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Inclusionary Educational Practices 2018-19

 

Shannon Johns, M.S.
Education Specialist

Shannon Johns, M.S. has worked in the field of special education for over 18 years.  She taught elementary-aged students with moderate to severe disabilities in a public school setting for 13 years before beginning her work at the Diagnostic Center, North. Shannon specializes in working with students with moderate, severe, and profound disabilities and has special interests in inclusion, assistive technology, and positive behavior support.

 


 

Cecelia Timek, M.A.
Education Specialist

Cecelia received her Master’s in Education from the University of San Francisco. She specializes in curriculum and instruction, inclusive education, the use of technology to improve educational outcomes, and adapting and modifying general education curriculum for all learners. Cecelia also has extensive knowledge in best practices for positive behavior supports, differentiation, and Universal Design for Learning. She has been serving children with special needs in the bay area for over a decade.

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  • new!First steps for setting up an inclusion program

Question:

I am a middle school SDC teacher looking to increase my student’s opportunities for inclusion with their general education peers. My students have difficulties with academic performance and social skills. My goal is to increase their opportunities to build meaningful friendships and work on appropriate work in the same environment as their peers, but I don’t know where to start.


Answer:

Thank you for your e-mail.

It sounds like your district has exciting plans for next year! It always makes me happy to hear about school teams working to provide more inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities.

Your question is a good one… but it’s also one that I could talk about for days.

I would say that my first piece of advice is to set up a schedule of check-in meetings and systems for communication among team members right from the very beginning. Inclusion won’t work without close collaboration and a lot of communication. Most challenges also stem from a lack of planning in this area. It will be important for the special education teacher/inclusion specialist and general education teachers to have time to plan adaptations and modifications for upcoming units and for specialists to share strategies for communication, fine motor, behavior, etc. It’s also important to ensure communication between any paraprofessionals who will be working with the students and the teachers designing the instructional programs. The paraprofessionals need to know exactly how to support the students in the general education environment, and how to best communicate with the teachers when they have a concern (or to share when the student is thriving and needs new tasks). These would be my first recommendations.

Please keep in touch and send us more specific questions as they come up, and we can share other resources and ideas.

Best of luck to you and your team!

Shannon


  • Bridging the gap between special education and general education programs to support inclusive education.

Question:

I am a middle school SDC teacher looking to increase my student’s opportunities for inclusion with their general education peers. My students have difficulties with academic performance and social skills. My goal is to increase their opportunities to build meaningful friendships and work on appropriate work in the same environment as their peers, but I don’t know where to start.


Answer:

I am so glad to hear that you are thinking about ways to increase inclusive opportunities for your students! The first step is a dedicated teacher that understands the importance of bridging the gap between special education and general education programs.

The first step is to talk with your administrators. It would be helpful to start by meeting with your program specialist and principal to create a game plan for gradually increasing participation. In my experience, successful inclusion programs start small and slowly add new components.

With student in middle school, student centered planning is a great place to start. This means considering each student individually rather than as a group. Think about what each student brings to the table, as well as his or her interests and preferences. This will ensure the student is excited to participate in the classroom lessons and ensure their participation is meaningful. Peers are also a great resource and setting up a peer buddy program can be very useful.

After classes are selected for participating students, it will be important to collaborate with the general education teacher to discuss upcoming units so you can help accommodate or modify lesson demands to ensure they are accessible. Scheduling ongoing planning meetings will be important. If there are paraprofessionals supporting students in their classes, it will be necessary to meet with them and discuss the student’s goals, the level of support needed, and what their role in each classroom will be. The goal is for students to participate as independently as possible.

Good luck! Keep us updated on your progress.


  • Inclusion

Question:

I am a 4th /5th grade Mild/Moderate SDC teacher looking to increase my student’s opportunities to be included with the grade level peers. We currently are including all students for recess, lunch, field trips, PE, music, and library. Do you have any suggestions for how to involve my students in other curricular areas?


Answer:

I am so glad to hear that you are already including your students for parts of their instructional day. This is an amazing first step! Two key factors in starting inclusive practices for academic instruction are collaboration and common planning time. Do you participate in your grade level Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings, typically held on early release days? Do you have common planning time within your contracted day, perhaps before or after school?

I would suggest beginning by setting up a time to meet with one grade level team at least once a week. Plan an upcoming unit together. During your planning time, discuss ways to include all students together. Talk with each other about specific student needs, both from your class and the general education classes. As a group, brainstorm ways to support different learners and talk about appropriate modifications for specific learner needs. You might offer to work on adapting specific lessons to make them accessible for certain students in the class, or run a small group during independent work times. Another idea is to create an instructional choice board (Tic-Tac-Toe) for students to use during the unit. Taking small steps can lead to wonderful increases in co-teaching opportunities and benefit both the students and your teaching team.

As the education specialist/teacher of students with special needs, you offer a unique skill set that can provide much needed support to your co-teachers. In return, general education teachers offer great knowledge about content, unit development, and project based learning. Together, you will make an excellent team and be able to learn from each other and support one another. 

Keep up the great work!

Cecelia


  • A Paraprofessional’s Role in Supporting an Included Student

Question:

I am a paraprofessional who is working with a 3rd grade student with disabilities that is included in a general education classroom this year. The student’s case manager/special education teacher is very busy supporting students in many different classrooms, and I don’t get to talk to her often. The general education teacher is also extremely busy, and I feel that I am being asked to adapt and modify lessons and activities for my student without much guidance. Is this okay? Do you have any recommendations for how we can address this issue?


Answer:

First of all, know that you are not alone! This is an issue facing many paraprofessionals and many school teams as busy teachers learn how to best support students with disabilities in general education classrooms.

The teachers can, of course, ask for your help in adapting and modifying classroom materials, but they should always be providing you with guidance for how this should be done. It is important that the special education teacher work closely with the general education teacher to discuss upcoming units and lessons and to plan for how your student will participate. They can then ask you to adapt materials and to instruct the student in a particular way, but again, this should always be under their guidance.

I encourage you to voice your concerns directly to the teachers. Schedule a meeting to discuss these issues and set up a formal communication system. Determine the best method for you to communicate with each other – through e-mail? In person at a certain time of the day or day of the week? By text message? Through a communication notebook? Once you have determined how and when you will communicate, try your best to stick to the plan. Communication and collaboration truly are the keys to making inclusion work!

Best of luck to you, and thank you for the work you do. It is very important work.