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The Importance of Inclusive Programming

March 19, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Inclusive Programming Is Beneficial For All Students

The compulsory education system aims at providing children with the tools they need to succeed in the academic school environment as well as life beyond the classroom. For the purposes of ensuring that every student receives an appropriate education, sometimes schools are required to divide students based on ability. In such a system, children with special needs are often separated from their mainstream peers for a portion, if not all, of the school day. While this division may be ideal from an academic perspective, it creates an artificial separation between children which might be mistaken for a natural division. In order to ensure that children internalize the inherent value of every individual, schools need to find a way to demonstrate the value of students, no matter what their ability levels are. Inclusive programming both during the school day and in extracurricular activities has the power to show all children the value of every individual. Read the rest of this entry →

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Top Ten Things the Classroom Teacher Needs to Know About Your Child with Special Needs

February 11, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

If your child with special needs has been mainstreamed or fully included in a general education classroom, it is important that you communicate openly and honestly with the teacher about your child’s needs.

While special education teachers and outside agencies will meet with your child’s classroom teacher to share information, these meetings can often be brief, delayed, or worse yet, cancelled until further notice.

Therefore, It is necessary for you to monitor the information that is shared between your child’s teacher(s) and the support personnel, and then fill in any gaps. Between you and your child’s school, here are the top ten things that the classroom teacher needs to know about your child’s special needs: Read the rest of this entry →

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Your Child Doesn’t Belong in My Classroom

September 30, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

To belong, to fit in, to be suitable, to be appropriate or to be a member of a club, organization, or set; this is what we all want for our children.  So nothing hurts worse than when your child’s Teacher tells you, “Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom.”  What you hear as a parent is a statement of your child’s failings.  What I hear is an admission of a denial of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for your child.  Let me give you a few examples of what you are not hearing but is implied in this statement:

  1. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because the school will not provide the appropriate aides and supports necessary to educate your child;
  2. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I am not capable of educating your child;
  3. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I don’t want to take the time to differentiate my instruction and find the method that your child learns;
  4. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because the District has increased my class size to 45 students and has not provided me with a paraprofessional to help lessen my load;
  5. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I don’t want to follow his IEP because it takes too much time and energy;
  6. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because the School District refuses to spend money on children with special needs; and
  7. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I am a bad teacher.

The last example I want to explain, because I realize that I may have angered many educators.  Just like every profession there are a few who are great at what they do, a few that are awful at what they do and many that are somewhere in between.  Teaching is no exception and if you have uttered the phrase, “Your child doesn’t belong in my class,” you land solidly on the far left of the bell curve in the well below average category of Teaching.  Even if you made this statement due to constraints caused by the School District, this statement is not acceptable.  We all have the right to belong, and we also all have the right to be educated.  This doesn’t mean I believe every child should be educated in a mainstream class; inevitably, many school districts will not provide the necessary supports needed for inclusion to be successful.  I do however feel that every child deserves to be respected and to tell them or their parents they “don’t belong” is not appropriate.

About a month ago I went to my son’s back to school night.  This is his first year in Middle School so we spent about 5 to 10 minutes in each class.  The second class I went into was his social studies room and the Teacher started her discussion by stating, “I am going to set the bar really high this year for every student.  I don’t care that this isn’t my honors class I am going to set the bar high and every single student WILL move higher than they thought they could.  They might not all make it to the top but I will take them ALL as high as they can go.”  She then read this poem:

She then walked us through the various methods she uses to teach including visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic.  To determine how each of her students learn she conducted a learning style assessment on the first day of school and used those results to modify her teaching style.  If you haven’t realized it yet this Teacher lands on the far right of the bell curve in the well above average category for Teaching.

The morale of this little exercise is that there are good teachers and bad teachers, good school districts and bad school districts.  So, if your child’s Teacher tells you, “Your child doesn’t belong in my class,” it’s time to find a new placement.  It’s time to find a new placement not because your child doesn’t belong but because your child deserves better.  Your child deserves a Teacher like my son’s social studies Teacher who is going to push them and help them fly.

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Transitioning a Child from a Special Day Class to a General Education Class

January 12, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

As parents, our goal is to help our children access the public school curriculum so that they can prepare for further education and/or future employment. For some our kids, whether it’s due to behavioral issues or severe deficits in their academics, they might require a more restrictive learning environment before they are able to learn in a general education setting. However, there might come a time when you feel your child is ready to move on to a general education setting. The question you might ask yourself is “how can this be done without causing additional stress to your child or their new class room environment?” As we all know in life, what might work for one person, might not work for another. Because of this, there are no guarantees that one particular technique will work for all children. However, I recently attended an IEP where the team came up with a good way to ease a child from an SDC setting to General Education. Read the rest of this entry →

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Fear Factor: Getting over the biggest obstacle to inclusion

November 15, 2011 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Even under the best of circumstances, there is always a bit of trepidation when starting something new. Think about the first time you rode a bike, drove a car, your first kiss, or really anytime you have ever taken a risk. The thrill and terror of it all can be overwhelming. I liken this feeling to the first time I took one of my students (a boy with severe autism and challenging behaviors) and put him in a 4th grade general education classroom. It was my first teaching job, in a self-contained classroom for students with autism in California and I was challenged by one of my professors at Cal State University Fullerton to begin the process of including my students in general education. At this time, there was little support for inclusion at my school (not even for Art, Music or PE – mainly because we did not have those programs due to budget constraints). Even so, I believed it was the right thing to do and began trying to change the hearts and minds of my colleagues. It was not easy at first, but after explaining that I was not simply going to “dump” my students off in their class, they were definitely more receptive.

This tends to be the biggest fear of people who are opposed to a “full inclusion” model. There are different definitions of “full inclusion” but one I prefer is apparent when we talk about the idea of Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). What is the environment that will least hinder the student from being educated with their typically-developing peers while still accessing the general curriculum (what everyone is being taught) in a meaningful way? There is no one-size-fits-all approach to inclusion just like there is no one-size-fits-all approach to general education (no matter how hard we want there to be). But…I am getting ahead of myself. In regards to my 4th grader who was now going to be included into a Math block in general education, I began to feel the anxiety creep up in me as the day approached. Would he keep his challenging behaviors in check? Would the class accept him when he started to script movie lines? Would the general education teacher think I was crazy for putting her up to this?

Diffusing and answering the inevitable questions was the big key into alleviating everyone’s fear. I spoke to the class before we started and explained my student, while having some differences in the way he experienced the world, was still a 4th grade boy who liked movies, music and playing on the computer. He liked Math, which is why we decided this was the best time for him to join his peers. It was also important to take the uncomfortable questions of “why does he do this,” or “why does he do that,” and answer them with the utmost respect and dignity to their new classmate. Perhaps honest communication is the best way to gain his peers’ trust…kids are too smart and usually know when you are trying to put one over on them. Once we got that out of the way, acceptance was the easy part.

Next, was giving him adequate support. I had already promised the teacher he would not be flying solo, so we used one of my paraprofessionals for the time he was in the class. We also collaborated on adapting any materials we thought he would benefit from (larger number cards, color coding, etc). He sat in front of the class and by the door in case the classroom was over-stimulating and needed to make a quick escape for relief. Knowing what the class was working on beforehand helped us to pre-teach or prepare him for accessing the general curriculum when he went into the classroom.

We were consistently surprised at what our 4th grader could do, in terms of keeping his behaviors under control and accessing the content. By giving him the opportunity to interact with his peers we opened up another door for communication and camaraderie. Even now, years removed from that first grand adventure of inclusion, fear is present in the back of my mind as we move to include more students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in general education. Though this time, it reminds me that it is not something to be terrified of…but revered. Inclusion, at its very heart is a noble cause because it brings dignity to human beings when it otherwise would separate those who need love the most. Fear may be an obstacle but it certainly is not an excuse.

Timothy Villegas lives with his fetching wife and adorable children in Marietta, GA by way of Pasadena, CA. He has been a special educator for eight years and enjoys every bit of the drama of inclusive education (and is an obsessive user of parenthetical expression). Follow him on Twitter: @think_inclusive or to peek inside his brain…peruse his Tumblr: http://thinkinclusive.tumblr.com/ He promises to be nice.

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The Integration Ballet

November 2, 2011 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Haven’t we progressed beyond the dark ages? I just read a first hand account of a mother who desperately wanted her child to attend a dance class at the local dance studio. I can’t believe that in the year 2011, I’m still reading stories about children with autism who are unable to participate in activities with their typically developing peers! The concept that children with autism must be in a special, segregated class is, quite frankly, offensive. Children with autism do not have a communicable disease, and there is NO reason why these kids cannot be mainstreamed! The sooner one starts, the better. It is easier introducing a child to an activity with younger children because their skills have not progressed as far. That said, there is successful mainstreaming and unsuccessful mainstreaming. Let’s make sure mainstreaming efforts are successful and thereby take away any excuse from the luddites who may be in positions of authority. Read the rest of this entry →

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Inclusion, Mainstreaming & the Least Restrictive Environment

September 6, 2011 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

As an advocate for children with special needs, I spend a lot of time discussing the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). As a parent of a child with special needs, I spend a lot of time thinking about inclusion. My hope is Schools are thinking about both inclusion and the Least Restrictive Environment. Why am I hoping this? Terms like inclusion, mainstreaming and full inclusion are philosophies while Least Restrictive Environment is a legal term created by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). All schools need to provide children with IEP’s special education and related services that meet their unique needs in the Least Restrictive Environment. Being placed in the LRE, in my opinion, is in no way the same as inclusion although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. I can understand why these terms are sometimes used interchangeably by looking below at what have become the common definitions: Read the rest of this entry →

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