Why have a conference focused only on inclusion?

So many conferences, so little time. We understand. We feel, however, that inclusion is a topic so big and so important that it demands its own space and time if we are going to move this issue forward in Illinois. Illinois has struggled for years to increase the number of students served in general education classrooms but we still lag behind almost every other state in both inclusive educational supports and in adult services and inclusive community supports.

There are so many pressures on teachers and school systems year after year and we have seen that the study of and commitment to inclusion often takes a backseat to conversations around school performance and changes in curriculum and instruction. A conference around inclusion, can not only bring focus and energy back to the issue, but can help to shed light on the fact that inclusive education is good for all learners and it can actually help schools raise test scores and provide a higher-quality education for students with and without disabilities.

To create the changes necessary, we feel it is necessary to come together as a community around this single issue and start a conversation that—we are hoping—can be continued year after year.

Why inclusion?
  1. It is socially just.
    Read more — MCIE

  2. Inclusion is the setting that most resembles with world all students will live in as adults. Eventually, we all live, work, and play together in the same environments.
  3. Read more — Down Syndrome Society of Rhode Island
    Read more — Fairfax Daily Monitor

  4. Inclusion can change the culture of a school and help all learners think even more broadly about community and connection.

    Read more — Inclusion! What’s In It For Everyone?

  5. Students educated in inclusive settings outperform those in segregated settings.
    Read more — MCIE
    Read more —

  6. Students in inclusive settings have opportunities to learn communication skills, functional skills, and social skills without giving up standards-based academics.
    Read more — Inclusive Schools Network
    Read more —

Why May?

After considering holding this conference in many different months and seasons, we decided that we wanted to reach people at a time when they were most likely to be planning for a new school year. We don’t want participants to leave and just feel motivated, we want them to go back to their school districts and make plans for inclusive placements for learners with disabilities. While a change in placement can certainly be made in October, it made the most sense to us to reach people as they were writing IEPs, considering schedules, and
planning supports.