Read an Excerpt
The Classroom Teacher's Inclusion Handbook
Practical Methods for Integrating Students with Special Needs
By Jerome C. Yanoff
Arthur Coyle PressCopyright © 2007 Jerome C. Yanoff
All rights reserved.
Inclusion is the practice of placing students with special needs in the regular classroom with non-disabled students and providing specialized services and/or specialized curriculum for them.
The philosophy of inclusion is twofold: (1) children with special needs will develop better socially if they can attend classes with non-disabled children; and (2) children who are non-disabled will become more knowledgeable and sensitive when working with children who have disabilities.
Important Facts about Inclusion
Though the terms "inclusion" and "mainstreaming" are sometimes used interchangeably, mainstreaming differs in that the students with special needs placed in the regular classroom in this program receive the same education and services the other students are receiving.
The procedure for placing a student in a special education program is regulated by federal law. When it becomes apparent that a student with disabilities cannot function in the regular classroom without receiving special education services, the parents, teacher, or administrator, who feels the student requires special education services, initiates a multi-disciplinary conference called a "staffing." Prior to the conference the student is tested in appropriate areas. At the staffing, parents and other adults involved with the student's education determine whether the student needs special education services. If so, a plan, known as the Individual Education Plan (IEP), is made to provide the assistance the student needs. The IEP is an agreement between the school and the parents listing the services the school will provide to the child. The IEP must include the following:
1. the present educational abilities of the student,
2. the long range goals for the school year,
3. the short range goals necessary for reaching the long range goals,
4. the specific educational support services to be provided by the school,
5. the extent, if any, of mainstream or inclusion participation, and
6. a method of recording progress toward achieving the goals and objectives.
In addition to the academic program the following services may also be offered: (a) audiology, (b) counseling, (c) medical services for further diagnoses and evaluation, (d) occupational therapy, (e) parent counseling and training, (f) physical therapy, (g) psychological services, (h) recreation, (i) rehabilitation counseling, (j) school health services, (k) social work services, (l) speech pathology, and (m) transportation. Often the school boards are reluctant to offer these services unless they absolutely have to, as each one is an additional expense to be borne by the local district.
The amount of extra work required of a regular classroom teacher with a student with special needs depends on the school regulations, the union contract and the willingness and abilities of the teacher. A student with special needs who is appropriate for inclusion should fit into the class with minimal procedural alteration. Extra meetings, specialized training and special curriculum should be the responsibility of the special education teacher, not the regular classroom teacher. Additional paperwork, however, must be recorded by the classroom teacher — special reports and anecdotal material; changes in the student's medication; and additional record keeping, if the school employs a behavior modification program.
The student should be one of the participants at the writing of the IEPs. He should be aware of the special education services he will receive and how they will help him.
Most disabilities do not affect what a student learns but how a student learns.
The classroom teacher cannot and should not be expected to be a specialist in each area of special education nor should the parents or administrators demand it.
Inclusion works better when the professionals in the school collaborate. However, not all professionals are available or are willing to collaborate. The regular classroom teacher must be prepared to continue teaching their student with special needs with or without collaboration.
If the classroom teacher feels good about inclusion, the student with special needs will thrive. If the teacher feels resentful about the extra work, the student will likely suffer.
The receiving classroom teacher should remember she is modeling behavior for the entire class. If she shows she is unaccepting of the student with special needs, the other students won't accept him either.
Sometimes, when a school adopts a policy of inclusion, the special education teacher is adverse to it. This may be because they are having difficulty letting go of their students or they may feel a loss of importance in the school.
Some students with special needs may be assigned an aid. The teacher is still in charge of the class and responsible for the student with the special needs, even if the aid is older and more experienced working with children. The teacher and aid should respect each other's expertise and work together.
The number of special education students placed in one classroom depends on the type of disability each student has and the willingness of the teacher — there could be six special education students who require a little additional help or one who is a constant handful.
Though a regular classroom teacher cannot refuse to accept a student with special needs the teacher may be able to refuse to perform certain services which are inappropriate for a teacher to do, such as some medical procedures, toileting, lifting, feeding, etc. The teacher should refer to her contract on this issue.
It is unlikely a classroom teacher would be sued if something goes wrong, if for no other reason than most teachers do not have enough money to make a legal suit worthwhile. It is more likely that a school board or school district would be sued.
The number of students with special education needs is increasing because (a) medical advances are saving the lives of children born prematurely, of children with serious birth defects, and of children affected by disease or serious accidents; (b) parents are responding to the option of educating their children with special needs in public schools rather than in special schools; and (c) educators are no longer allowing students with special needs, such as those with learning disabilities or emotional problems, to drop out of school but are instead encouraging them to stay.
Though the goals of inclusion are inarguably noble, in reality the system may present some difficulties. Administrators, school boards, teachers, parents and students must work together to ensure the program's success.
Suggestions for Working with a Student with Special Needs
Acquire all the information you can about the student, including strengths and weaknesses, from the parents, special education teacher, administration, board of education and the student.
Establish the reason for placing the student with special needs in your classroom. Make sure the reason is appropriate for the student.
Though it is not necessary to attend an entire staffing for a student, you should be present when the student's IEP is being developed. The participants, particularly the parents, may have an unrealistic view of their child's abilities. You can provide a better perspective of what can and cannot be achieved based on the student's strengths and weaknesses, your capabilities and the support available. If you cannot attend the meeting, ask to be briefed on the goals that were set and the reasons they were chosen.
If the IEP goals seem unrealistic, request another meeting to set new goals. Do not let others make unreasonable demands of you and do not make unreasonable demands of yourself.
Get a clear idea of the services expected of you. If you feel a responsibility is beyond your ability or inappropriate for you to perform, voice your reluctance before the student starts your class.
Check with the union before refusing to perform any special services which seem inappropriate for a classroom teacher. If you are comfortable performing those services, do so.
Discuss with the school administration and the union any legalities for working with the student with special needs.
Based on the type of disability, the age of the children involved and the desires of the student and parents, decide whether to prepare your class for the child's arrival. Some disabilities are immediately evident, others become evident as the school year progresses, and others are unnoticeable. Some disabilities, such as epilepsy, may be frightening and require the students' assistance in getting help. The parents of the child with the disability may want to come to school to talk to the class; the child may want to come along; the parents may prefer to have the teacher talk to the students; or the parents may prefer to keep the disability confidential. In any case, respect the parents' wishes. If the disability is to be discussed, ensure that the students receive a truthful representation of the new student and are allowed to ask questions and voice concerns. Encourage the class to accept differences and consider their classmate worthy of support and friendship, rather than attempting to minimize the student's problems.
In most cases the student with special needs can and should be held to the same standards for classwork and behavior as the rest of the class. It is, rather, the support to achieve those standards that will require special service. In cases in which the disability excludes reaching normal expectations, the teacher must modify assignments, grades, behavioral demands and the classroom, as necessary.
Decide if you are making accommodations or modifications. Accommodations are changes that do not alter the content or expectations but may change the way the work is produced. Modifications are alterations of content and/or expectations.
Document the student's progress and failures.
Accomplish the goals and objectives of the student's IEP to the best of your ability. Do as much as you can and do the best that you can. The fact that a goal is stated on the IEP does not mean that it must be accomplished; it means that it must be attempted.
Ask the special education teacher, the special education aid and the parents of the student for suggestions about working with the student.
If you feel a classroom aid is necessary, request one. Enlist the help of colleagues, parents, administration and other students when necessary.
If an aid is assigned to the student with special needs, work out the details of daily class operation before the aid begins.
An aid need not be limited to working with the student with special needs. Work out a situation that best serves primarily the student with special needs but also the entire class.
If the relationship with the aid becomes difficult, maintain professional standards and avoid any action that would harm the aid's effectiveness. Expect the same from the aid.
Always remember that you still have a class of regular students who also need your attention.
If the placement of the student with special needs is not working out, discuss the situation with the special education teacher and the school administrator. Get suggestions for better methods of working with the student. If the situation persists, request the administrator call another staffing to discuss a change of services or placement.
Suggestions for Helping the Student with Special Needs Fit into Class
Greet all students at the door as they enter.
Call on all students by name.
Try to call on every student at least once a day.
Criticize all students constructively.
Do not be reluctant to punish inappropriate behavior if it was in the control of the student with special needs.
Have conversations with the student with special needs.
Give the student with special needs classroom responsibilities.
adventitious – accidental, not inherent, occurring in an unusual way
Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) – Public Law 101–336 which extends civil rights to individuals with disabilities
at-risk – a type of student with a higher than average chance of developing a disability
disability – a limitation
due process – the right of families and school boards to get mediation in order to resolve disagreements about services to be provided for a student with special needs
exceptionality – a quality or situation which prohibits a student from receiving his educational needs in a regular classroom
handicap – a limitation imposed by the environment on a person who has a disability or by people's attitude toward the disability
Individualized Education Program/Plan (IEP) – a program drawn up at a staffing to map out the delivery of special services to a student with special needs
Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) – the plan developed to help nurture the abilities of children with disabilities from birth to age two
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (1975) – Public Law 94-142 with supporting legislation, most currently Public Law 105-17 (1997), mandating the right to an appropriate education for all students regardless of their special needs
integrated classroom – a classroom that has both non-disabled and disabled students
interdisciplinary team – a group of educators from different areas, such as a regular classroom teacher, a special education teacher, a school nurse, a social worker, a psychologist, etc., who are responsible for developing an educational plan for a student with special needs
itinerant teacher – a teacher who does work at several schools, usually with students with special needs
least restrictive environment (LRE) – a situation as close in nature as possible to the regular classroom for a student with special needs
mainstreaming – a program in which students with special needs take classes in a regular classroom without receiving special services
multi-disciplinary conference/staffing (MDC/MDS) – a formal meeting of parents and educators at which a specific student's educational needs are discussed and a program developed to aid in the student's education
nondiscriminatory evaluation – the principle that schools must conduct evaluations in a manner which is objective and culturally sensitive
normalization – emphasis on conventional attitudes and behavior in the school setting for students with disabilities
paraprofessional – a person who works with the teachers and the students to provide support services
pull-out program – a program in which a student is taken from the regular classroom to receive special help
Regular Education Initiative (REI) – the proposal that special education services be provided in the regular classroom with disabled and non-disabled students attending together
residential facility – a specialized school where the students live and attend class
resilient child – a student who, in spite of a multitude of health and/or environmental problems, manages to cope beyond expectations
resource room – a special room in a school where students with special needs go on a regular basis to get extra help with schoolwork
screening – a basic evaluation of a large group of students devised to locate those who may have a disability and will require further testing
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1975) – a section of the act that provides that no otherwise qualified individual with a disability may be discriminated against in such places as school and work
special education – additional and specialized services given to a student who would not be able to reach his or her potential in school without them
teacher aid – an adult assigned to provide support to a regular classroom teacher, a special education teacher, an individual student with special needs or a small group of students with special needs
Technology-Related Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities Act (1991) – a federal law which authorizes money to the states to set up a network for providing assistive technology to people with disabilities
transitional services – services to help students with special needs adjust to work and to living after finishing high school
zero reject – the principle which prohibits any student with a disability from being denied a free and appropriate education
Excerpted from The Classroom Teacher's Inclusion Handbook by Jerome C. Yanoff. Copyright © 2007 Jerome C. Yanoff. Excerpted by permission of Arthur Coyle Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.