Where Every Child Shines

The Rise School

Photos by McKenzie Coronado

Is it possible for children to receive a higher quality early childhood education when in the same classroom as their peers with developmental disabilities? The Rise School of Austin answers this question every day with an emphatic “yes!” Established in 2002, the mission of Rise is to provide the highest-quality early childhood education for ALL children—gifted, traditional and developmentally delayed—in an inclusive setting, where individualized learning techniques enable every child to achieve their maximum potential. 

What is inclusion and what does it look like in the early childhood classroom? Inclusion “supports the right of every infant and young child and their family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society” (DEC/NAEYC, 2009, pg. 2).  “Inclusion means being intentional with instruction, classroom environment and curriculum development. It means giving every child the opportunity to learn together, no matter their abilities, interests, socioeconomic status, or cultural background, to enhance every child’s development,” according to Megen Bethune, Executive Director at The Rise School.

The belief in inclusion is what shapes The Rise School. Rise’s Master’s-level teachers and speech, physical, occupational, and music therapists are driven every day by current and former Rise students who have made significant strides in their cognitive, physical, language, and social development.

“We are grateful that inclusion is such a strong force in the culture of The Rise School,” says Rise parent Kate Robinson. “Inclusion is pervasive at Rise, and it has meant that both of our children are learning to recognize their feelings, tolerate emotions, and accept themselves. They are also learning the same acceptance and compassion for their classmates. Both of my children, one with developmental delays and my typically developing child, have made enormous developmental leaps, moved toward greater independence, and deepened their hunger for learning because of inclusion,” explains Kate.

Research has shown that children with disabilities benefit from learning alongside their typically developing peers. They are more engaged in the classroom, they receive more instruction in both functional and academic activities, and the quality of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) improves (Bui, Quirk, Almazan, and Valenti, 2010). “No studies conducted since the late 1970’s have shown an academic advantage for students with intellectual and other developmental disabilities educated in separate settings” (Falvey, 2004).

Typically developing students also benefit from inclusion. “The presence of students with disabilities results in a greater number of typical students making reading and math progress compared to non-inclusive general education classes” (Waldron, Cole, and Majd, 2001).

“With 90% of brain development occurring before the age of five, it is crucial that children are provided a high quality, individually tailored early childhood education,” says Megen Bethune. “Just as no two snowflakes are alike, no two children learn and develop in the same way. Rise not only values individuality but also embraces the exceptional contribution each child brings to the school community. Inclusion works, and The Rise School is proof that it provides better outcomes for children with and without developmental delays.”

The Rise School is now enrolling for the 2017-2018 school year.
4800 Manor Rd Building J


Bui, X., Quirk, C., Almazan, S., & Valenti, M. (2010). Inclusion Works! Inclusive Education Research & Practice.  Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education. Retrieved from mcie.org/usermedia/application/11/inclusion-works-(2010).pdf
DEC/NAEYC. (2009). Early childhood inclusion: A joint position statement of the Division for Early 
Childhood (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute.
Falvey, Mary A. (Spring 2004) Toward realization of the least restrictive educational environments for severely
handicapped students. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 29(1), 9-10.
Waldron, N., Cole, C., & Majd, M. (2001). The academic progress of students across inclusive and traditional
settings: A two year study Indiana inclusion study. Bloomington, IN: Indiana Institute on Disability & Community.
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