral skills. Academically, fully included students experience increased engagement and more consistent achievement of IEP goals.

    Students without disabilities who are taught in inclusive classrooms experience similar social benefits. Additionally, these students often exhibit increased awareness, acceptance and respect for individual differences and diversity.  Students without disabilities in inclusive settings often demonstrate increased academic achievement that may arise from opportunities to model and demonstrate academic concepts for their peers. All students gain greater access to a wide variety of curricular and instructional resources.

    See the following links and briefs for more information:

    •  SWIFT Schools’ bibliography of research supporting inclusive education
    •  MCIE brief from 2010 on the benefits of inclusive education
    •  2016 policy brief prepared for Alana Institute on benefits of inclusive education

    What does inclusion look like for secondary/transition age students with disabilities?

    In middle and high school, all students can be included with a typical schedule and opportunity for extracurricular participation. For students taking the alternate assessment, there may be more freedom to choose classes that are aligned with a student’s interests and talents.

    In addition, schools will plan for each student’s transition to an inclusive life after school. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s 2017 guide, transition planning involves, “…a coordinated set of activities for a student with a disability within an outcome-oriented process. This process promotes movement from school to post-school activities, such as postsecondary education, and includes vocational training, and competitive integrated employment. Active student involvement, family engagement, and cooperative implementation of transition activities, as well as coordination and collaboration between the VR agency, the SEA, and the LEAs are essential…”

    See the following links and briefs for more information:

    • NTACT – National Technical Assistance Center on Transition
    DCDT – CEC’s Division on Career Development and Transition
    • 2015 MCIE brief – Functional Life Skills in the 21st Century, on vital skills students with high support needs should receive along with educational curriculum
     Accessing Accommodations after High School from PACER
    • A general transition resource for autistic students: Roadmap to Transition: A Handbook for Autistic Youth Transitioning to Adulthood from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network

    How can you help students transition to receiving inclusive educational services? 

    There is not a “one size fits all” approach to student planning, especially when a student is going to be included for the first time. Some teams will want to have the educators currently teaching the student (“sending” staff) to meet with the educators who will teach the student in the coming year (“receiving” staff). If a student has intensive and complex support needs, there are tools that will be helpful. See:

    • 2003 MCIE brief – Individual Student Planning - Planning the Transition from Special Education to General Education Placements
     2015 MCIE Student-Centered Planning – Overview of the MAPs process used for planning supports and services for students with extensive needs
    • 2015 MCIE Student planning tools – A variety of planning tools for teachers developing supports and implementation plans for students with extensive needs
    • 2016 SWIFT Schools blog post – Transitioning to an inclusive setting: Five strategies for districts, schools, and families

    For Educators (some may be useful for others too!)

    What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?

    UDL is a framework for making your classroom accessible for all kinds of learners. It makes accessible space the default rather than an exception. UDL operates on the basis that overarching accessibility benefits all students, not just those with disabilities. For more information, see:

    • CAST’s About UDL page
    • UDL Center’s About UDL
    • UDL Implementation
    • 5 Examples of UDL in the Classroom from Understood
    • SWIFT Schools offers the guide What is Universal Design for Learning? in English and Spanish (En Español): ¿Qué es el Diseño Universal para el Aprendizaje (UDL, por sus siglas en inglés)?
    • 21st Century Concepts — Differentiated Instruction and UDL by Tom Perran
    Loui Lord Nelson’s favorite online UDL and Inclusion resources

     How can I use UDL for high-support students?

    • "Supporting Students with More Intensive Support Needs in UDL Environments" by Center on Accessible Educational Materials

     What is Differentiated Instruction (DI)? How is it different from UDL?

    DI principles are based on making learning accessible for all students, who differ in many ways. Teachers use data on students in the classroom to make instructional decisions. DI gives the central role to the teacher in “customizing” teaching at the classroom level based on the students in that class, while UDL provides a framework for designing lessons and curriculum.

    Here are two helpful links:

    • UDL Center - UDL vs Differentiated Instruction brief from the UDL Center
    • 21st Century Concepts — Differentiated Instruction and UDL by Tom Perran

     I want to include all learners in my classroom, but one student disrupts the classroom frequently. How do I include them and make sure others can learn?

    Behavior often serves as communication and it is our job to seek to understand the messages that are being communicated. Staff need to understand the function of behavior, and should be skilled in positive behavior support and intervention strategies. Teams will want to involve the student, the student’s family and professionals who also work with the student, to find a way to meet the student’s needs in a different way that doesn’t disrupt others. Develop and implement strategies to support the student and teach them alternatives that meet their needs but don’t disrupt the class. Research provides us with a variety of tools that can help students.

    Some resources are:

    • Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) strategies will help you to figure out what function the behavior serves and how you can prevent the behavior and teach alternate behavior.
    • The student may be experiencing anxiety or frustration; may have difficulty processing sensory information or need to move about frequently in order to pay attention or regulate themselves.  A team may need to collaborate to design individual student supports to address student needs and minimize disrupting experiences.
    • Teams may benefit from understanding students who have neurological differences such as discussed in this Ollibean article “Autistic Neurology and Behavior”

     What is accessible technology and how can I use it to enhance inclusion in my classroom?

    Accessible technology is a set of tools with three main principles behind them:

    • They can be used by people with and without disabilities
    • They can either be used without assistive technology, or are compatible with standard assistive technology
    • Access features are adjustable for different users’ needs.

    Some resources are:

    • A definition of and general accessible tech articles are here at Accessible Tech.org
    • MCIE blog post on using accessible tech for inclusion

     How should I work with students who use assistive technology to communicate (augmentative and alternative communication, or AAC, devices)?

    Students who use AAC usually have speech-language services provided by a speech-language pathologist. Students and their families can work with their IEP team to develop a plan. Some resources on AAC are:

    • AssistiveWare’s AAC FAQ, Communication Matters, American Speech and Hearing Association, and PrAACtical.
    • AssistiveWare’s Dos and Don’ts Series articles – see the related posts for more Dos and Don’ts
    • A guide for self-advocates on the best practices for including AAC users. Many of the inclusion practices are applicable to education – they could be used for including AAC users in class activities. The guide does not have methods for teaching AAC to students.
    • Presuming Competence in Practice at Speak for Yourself

     What is co-teaching? How can I use it?

    According to CAST’s introduction post to co-teaching and inclusion, “Co-teaching is the practice of pairing teachers together in a classroom to share the responsibilities of planning, instructing, and assessing students.” Co-teaching is a partnership between teachers where each teacher is equally responsible for the classroom. Sometimes, a special education teacher is paired with a general education teacher. But that’s not the only way. For more information, see:

    • A Co-teaching Success Story at Brookes Publishing Blog
    • The NEA describes 6 Steps for Successful Co-Teaching
    • The Council for Exceptional Children shares experiences and provides guidance.

    For Administrators, Principals, and State Agencies

    How can I measure inclusive practices in my school ?

    There are several measures that have been developed over the last 30 years to identify what schools are doing and need to develop in order to provide quality and effective inclusive education services.

    • SWIFT Center has an assessment tool here that measures the extent to which schools are implementing the SWIFT framework, focused on a Multi-Tiered System of • Supports (MTSS) to guide inclusive education
    • You can use the MCIE survey on staff attitudes to assess your staff’s beliefs about inclusive education. We would appreciate you sharing your data - and let us know if you’d like a link to an electronic version!
    • The Florida Inclusion Network uses the Best Practices in Inclusive Education (BPIE) in their work with schools

    What is my responsibility as a school principal or administrator? How can I prepare to support students with disabilities?

    Principals are in a unique position to support their staff in establishing a vision for meeting the educational needs of all learners within the requirements of the State and school district. The principal is key in setting the stage and guiding staff as they implement new and improve existing practices so ALL learners are successful within the general education framework. Some resources are:

    • Principal Preparedness to Support Students With Disabilities and Other Diverse Learners: A Policy Forum Proceedings Document by Project Forum – by Dr. Paula Burdette. This report was part of Project Forum at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education.
    • The Principal's Responsibilities in Supporting Quality Instruction – prepared by Stetson & Associates, Inc. by Inclusive Schools Network. This resource describes the principal's role in ensuring quality education for all learners and tips for creating an effective leadership strategy.
    • SWIFT Center Webinar with Lacy Redd: The Principal's Role in Inclusive Education
    • CEEDAR Center webinar, Preparing Principals to Meet the Needs of All Students
    • Professional standards for education leaders: “PSEL 2015 and Promoting Principal Leadership for the Success of Students with Disabilities” [PDF]
    • “Promises to Keep: Transforming Educator Preparation to Better Serve a Diverse Range of Learners” [PDF]

    For Parents and Families

    What is the difference between a 504 plan and an IEP?

    An IEP is covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is a federal special education law. IEPs can only be provided for students with any of 13 specific disabilities listed in the IDEA. Parents can ask schools to pay for an independent evaluation (an IEE) of their child. IEPs must be written documents that describe the services the school will provide a student.

    A 504 plan is covered under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 504 plans can serve any student with a disability.  504 plans do not allow parents to ask for an independent evaluation paid for by the school. 504 plans do not have to be written documents and may include things such as specific accommodations for the student. More information can be found at:

    • See here at Understood for a helpful side by side comparison of more key differences and other information.
    • Wrightslaw section 504 page
    • Wrightslaw IDEA 2004 page

    What if my child/student is not making progress in the general education classroom?

    Parents and guardians are their child’s most important advocates. If a parent or guardian suspects that a child is not making progress, parents/guardians can notify the classroom teacher, special education teacher and administration about their concerns and request an IEP meeting to discuss the child’s progress. Parents can request documentation to support any claims the school makes about progress toward IEP goals and objectives. Examples of documentation that a parent or guardian should request are work samples, assessments and progress reports.  It may be necessary to rewrite the IEP in order to ensure that the student is receiving the right type and amount of specialized instruction, supplementary aids and services as well as related services.

    What are some resources I can use if I believe that my child is not being educated in the least restrictive setting?

    Some parents will want support to determine how to advocate for their child’s services and placement.

    • Most States have parent information and training centers that can offer support.
    • The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), a group that advocates for students with disabilities, has resources listed on this page
    • Wrightslaw, a group who has a focus on special education law, has resources at this link
    • Disability Rights Maryland may be able to provide legal representation, legal advice, or referrals and resources in Maryland; other protection and advocacy organizations can be found in each State.                 

    How can I teach my child to be a self-advocate?

    Families can allow children with disabilities to access guides, articles, and resources written by self-advocates, particularly self-advocates with the same disabilities. Make sure they know that disability is nothing to be ashamed of. Let them know they have the same rights as anyone else, including the right to an education.

    Teach them their right to reasonable accommodations, and that those aren’t just something you ask for – they are their rights! An example would be teaching them the rules schools must follow in IEPs and 504 plans under the IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Teach them other specific rights, such as:

    • Rights under the ADA
    • Rights under the Fair Housing Act
    • And other laws protecting people with disabilities

    Also teach them that they have the right to boundaries and personal space. One blogger explains that “People have the right to control what happens to their body.” An example the blogger provides is the right to not be touched if a person does not want to be. They should also be able to express if someone is in their personal space. They should be able to say “no” to people, especially people who might take advantage of them.

    Presume competence in their abilities, including the ability to learn, but believe them when they cannot do something due to disability or impairment.

    Some resources are:

    • PACER guide on teaching your child to self-advocate
    •Roadmap to Transition: A Handbook for Autistic Youth Transitioning to Adulthood from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network

    What are some resources that I can use?

    Check out the following:

    • Parent Primer — Placing Special Needs Children in the Inclusive Class from The Inclusive Class: addresses common parental questions and concerns about inclusive education, has information for identifying whether your child's classroom is inclusive and for understanding how you, as a parent, can stay involved.
    • 2016 SWIFT Schools blog post – Transitioning to an Inclusive Setting: Five strategies for districts, schools, and families

    What are some other resources for parents? 

    • Think Inclusive’s Achieving Inclusion for All
    • Stakeholder Guide to the Every Student Succeeds Act

    Other Resources

    What are some Maryland specific resources?

    • Disability Rights Maryland is part of the protection and advocacy (P&A) system for people with disabilities. They sometimes take legal cases, and can provide referrals and resources.
    • The Parents’ Place of Maryland is a parent center organization that works in partnership with families to improve education and health outcomes for children with disabilities and special health care needs. 
    • You may have other local disability groups in your area that you can look into. 

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