Tomorrow Is Too Long to Wait for Inclusion

Is There Any Reason Why a Student with a Disability Should Be Educated in a Separate Classroom?

No Excuses - CACL

No Excuses

These three commercials make a strong case for full inclusion. From their perspective, there are no excuses for educating students with intellectual disabilities in a separate classroom. From the Canadian Association for Community Living.

Over 70% of parents, whose children with intellectual disabilities are in regular classrooms, report that their children are doing average or better:

Inclusive education is better for all children. Children learn what they experience.

Inclusive education settings enable children without disabilities to learn about diversity as well as respecting and valuing all people.

When children with disabilities learn alongside their peers, they are more likely to: continue in education, get a job, and be included and valued in their communities.

– See more at: http://www.cacl.ca/action/campaigns/no-excuses

Authentic Inclusion

Above all, we have maintained that authentic inclusion gives students with disabilities the best chance at living, working, and playing in their community. That is why we applaud commercials like these that take a strong stance. We understand that not everyone agrees.

At the same time, something critical to highlight is that some families don’t want their children educated in the general education. As inclusion advocates, we should listen to the concerns of families and not berate those that have made a different choice.

For some families, full inclusion is simply not an option. Families who have had challenging experiences with a school district’s inclusion model will often move to another area (sometimes a different state) to find the program that is best for their child. Unfortunately, families who move do it at considerable expense.

When we are thinking inclusively, our goal is for inclusion to be first and foremost in our own context.

Editor’s note: We updated this post to reflect a more nuanced view of inclusive education. Some readers felt confused by the hard line that the title of this post took regarding inclusion. Thanks to everyone who gave us feedback. We always hope to model what inclusive thinking is in our publishing.

Do you think it is ever a good idea to teach students with intellectual disabilities in separate classrooms? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Inclusion Is All About Supports

Thaysa-Dan-Habib; an elementary school girl is sitting at her desk using a communication device with her classmates around her and a support teacher behind her. everyone is smiling

If you are not willing to differentiate instruction for the wide range of learners that you have, including students with autism, then you are in the wrong profession.

-Holly Prud’homme (General Education Teacher at Mape Wood Elementary in New Hampshire)

Are some students too hard to include in general education?

It has been my experience that the reason inclusive education fails is never because of the student; it fails because of lack of support or not the right kind of support. The following video, “Thaysa” made by Dan Habib  (Including SamuelWho Cares about Kelsey? and Intelligent Lives), is the perfect example of how a student with significant support needs is given what she requires to be successful in general education.

Is this example going to be the model for everyone? Of course not. The model is the willingness to try and listen to what each student is telling us. Inevitably, there are going to be students (and families) who don’t want to be included in general education. That is okay. Why would we want to force someone with a disability to do something that they don’t want to do? The point is that inclusive education should never be a fixed equation. You are X. Therefore you are put in X classroom with X amount of supports. When we reduce special education to a formula, we are not serving the unique needs of our students.

Inclusion Is a Mindset

Say it with me. Inclusion is a mindset. 

Now that you have said it, watch the video below. It is about 14 minutes long, and it highlights what Thaysa’s school has in place for her to be successful. Then, after you watch it, check out Dan’s other films. You won’t regret it.

Thaysa from Dan Habib on Vimeo.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally posted in 2012 and has been updated with a new featured image, formatting, and new post content. 

My Decision to Homeschool My Son With Autism

My Decision to Homeschool My Son With Autism

By Allison Trotter

I’ve been asked to write about our decision to homeschool Jackson, our middle school son with autism, a number of times.  People’s response falls into two camps: extremely skeptical or enthusiastically supportive.  There seems to be little gray area on this issue.  As a former high school teacher, I never thought twice about my ability to educate my child, so the negative response took me a bit off guard until I realized that many people are intimidated by the complexities of autism education, therefore believe it ought to be left to qualified professionals.

As I was brainstorming how to explain our decision to an audience of professional educators who support an inclusive approach to special education, I felt an analogy would be an interesting way to illustrate our situation.

In addition to autism education, I am also passionate about healthy living.  I have been researching and implementing healthy nutritional, dietary and environmental lifestyle choices for over a decade.  I am a huge Michael Pollan fan and have been an advocate for local food before it became the latest craze.  So, it only seems fitting to have the local organic family farm represent our family in this analogy.  On the flip side, let’s have BigAgra business (like a Tysons or Purdue) represent any institutional school system, public or private.

With this in mind, the scenario I present to you is this:  A BigAgra business acquires a small local organic family farm.  What challenges do you foresee in this merger?  What steps need to be taken by both parties to ensure a successful transition?  And, is there ever a time to dissolve this newly created partnership because the two farms are just not compatible?

Inclusion of a small organic family farm into a massive, government subsidized and regulated farm is going to be challenging for sure.  But there are steps that can be taken to respect the integrity of the local farm without compromising the requirements of the big agricultural machine.  Compromise must be made on both sides for this partnership to work, and if it can work, how wonderful for all parties involved!  The local farm gets huge exposure to new and innovative ideas and practices, and the large farm gets a refresher course on the value of individual care and attention to purity and quality of each morsel of food produced.

Sadly, my precious organic family farm, which I had tended with painstaking care every day for twelve long, hard years, with every ounce of heart and soul I had, got plowed over and salted without anyone ever consulting me. One day, it was there, and the next it was gone.

The decision to homeschool Jackson came very suddenly and very emphatically as we were sitting in an “emergency IEP” meeting six weeks into the start of middle school.  We had no idea he was having trouble until we got a letter in his binder requesting a meeting to address his behaviors and lack of academic progress.  We felt blindsided in the meeting because all the reports home up until that point seemed fine. During the meeting, it became very clear that this large public school of over 2,000 students that housed an autism center with over 220 students had only one system. In this system, every student had to conform to it, and unlike our excellent public elementary school, there was absolutely no room for individualization based on the needs of the child. We were essentially told, “that is how we do it here, and Jackson needs to learn to adapt because middle school is tough and he has to figure it out like everyone else.” All of a sudden we realized that our special needs son was a product and not a person.

My local organic family farm was being swallowed up by an agricultural machine that had no time or interest in our silly ideas or sustainable practices to ensure a healthy and vibrant future for not only our food but for our greater community.

So now, we homeschool, and we spend more time out and about in our city, meeting people, sharing our ideas, teaching tolerance and acceptance of diversity, spreading our passion for learning, and growing the highest quality human beings that we can with our small organic family farm of unique and awesome people.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally posted in 2012 and has been updated with a new featured image and formatting.

Allison Trotter is a former high school government and economics teacher and writes for her blog Homeschooling Autism. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Overcoming Barriers to Meaningful Inclusion

classroom; meaningful inclusion

By Nikki Heiman

I Believe in Meaningful Inclusion

Hi! I’m Nikki from www.mycreativeinclusion.com. I’m so happy that Think Inclusive invited me to post here! I am an experienced special education teacher and Mom to a young man with Down Syndrome. I believe passionately in inclusion, but only meaningful inclusion.

Inclusion isn’t placing a child with a disability inside a general education classroom alone. Real inclusion, quality inclusion, involves well trained, open-minded staff members who have made a solid commitment to collaboration, communication, and the success of each and every student in their classroom.

Often there are very well meaning teachers who want to provide a complete, cohesive instructional plan but they lack the support network to facilitate it. Here, I will show you how to overcome some of the most common barriers to successful inclusion.

Expense

It’s a common myth that only specialists can teach students with disabilities. While specialists are a fabulous resource and invaluable to offering support in the inclusive classroom, unfortunately with budget cuts to public education they are not always on staff at every school.

Thanks to social media and resources like Facebook Live, these specialists are offering professional development to teachers all around the world in small tidbits for FREE. They are often also more than willing to answer specific questions. One of my favorites is Autism Classroom News. Dr. Christine Reeve has a weekly Facebook live show with great tips you can use right away. I also have a Facebook live show and you can follow me HERE. Another great resource to follow is Sasha from The Autism Helper.

Knowledge

To reinforce point #1- there is a LOT to know when implementing successful inclusion. That just emphasizes the importance of having a team based approach. If I am to think about what that looks like in my school, the general education teacher knows the grade level standards inside out, my specialty is behavior and modifications, then we consult with the speech pathologist for communication strategies. If we need to we have access to occupational therapists, physical therapists and a school psychologist for even more specialized support.

In order to have successful inclusion, the entire team has to be committed to communication. The entire team also has to have a mindset that we all have a lot of to learn from each other as professionals in order for it to work.

We use shared folders in Google drive to share tools and strategies with each other. It saves so much time because we can just drop information in it when we have time and the others can read it when they have time. Since we never have plan time during the school day at the same time this is a great alternative.

Modifications

In all fairness, each of these barriers builds on one another. Curricular modifications can be easy when the team works together and there is extreme organization. For example, if the general education teacher has shared the curricular expectations and the special education teacher has helped to figure out what the basic expectations for that student are, and that is well documented, it should be perfectly natural to make modifications. For example, (I like to use my son as an example because his teachers really work hard to make inclusion work) my son is 13 and he has Down Syndrome. He is in regular education for science and social studies. Since he is reading at an early elementary level, the skills in 7th grade science and social studies are pretty high for him. What our team decided on was that for every lesson he would be responsible for only 1 or 2 key concepts. This is usually some vocabulary and we create images to match using Google Slides. It’s fantastic because he is easily distracted and in Google Slides you don’t even have to click out of the app to research information.

Behavior

Behavior…. possibly the biggest challenge in including students who are neurodiverse is managing behavior. Students who are neurodiverse process sensory input differently than the neurotypical student. Coupled with challenges with communicating those sensory processes and the challenges of self-regulation, that can result in behavior that is difficult to understand.

Every time I’m asked a question about chronic behavior, my first question is always “What is the function of the behavior?” What I’ve found is that behavior is always a communication. Once we figure out what the function of the behavior is the next step is to find a solution for the student to communicate their need that works for them but it also works for you.

The challenge with functional behavior assessments, though, is that it requires detailed and continuous data collection. Our solution to that has been to create Google Sheets. In Google Sheets, I’ve created a simple form to document the duration, latency and frequency of behaviors as well as narrative reports for the behavioral antecedent, the behavior itself and the consequence to the behavior.

Collaboration

Tying all of these barriers together is collaboration. Usually it’s just a matter of time for the team to collaborate. It’s rare for all members of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team to have plan time at the same time so that usually leaves only before school and after school times to meet. This is a practical issue- some members may not be able to be at school early because of daycare issues and others may not be able to stay late because they coach sports teams. Parents are vital to the success of the student and having their input is so important when planning a student’s instructional day! When parents have hectic work schedules it is hard to expect them to balance their professional life, raising a child with a disability and frequent meetings at school.

Google Docs is a fabulous tool for increasing collaboration amongst all of the IEP team members. Everyone can access the tools and comment, share, etc. when they have time. If you need to video call, there are Chrome extensions to use within Google Docs, or you can use Google Hangouts.

To get you started, I wrote a free ebook titled “Time-Saving Tech for Teachers.”
That ebook is available for download by clicking the button below!

Nikki Heiman with her sonI’m Nikki Heiman, founder of “Creative Inclusion,” a company that provides resources for teachers to help facilitate inclusive education. It started as just an online resource but since then I’m now traveling the US providing professional development in schools on topics such as inclusion, technology integration and best practice in special education. I am passionate about improving education for students with disabilities and I believe that starts with happy teachers who have a LOT of tools in their teaching toolbox! I am blessed to have a teenage son with Down Syndrome that has inspired me to be a better teacher, mom and person in general. I hope to share that love and kindness with the people I meet in this journey!  I can be contacted at nikki@mycreativeinclusion.com or follow me on my blog, Facebook Page, or on Pinterest.

Solutions To Help Educate Young People With EBD

In almost every classroom there are children with behavioral challenges. Here are some solutions to help educate young people with EBD.

Do you know that it is almost certain that in every classroom you enter in the school system there is a learner struggling with a condition called Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD)? The unfortunate thing about this scenario is that in most cases, such students are never identified. They may be given other labels such as dull, lazy, on uncooperative. If not addressed, problems caused by such learners can make the work of the teacher challenging and disturb other learners. This is the reason why there is a need for smart solutions to help educate young people with EBD.

The aim of this article is to look at this problem in depth to try and solve the misunderstanding associated with it. The discussion will start by looking at what EBD is and then go on to discuss some ways by which learners with EBD can be educated in the modern classroom. Since the problem can affect kids, teenagers, and adults, it is important to look at solutions for all these groups. Educating such learners can present challenges which, when correctly identified, can be mitigated.

Defining EBD

Experts indicate that attempting a definition of EBD, which is sometimes known as Emotional Disturbance (ED), is quite difficult because it is a misunderstood phenomenon. For example, one question frequently asked is how emotional and behavioral disorders can be distinguished from a behavioral disorder. Even though it may be difficult to come up with a scientific definition, it is easier to pin down some of the physical behaviors that define this problem.

While all students in the classroom will exhibit typical daily behavioral problems, and sometimes even dangerous ones it is not all of them who suffer from EBD. A young person with EBD would usually exhibit what is known as antisocial, externalizing, or internalizing behaviors.

Externalizing Behaviors

When a learner constantly gets out of their seat for no apparent reason, curses, and yells at anybody who crosses their path without provocation and is disturbing to peers, that learner is showing externalizing behaviors. Other symptoms of this problem are exhibited in the student ignoring instructions from the teacher, constantly hitting and fighting with other students, complaining or excessively arguing and failing to comply with directions. The signs above do not represent all the behaviors that should be watched for. Others such as destruction of property, failing to complete assignments, stealing, lying and throwing temper tantrums should also be noted.

Internalizing Behaviors

While some young people suffering from EBD may show the signs described above, others will show the exact opposite while still suffering from the same problem. They exhibit a very limited need for social interaction with others. Such children’s behavior is defined as internalizing.

While it is easy to ignore such children because their behavior does not present a threat to others, doing so endangers their development. If a child is not interested in playing with other children their age, lacks the necessary social skills required to make productive friendships, and often finds refuge in outlandish fantasies and daydreams, they may be suffering from EBD. Other behaviors indicating the prevalence of this problem in a young person can include being afraid without due cause, always complaining that they are sick or have been injured, and sometimes just looking depressed.

Possible Problems Educating People With EBD

As can be seen from the definition above, there are serious problems associated with attempting to educate learners with EBD, the common model of learning and teaching is one that depends on classrooms, and lecture theaters having learners who follow certain regulations about behavior. This is exactly what people with EBD do not do very well, and this represents massive problems for the teacher, the learner themselves and the other students in the classroom. This is the reason why children with this disorder tend to have a high chance of leaving school prematurely, ending up in jail, going into both drug and alcohol abuse, living on the margins of society and eventually dying early.

The main problem when educating learners with EBD is that they tend to perform below their grade level at a particular time. They find it difficult to read and perform mathematical calculations. Learning depends on learners being willing to corporate with the teacher, the rules, and needs of other students. Experts also indicate that such learners’ behavior interferes with their ability to learn the skills needed for productive scholarship and therefore tend to score very low marks in intelligence tests.

Educating Kids With EBD

While Children may suffer from EBD, they still need to be educated. A few things can be done by the teacher to mitigate this challenge including ensuring that class rules and activities are maintained clear and straightforward. Learners, especially those suffering from EBD, struggle with rules that are too demanding and complicated. The teacher can attempt to keep standards in the classroom broad and minimal. For example, the teacher can train the learners to arrive on time, be polite and respect the needs of others. They can then emphasize these rules until every student internalizes them.

Teaching activities should also be simple and clear. When the teacher uses events that are clear and simple, learners with EBD are given a chance to be part of the learning. This allows the learners to participate and interact with the activities of the lesson. This makes them feel that they are a part of the class.

Teaching Teenagers With EBD

When it comes to teenagers, the strategy is the same as with kids but should be made suitable for their age. Since teenagers with EBD generally lack the emotional balance required to concentrate for long periods of time, teachers should ensure that lessons have some small breaks to help bring such learners into the lesson.

If the teacher starts to feel that some of the learners are starting to fall behind in the lesson, they should stop teaching and allow them to catch up. Sufficient time should also be allowed for such learners to finish their assignments. Allowing for physical activities will give learners a chance to use their energy for something productive and controlled.

Education For Adults With EBD

It is probable that people with EBD will need to be educated later on in life when they are adults as the chance that they would have left school earlier is quite high. The most important thing to remember when dealing with such adults in the classroom is to understand the need for motivational strategies. Success should be celebrated appropriately. Educators should allow such learners to make decisions about their learning and be part of setting the rules.

How The Education Approach Differs When Educating People With EBD

The discussion above shows that educating learners with EBD is something that should be approached in a different way from educating everyday learners who do not suffer from such disorders. Teachers of such learners should always understand that these learners are slow and therefore lessons should be planned with them in mind. The teaching should be slow, and when there is a need to stop and allow these learners to catch up, the teacher should allow for this time. Teachers also need to ensure that their instructions are clear and simple.

Programs For EBD Learners In Different Countries

Different countries have various programs aimed at helping learners with EBD to get alternate learning. Such services provide therapeutic services to such learners. In the United States, such learners can benefit from The Elementary Learning Program, the Secondary Alternative Learning Program, or the Secondary Transition Program.

In the United Kingdom, learners can attend one of the many special needs school specifically dealing with learners who face such problems. Parents can check with the education departments in their countries to identify special schools in their communities that offer services for learners with EBD.

Learners with EBD attending colleges of higher learning can find it difficult to cope with the workload required in higher institutions of learning. This is made worse by the fact that higher intuitions of learning are not designed to deal with students who face these challenges. This is when those essay writing services become useful. Students can order papers in subjects that they are struggling with. These papers are then written by professionals who will help the learner to understand what the requirements of the question are. Using the custom writing services could be the difference between learners suffering from EBD getting to complete their qualification and ending up in the streets with no education and work.

Having emotional and behavioral disorders should not mean that a learner should be condemned to a lack of education. There are some things that can be done by the learner themselves, the teachers, parents and government departments to ensure that such learners do get an education. If this is not handled with care, such learners end up living on the fringes of society, being involved in drugs and dying prematurely.

Photo Credit: Hans Splinter/Flickr

Tia Moreen is a writer and traveler, who is currently running a small business and works as a blog editor at EssayHub. Loves bookcrossing and cooking.

 

Source: Solutions To Help Educate Young People With EBD » Education Press

What Inclusion Means to Me

what inclusion means to me

By Sue Robins

Recently, I was asked to speak to all the teachers at my son’s high school about “What Inclusion Means to Me.”  There would be about one hundred educators in the audience for their professional development (PD) day.  I sweated out my approach, talking to the special education teacher who had kindly recommended me, the physics teacher who was the organizer, and many families who had kids with differences in schools across the country.  I was desperate to understand my audience, not to misstep, to represent other families well, for I had a lot of skin in the game.  The high school I was speaking at was where my son Aaron would be for the next six years.  I could not screw this up.

I had spoken once before to an audience of parents and teachers on this same subject, almost three years ago in Alberta, Canada.  My stumble then was not to include any research about the other kids in the school – the ‘typically developing’ kids, many of whom were traveling on a strong academic path.  One mom had angrily protested from the back of the room, “your kid is taking away from my kid’s teaching time!”  I have recognized over the years that it is crucial to address barriers and concerns that the audience is holding early on in the presentation, for if you don’t, they hang onto those concerns during the entire talk, and this is a barrier to the listening.

This time I was more grizzled and wiser (but alas, still not perfect – is there such a thing?).  I drew upon others for expertise in my talk.  I don’t know one thing about adapting or modifying curriculum, so I showed Shelley Moore’s excellent bowling video.  I leaned on Ian Brown’s wisdom about the value of people with disabilities.  The moms from my Family Inclusion Group Facebook page kindly offered up some beautiful quotes about our kids being brave and presuming competence. I was very aware of not being self-serving – not only concerning myself with my own son’s experience but with his colleagues’ experiences, too:  those who used wheelchairs, those who were non-verbal, those identified with ‘behavior’ challenges.   I had many people behind me in spirit for this extraordinary opportunity:  for a mom taking up a morning in a high school’s PD day is a rare sight indeed.

And what does inclusion mean to me?  In the end, I talked about our journey with Aaron. I spoke about when he was first diagnosed (the baby we expected was not the baby we got).  I addressed my struggles with my fears about people with disabilities when Aaron was born, embedded in my head from my junior high days in 1974. I acknowledged the good work teachers do – how busy and exhausted they are too and asked them to reflect on why they chose to teach.  I talked about how inclusion was so much more than academic inclusion inside a classroom, how it was about inclusion in the hallways, at lunchtime, at school events, in sports, in extra-curricular activities.  I invited the audience to think of one way educators and the other students could include the kids in special education in the school, no matter how simple:  learning the students’ names, giving high fives, starting up a Buddy program, picking one thing from their class lesson to teach them each day.

My intention was to touch hearts to change minds.  My key messages:

-the value of children with disabilities (the disabled do the work of love, says Ian Brown)

-expanding the definition of diversity to include different abilities

-to point out how we are not preparing the high-achieving students for the real world if they do not know people who are ‘the other.’

I had to pause a few times during the talk to catch myself from crying.  This topic is deeply personal to me, as Aaron’s school experience is everything to us.  We chose to live in our particular school district.  We bought a condo close to the school.  I resigned from my job to be more visible and available to support his school experience.

Scanning the audience, I knew others were crying too.  Maybe they had someone with a difference in their family.  Maybe they were remembering the feeling of being left out.  Maybe they were triggered to recall why they chose to teach.  In the end, the applause was more than polite, and I had a patient line of teachers waiting to chat with me.  It tears me up to think about how much these educators want to reach all children, but sometimes they just don’t know how.  This desire is everything.  Change happens with just one step at a time – the first step is the most important one. This is the beginning of belonging, one high five at a time.

Inclusion to me means finding love + belonging.  It means taking the time to understand another person’s perspective, to feel empathy, to demonstrate compassion.  These are the same messages I share with healthcare audiences, as I’ve realized that these concepts are profoundly universal.

In the end, for me, everything always circles back to Raymond Carver:

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself

beloved on the earth.”

― Raymond Carver, A New Path to the Waterfall

Photo Credit: Bradley Huchteman/Flickr

sue robinsSue Robins is a writer, speaker, and mom of three.  Her youngest son Aaron is 13 years old and has Down syndrome.  Her essays about motherhood have been published in the New York Times, Huffington Post and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper.  Sue is passionate about families who have children with differences, coaching families to tell their own stories and nurturing gratitude and compassion in health care (and now education) settings.  She is also a partner in Bird Communications, a health communications company in Vancouver and Edmonton.  She can be found on Twitter and Facebook as @suerobinsyvr and her blog is suerobins.com.

Is 100 Percent Inclusion Right for All Students with Disabilities?

100 percent inclusion; green circles overlapping each other

100 Percent Inclusion

Is 100 percent inclusion for students with special needs always possible?

Scrolling through my Facebook feed recently, I came across a post by someone in a group I am in that advocates for the “100% Inclusion for individuals with special educational needs.” The post is as follows:

So I buy the 100% inclusion argument. I have seen the research. I’ve made the argument myself. But sometimes I get this pang, maybe it is from other parents who say that sometimes inclusion is overwhelming for our kiddos. Is there ever a time when 100% inclusion is not right? How would one know? I just want to be sure that I’m not forcing my values and not paying attention to my kiddo. y’know? Thanks for your thoughts!

What if full inclusion is not the right thing to do?

This is a legitimate question. For inclusion advocates, it may be a bitter pill to swallow, but the fact remains that there are many places in the world that authentic inclusive education is not available. For these students, is it worth pursuing something that may not be right for this particular student?

Let us examine what it means for 100 percent inclusion to be “not the right thing to do.” If a family wants to pursue full-time inclusion for their child and the school and staff are not on board and they do not have the resources to do so are we not setting them up for failure? Although inclusive education as a global concept is right, good and honorable, it may not be the right thing to do for that student at that specific time or place. I do not believe inclusive education advocates lose any credibility in conceding this idea.

What if full inclusion is not what the parents (or the student wants?)

When I have approached certain parents about including their child more in the general education environment, they have balked at the notion. As an advocate, I believe it is important to listen to the wishes of the family when making a placement determination. That is, after all, what the Individualized Education Program (IEP) is supposed to be about, making decisions as a team.

Also, if a student is showing that they are uncomfortable (or even terrified) in the general education setting, we must listen to what their behavior is telling us. The goal, of course, is that we include them as much as possible and that we are actively working toward inclusion.

We need a bigger tent.

I am grateful for the courage of parents who ask hard questions about what the implications are of 100 percent inclusion. We need safe spaces to talk about our concerns without being browbeaten for wanting to have real conversations. For inclusive education to move forward, we need to wrestle with these concerns. There are no easy answers but if we are not afraid to ask the questions we can work together to find answers for all students.

For the record, I still believe that inclusive education for everyone is the best course of action for all students (and the research back it up.)

What would you say to parents who are questioning if 100 percent inclusion is always the right thing to do? Tell us what you think in the comment section below!

Photo Credit: cactusbeetroot/Flickr

What Do Successful Teachers Do with the First Hour of Their Work Day?

teachers; a numberless clock mounted on a plain brick wall

By Megan Gross

Inspired by a recent Fast Company article on the habits of successful business folks during their first hour of work, we asked our colleagues about their morning routines. Although the colleagues we surveyed work in different schools and states, their morning activities reflect on the skills essential to the role of a successful teacher: communication, collaboration, and preparation.

What do successful teachers (inclusion, special/general education or other educators) do during their first hour of work?

1) Review calendar & schedule for the day

One of our colleagues starts the day by asking, “Is there anything special or potentially difficult happening today?” as she reviews her calendar. She looks for schedule changes, such as assemblies, fire drills, or special events on campus, and if there are any paraprofessionals who called in sick. With this information, a student’s visual schedule can be updated to reflect the day’s activities, adjustments to staffing can be made, or time can be allotted to orient a sub. Several of our colleagues also have staff communication binders and these are updated every morning to include class-specific or school-wide activities, changes in the schedule, absences, or other information to assist paraprofessionals and inclusion teachers in keeping everyone in the loop.

2) Check email

Unlike the technology and business gurus profiled in the Fast Company article, teachers make a point of checking emails before the school bell rings. Some teachers quickly scan their email looking for anything that might affect the daily schedule, information from parents, and flag emails to respond to later in the day. Others find this is the only quiet time in the day to thoughtfully respond to a parent, remind a teacher about accommodations, or send out invitations to IEP meetings. For many, the mind is the freshest in the morning, making email response one of the most logical places to start.

3) Check-in with teachers or paraprofessionals

Many of our inclusion teacher colleagues are running between classrooms for the majority of the school day, so they take advantage of the time before the bell rings to talk with colleagues. Some may meet with their paraprofessionals about the upcoming school day while other teachers discuss student needs or classroom supports with general education teachers. These morning check-ins may be the only time staff interact with each other, besides passing in the hallway, before the school day is done, so teachers make an effort to talk to staff and build community one “Good morning” at a time.

4) Finish prepping a modification or paperwork

Inclusion teachers often allow time in the morning, before students arrive, to finish up a small project from the night before. Accomplishing one small task before students arrive helps one of our colleagues “dive in” to the school day and also prevents her from staying at work all night. A small task might include completing IEP data sheets or paperwork, creating modified curriculum resource for a student, or the occasional mad dash to the copy machine.

5) Morning Joe

No. Not the MSNBC show. Overwhelmingly…Coffee was a huge part of an educators morning routine. Whether it was brewed at home, taken from the staff lounge or picked up at a drive-thru on the way to school, teachers love their “black gold.” We don’t know what your morning routine is for your first hour of the day, but it is of vital importance that you have some of that time carved out for yourself just to breathe, relax, and meditate on the day at hand. Sometimes, that is the difference between a productive day and a day where you feel like you are running behind.

Photo Credit: Lee Haywood/Flickr

Megan Gross is a special education teacher and inclusion specialist in California. She has facilitated inclusive education in K-12 classrooms. Megan is the co-author of The Inclusion Toolbox: Strategies and Techniques for All Teachers and ParaEducate, a resource book for paraprofessionals and special education teachers. She currently teaches high school and is the co-advisor of her campus’ Best Buddies club. Megan lives in San Diego with her husband and two children. Follow Megan on Twitter (@MegNGross).

The Pursuit of Inclusion: Blazing a Path for Our Son with Prader-Willi Syndrome

pursuit of inclusion; a dirt path running a lush forest

This past year, our son Dean, who has Prader-Willi syndrome, began his preschool career at the ripe old age of 3. Dean, like others his age, was in a “natural environment” program, which met at a daycare with typical and special needs peers. In this program, a parent or caregiver is required to attend with each student and is there primarily to observe. This experience and others involving mother’s groups, playgroups, and outside educational programs, has given us great insight into what is best for Dean.

I love the special needs environment because they really “get” some things, like how someone with muscle tone as low as Dean’s might need extra support to sit in a chair so they can concentrate more on work than on not falling over. They used a slant board for Dean to view his work at eye level so it would be easier from visual-spatial and fine motor standpoints. And having a PT, OT, and SLP at the ready – for a quick consult even if Dean doesn’t receive their services – is a dream. A relief. The smaller child-to-teacher ratio is necessary for the amount of help Dean needs to be most successful.

And yet, we find that typical environments tend to have more of a healthy fear of specific information we might have about Dean or PWS. They don’t assume they know how certain meltdowns or specific speech issues will play out. They’re not jaded by the usual categories of special needs and approach Dean more as an individual who is perhaps a bit more complex than is their average student. As with our doctors, babysitters, caregivers, or the average onlooker, we find so helpful those who seek to learn rather than those who ignore the pertinent first-hand information we have for them and assume that they know best.

For this coming year, our county does not offer what we are really looking for, which is an inclusive classroom. These scenarios exist in nearby counties, but not in ours. The recommendation of Dean’s IEP team (and something we wanted in part) was a “center-based” (special ed.) classroom. But I asked about opportunities for Dean to interact with typical peers, and I was told that this was only a possibility. For us, leaving this up in the air was surprising, not to mention… unacceptable.

I told his teacher that we were thinking about doing a few days in a typical preschool, and then the other days at center-based. She referred to Dean’s IEP and mentioned that if he wasn’t at center-based every day, he might not be able to meet all of his goals. She said, “You have to decide what’s a priority for you: academics or socializing.” My head spun as I thought about what she said, for it never occurred to me that this was an either/or issue. We want both for Dean, and we weren’t going to get it with what was being offered to us. So we decided to send Dean to a typical preschool two mornings a week, and to center-based three times a week. As we have done for him countless times in these past three years, we are blazing our own path. To do anything less would be a disservice to our sweet Dean, no matter what the learning environment.

Photo Credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2012 and has been updated with a new featured image, category, and tags.

Ali Foley Shenk lives in Richmond, VA with her husband Bob and their three boys: Cole, Dean, and Emmett. Ali writes, mostly on her blog at divingintothewaves.com, and is also a freelance copy editor. She also volunteers with the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research (www.fpwr.org).

Getting Over the Biggest Obstacle to Inclusion

obstacle to inclusion; lego figurine standing close to the edge at the top of the empire state building in NYC

How do you get over the biggest obstacle to inclusion? In November of 2011, I wrote a blog post for SpecialEducationAdvisor.com about educators getting over the fear of inclusive education. Here is an excerpt.

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.

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.

Source: Special Education Advisor: Fear Factor – Getting over the biggest obstacle to inclusion

Photo Credit: clement127/Flickr

Pin It on Pinterest