Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Visual Representation of Inclusive Education

Inclusive Education, as defined and described by education experts, is a philosophy. It is not a program, nor does it happen in isolation. It can't happen in one classroom and not the other. The successful inclusion of special needs students requires the shared value system, resources and collaboration of the state/province, school district, home, school and classroom. 

Because the nature of inclusion requires so many components to it's implementation and success, it is often discussed by breaking it down into its topics and sub-topics. For example, we talk about co-teaching, differentiated learning, home-school communication, and IEPs. It is easy for people who are familiar with inclusion to know how all these pieces fit together to form an inclusive environment. However, for others, it still a mystery...a puzzle. How can a teacher with 30 students differentiate learning? Who is a co-teacher? Why does the entire school need to support inclusion?

At the suggestion of my radio show co-host, Terri Mauro, a chart depicting the components of inclusive education might be quite helpful for many of our listeners (and readers of this blogpost) in putting the pieces of the "inclusive puzzle" together. It also helps meet the need of our visual leaners :) Please keep in mind that this chart is an overview, a work in progress and you will likely need to enlarge it for reading!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pieces to the Inclusive Puzzle

This morning on The Inclusive Class Radio Show, Terri Mauro and I talked with Rick Welsh about two very important aspects of an inclusive classroom: adapting lessons and co-teaching. As a teacher who has worked in an inclusive education system, I understand the meaning of these two terms. They are essential to including children with varying abilities in the learning process. I know what an "adapted lesson" should look like and how it should be delivered. I know who a co-teacher is and how to work with a co-teacher to provide successful learning experiences for my students. 

However, as Terri pointed out in our discussion after the show, the whole process of inclusion is still a mystery to many parents (and some teachers). Advocates of inclusion, including our show, often address the pieces of that process - IEPs, paraprofessionals, differentiated learning, adaptations, co-teachers. But, for many, the question still remains. How do all those pieces fit together, to create a picture, that allows everyone to understand how inclusion works?  It looks like a power-point presentation with a flow chart is in my future.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Inclusion Doesn't Stop in the Classroom

Ideally, the inclusion of children with special needs should happen at all levels of school life both in the classroom and out. However, given the demands of the curriculum, the experience of the teacher and the philosophy of the school, meaningful inclusive opportunities may not exist in the classroom. If a child with special needs is faced with this situation, there are other areas of the school community where  inclusive opportunities can exist. Keep in mind however, that it may be up to the family to present these ideas to the school staff, as many schools are still learning ways in which inclusion can (and should) happen.  Here are some suggestions for opportunities for you child to be included in school life:

1. Lunchtime Clubs - chess, art, reading, and computer clubs are just some examples of the types of clubs schools offer during lunch or after school. 

2. School Plays and Productions - there are many roles and jobs for students to take in school productions either behind the scenes or on stage.

3. Choir/Band - some schools have their own music classes which offer activities outside of the music program, but districts sometimes offer them as well (which includes all the schools in area). Check with your child's school or district office for more information.

4. Sports Teams - school sports teams generally exist at lunchtime or after school. School districts may also offer district-wide sports teams.

5. School Helper  - students in older grades are often called upon to show leadership within the school. There may be a formal program in which students can participate in such as collecting attendance, making morning announcements, raising the flag, or helping with school assemblies. If a formal program is not in place, making suggestions doesn't hurt!

6. Science Fair - this may be already be a mandatory event for some classes, but if it isn't and your child has an interest in science, investigate ways in which he/she can participate.

7. Talent Show - again, there are many ways in which your child can participate whether he/she has a talent or working behind the stage.

8. Library Helper - librarians, pressured by cutbacks, usually appreciate any extra help or support in the library at lunchtime or at recess.

9. School Newspaper - the school newspaper or school newsletter offers a variety of jobs for students to do such as writing, editing, layout, illustrating, stapling and delivering.

10. Field Trips - in some instances, special education classes might not offer field trips to same locations as other classes. Ask your child's teacher or school administrator if your child can participate in a field trip in which you think would be a meaningful, educational experience. 

Asking the office staff, checking the school website and talking with other parents will also give you insight and information as to what is available for your child to participate in at school. Not only will these inclusive opportunities outside of the classroom benefit your child's social, emotional and intellectual development, it gives others the chance to learn and grow as well. Children and adults then begin to see one other as valuable and contributing members of the community.

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