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It’s More than “Just Being In”: Creating Authentic Inclusion for Students with Complex Support Needs

reviewed by Serra De Arment - February 08, 2019

coverTitle: It’s More than “Just Being In”: Creating Authentic Inclusion for Students with Complex Support Needs
Author(s): Cheryl M. Jorgenson
Publisher: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company, Baltimore
ISBN: 1681250780, Pages: 256, Year: 2018
Search for book at Amazon.com

In It’s More than “Just Being In”: Creating Authentic Inclusion for Students with Complex Support Needs, Dr. Cheryl Jorgensen offers a useful resource for promoting meaningful inclusion in general education classrooms for students with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. In her words, “the goal of this book is for all students to be fully included in general education instruction in a general education class taught by a general education teacher” (p. 73). Jorgenson speaks from her extensive knowledge and experience in roles as an inclusive education consultant, cofounder of the National Center on Inclusive Education, and former project director of state and federally funded research at the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire.

Though many readers will find the book most useful as a step-by-step guide, Jorgenson’s chapters can also stand on their own as guides to particular topics or steps of the inclusion process. This flexibility allows for novice educators and seasoned professionals alike to benefit from Jorgenson’s tips and how-to approach. Teacher educators will find the many examples and checklists beneficial for supporting the preparation of aspiring special educators who will work with students with complex support needs. Jorgenson’s accessible writing style also makes this text a great resource for individuals who lack formal special education or disability-related training, such as general education teachers, school administrators, or the families of students with complex support needs.

Chapters One and Two set the stage for consideration of authentic inclusion by providing background information and a strong rationale from social justice, legal, and research perspectives. It is here that Jorgenson presents four flawed assumptions about the needs and educational programming of students with significant disabilities: (a) intelligence is something that can be reliably measured; therefore, significantly subaverage intelligence can also be reliably measured; (b) students who are judged to have significantly subaverage intelligence cannot learn much of the general education curriculum, and even if they could, they don’t need to; (c) students who cannot learn much of the general education curriculum will not benefit from being in general education classes and should be taught functional life skills; and (d) when students cannot effectively communicate, assumptions can be made about what they currently know and what they might be able to learn (p. 6). Systematically, Jorgenson dismantles each of these assumptions and proceeds to offer strengths-based, person-centered counter-narratives.

In addition to establishing the imperative to create authentic inclusion and providing actionable checklists, Jorgenson draws from the details of individuals with complex support needs whom she has known throughout her career to offer composite case studies of three students. These case studies illustrate the inclusion action steps and their results within each student’s educational programming. For example, in Chapter Two, readers see the Making Action Plans (O’Brien & Forest, 1989) process illustrated for James, a second grader with cerebral palsy and cortical visual impairment (CVI). Chapter Four presents James’ sample services schedule, Chapter Five outlines important CVI considerations for informing James’ accommodations, Chapter Six presents a sample service provider schedule for James, and the appendix to Chapter Nine includes a full learning and participation plan for James’ math instruction.

Throughout the text, Jorgenson clearly demonstrates her authority based on her experience. However, she also links her strategies and approaches to research evidence. While far from comprehensive, the research evidence cited by Jorgenson does strengthen the validity of her assertions and points the reader to specific sources of further information that fall outside the scope of the book. For example, readers interested in learning about the specifics of universal design for learning and how this framework supports the full spectrum of learners can seek out a key text (Meyer, Roe, & Gordon, 2014) noted by Jorgenson at the start of Chapter Five.

Perhaps the book’s most useful features are the many tables and checklists Jorgenson provides for quick reference. These effectively break up the text and also summarize action steps. However, as there are so many of these supplemental text features, it may be tedious for some readers to flip through the book to try and find a particular table, checklist, or example quickly. The book would benefit from an index or secondary table of contents listing these in order by chapter.    

Based on her vast experience, Jorgenson closes the text with Chapter Eleven, which consists of a sampling of questions she’s received from families, administrators, and other education professionals about challenges encountered while working towards inclusive education for students with disabilities. While these questions and Jorgenson’s responses are not exhaustive, they span a range of situations across grade levels, disabilities, and contexts. Some readers may find it useful to begin here, at the end, where Jorgenson’s reassuring words and ideas respond to questions they are likely to have had.

Though cover-to-cover readers of It’s More Than “Just Being In” may still have questions about how best to foster authentic inclusion, Jorgenson’s road map offers many answers. Readers who wish to advocate for inclusion, whether in a school, community, or higher education setting, will find a leader in Jorgenson.


Meyer, A., Rose, D. H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST Professional Publishing.

O’Brien, J., & Forest, M. (1989). Action for Inclusion. Toronto, ON: Inclusion Press.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: February 08, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22665, Date Accessed: 10/22/2021 9:26:45 AM

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About the Author
  • Serra De Arment
    Virginia Commonwealth University
    E-mail Author
    SERRA DE ARMENT is an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University where she prepares K-12 and early childhood special educators for inclusive practice with students with disabilities and their peers in high-needs schools and communities. Dr. De Arment’s interests include universal design for learning (UDL), co-teaching and collaboration, community engaged research, teachers as researchers, and adaptive teaching expertise. Her recent publications include articles on teacher-scaffolded reciprocal peer tutoring (Xu, De Arment, Coleman, & Huennekens, 2018) and UDL for supporting preschool access (De Arment, Xu, & Coleman, 2016) published in the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division for Early Childhood’s monograph series. In addition, she is collaborating with colleagues to finalize book chapters conceptualizing special educators as intervention specialists (Talbott, De Arment, Sterrett, & Chen, 2019) and presenting a model online classroom for collaboration on UDL (Smith & De Arment, 2019) in the forthcoming texts Handbook of Research on Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities: Interdisciplinary Developmental Perspectives on Children and Youth and Universal Access Through Inclusive Instructional Design: International Perspectives on UDL, respectively. In partnership with the YWCA and the Children’s Museum of Richmond, Dr. De Arment is engaged in an evaluation of the effects of an innovative museum-based preschool model on the learning and engagement of preschoolers from diverse backgrounds.
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