Saturday, March 23, 2013

Top 10 Ways to Tell If Your Child's School is Inclusive


Inclusion, as special education experts agree, is the ideal way of educating students with special needs.  Students with special needs are placed in general education classrooms along side their same-age peers, despite physical or academic ability levels.  Often, however, inclusive education is a term that is misused and misunderstood by parents, teachers and staff.  Here is a list of top ten ways to tell if your child’s school is truly inclusive:

1. School Community - the school community (staff, PTA, parents) is friendly, encourages parent-school communication, welcomes volunteers, and celebrates student learning through bulletin boards, newsletters and school-wide events.

2. School Design - the building has ramps, large doorways, paved walkways, drinking fountains, sinks, storage spaces and coat hooks that a child with special needs can use.

3. School Spaces - the lunchroom, library, playground, bathrooms, and gymnasium (or Multipurpose Room) can be easily accessed and used by a child with special needs.

4. School Routines – lunch hour, recess time, assemblies and school-wide activities include all the students.

5. School Support Staff - professionals such as Speech Language Therapists bring their services to the special needs child. The goal of support professionals is to support the child’s learning as well as help him/her remain in the classroom.

6. Paraprofessionals - Paraprofessionals are available to support the student (depending on child's needs) in the classroom, during school routines and school activities.

7. Classroom Placement - a student with special needs is placed in a regular education classroom with same age peers despite his/her academic and ability level.

8. Classroom Arrangement - the special needs child has a desk or work area that is integrated into the class-seating plan. There is enough space for the special needs child to move around, a variety of learning materials are available and class materials can be easily accessed.

9. Teachers - Teachers plan lessons and activities in all subjects (not just Music or Art) to include the child with special needs. Lessons are modified and adapted so that the special needs student is actively participating in the learning process.

10. Students - ALL the students have opportunities to interact with one another both in the classroom and on the playground, help one another, work together and contribute to the well being of each other and the school community




Saturday, March 2, 2013

Make The Classroom Sensory-Friendly Today




I've always been highly affected by my surroundings.  I can't tell you how many times I've changed doctors, dentists, hotel rooms and even classrooms. It might not necessarily be a sensory-processing issue, but there is no doubt that I'll react either physically or emotionally if the room does not "feel good".

Therefore, I've been very aware of the children in my class who might also need a modification in the classroom space, materials, light, noise or smells. In fact, when I have students who begin to demonstrate inappropriate behavior, the first thing I do is change the child's immediate surroundings.  Often, that is all that needed in order to correct the misbehavior.

Below is a sample of strategies that can be used to make a classroom sensory-friendly. By making a classroom sensory-friendly, children who have sensory-processing issues can truly focus on the learning activities without distraction or discomfort. These strategies can be used hourly, daily, monthly or for the entire year. The purpose is to give teachers and parents ways to help keep children happy, engaged and learning in the inclusive class. 


Classroom Space
    big tables
    small tables
    groups of tables
    desks in groups
    desks in pairs
    individual workstations
    quiet area
    carpet area
    cozy reading space
    clutter control
    color coordination
    play areas with boundaries
    open windows
    temperature change


Classroom Materials
    bins for keeping materials organized
    centers with a variety of activities
    mini carpets to sit on at circle time/center time
    a variety of books to read at various reading levels
    fidgets
    visual timers
    visual planners
    bean bag chairs
    audio-visual materials


Lighting
    natural light
    lamps
    1 or 2 flourescent lights on
    light diffuser
    closed blinds


Noise
    quiet work time
    talking work time
    music playing in the background
    ticking clock
    "white noise" ie. circulating fan


Smells
    "no perfume" zone
    food kept in airtight containers
    no smelly markers/crayons
    fresh air flowing
    desks cleaned out regularly