Tag Archives: inclusion of special needs

transitioning the special needs student to another class or school

transitioning the special needs student
Yesterday was Jeremiah’s last day of preschool. I’m crying. I’m scared. I’m worried.

I know so many of you can relate. The awesome thing is that Jeremiah’s preschool teacher can relate because she has an autistic son who’s sixteen. She has said over and over through our three years together that Jeremiah reminds her so much of her son. She knows what it’s like to move from one class to another, changing teachers, aids, and paraprofessionals. Sometimes they’ve been blessed with amazing teachers and staff, and other times it’s a whole different story.

And, yes, you may have caught that above, Jeremiah’s been in this same preschool class for three years. That’s a LONG time. It’s like a second home.In fact, his teacher, Ms. Gina, got teary eyed during our last conference. What can I say, Jeremiah touches people’s hearts.

Ms. Gina has been an exceptional teacher. At the end of last school year she recognized her classroom was becoming too comfortable for Jeremiah. This is great as a parent, and for the kid. Comfortable is good right? Well, Ms. Gina knew that Kindergarten was looming in Jeremiah’s future and wanted to prepare him for a small degree of the change he would face. She entirely rearranged her classroom before school started in fall of 2014. She moved everything for the first time since being the teacher there. For him.

This is part of why I’m so concerned about next year. We’ve had an amazing teacher, aid, and paraprofessional, we’ve also had some great therapists in the last three years.

But what about next year?

Jeremiah won’t have the same teacher, aid, paraprofessional, and one of the therapists who’s been so successful with him won’t continue on to elementary either. Those who know him so well and care about him so much won’t greet him every day or be there to know why he’s upset, what he needs, what’s bothering him.

The ONLY thing that gives me solace in looking to next year is that the principle is exceptional. It’s because of her dedication that Jeremiah’s school is inclusive, including special needs students in the general classroom. Mrs. Bianchi cares about each of her students as if they were her own, and I’m not just saying this as a cliché, she really cares. When the preschool class had to meet in the library instead of their classroom because of an issue, the principles concern was for Jeremiah. How would he do?

Because of his autism, Jeremiah needs consistency and routine. Not being in the classroom, where he is every school-day, could be disastrous, and Mrs. Bianchi knows this and was concerned about him.

My fears are lessened a little more because Mrs. Bianchi has an active presence in the school. She’s visible most of the time, not shut in her office. She sees Jeremiah almost every day as he’s made his way to the kindergarten (see info on “transitioning” below).
transitioning the special needs student to another class

Because of this exemplary school (a public school by the way), they’ve done so much to help transition Jeremiah into the Kindergarten class.

Here’s what they’ve done to help special needs students thrive, support teachers, and make the parents feel more at ease when big transitions come:

First, it’s important to know who the child’s teacher will be the following year. Even though most students haven’t been assigned to a teacher yet, the children with significant special needs have. This needs to be done before the following steps can be accomplished with a positive outcome.

Trips to next years classroom

A few months ago, Jeremiah’s Speech Pathologist took a video on her iPad of the walk from the preschool (modular) to the Kindergarten classroom (main building). The therapists, teacher, and aid have taken turns walking him to “Big School,” while showing him the video as they walk. They began by first walking in the front door of the school, they did this every day for several days, then they would walk to the gym for several days.

They went further and further until they were at the Kindergarten classroom. Sometimes kids were in the class, sometimes they were in the library, computer, etc. But Jeremiah went in each day, finally to the point that he sat with the kids in circle-time! Yeah, I know, pretty cool since he just started sitting on the floor during circle-time in preschool!

This does a couple things. It gets the child used to going to a new place, new class, with a new teacher. It begins to prepare them for next year when they’ll be going somewhere new, it won’t be such a shock when they walk through those doors the following school year. Another great benefit is the teacher (and possibly aid or para) can get to know the child a little before starting the school year. It’s better than walking in to a new situation without knowing what to expect, that’s already the case with the other twenty students.

Transition Planning Meeting

Another extremely helpful step is a “transition planning meeting.” We just had this meeting last week, and I thought it quite valuable. Those in attendance are, preferably, the current teacher, principle, school psychologist, special needs teacher, any therapists who work with your child, future teacher, aid (if there will be one), paraprofessional, and of course the parents. If the child who has special needs can attend the meeting, I would highly encourage this, they’re input is essential, they are the best indicators of what works and what doesn’t.

Why should parents attend? Because your input and involvement matter! I once heard an educator say, “When parents are involved, their kids are worked with more. I know it shouldn’t be this way, but it is.” Be involved, know what’s going on, communicate with your child’s educational team. You will see why it was important for my husband and I to be at the meeting when you see the questions that were asked. We were able to add our input on every topic about Jeremiah, our voices were heard and I’m positive much of it will be implemented (if the principle has anything to do with it). The Kindergarten teacher asked if she could get a copy – one was typed out and sent to each person in attendance.

I took notes for you at the meeting (or in my head anyway). 😉 There were four sheets and each one had a title. Everyone shared their thoughts on each heading.

Who Is Jeremiah?

Instead of being another child, another number, it’s important for those who know Jeremiah to share who they think he is.

Hopes & Fears

It was hard to share our fears, or it was hard for me anyway. I don’t think Justin has as many fears as I do. 😉 At the meeting they said, “There always has to be a worrier.” I raised my hand. High. That’s me. And astonishingly, during the meeting I didn’t feel as fearful as I had been or as I am now. Now, almost every day I’m telling Justin, “But they won’t…”
If you do this with your school, share your fears, it’s good to work it out together, and maybe the staff can help ease some of them.
Teachers, encourage parents to share those fears and be open to hearing them, they are real and vivid for us. This is even more true when our children can’t communicate or can’t communicate well. We have no idea what’s going on behind those doors unless we’re present and that’s not possible all the time.
Hopes are easy to share, everyone pitched in.

What Works/What Doesn’t

Current teachers and therapists can talk about this from their perspective in the classroom. Parents can share what works at school and what doesn’t, they can also share what works at home and what doesn’t. It doesn’t seem that home and school would overlap, but they do all the time.

Plan Moving Forward

Each point was assigned to a person at the table to work on.
What needs to be prepared for next year? A trampoline installed? A swing? Who will take photos of the classroom for PECS or a communication device?
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Parents, I hope this helps you know you’re not alone, that this is scary for some of us, and what you can share with your school to help transitions to go smoother. If you’re a teacher, I hope this helps you know how to make transitions better for your students.

I don’t share these positive stories to make special need parents feel bad. I know there are so many situations that fall far below what is desired by parents; schools don’t work with you, teachers don’t treat your child right, you wish you could keep your child at home. I share our stories because I want to educate teachers on how it can be done and how it can work.

Be sure to share this with teachers you know so we can make life better for special needs kids.

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special needs: how kids accept one another

special needs how kids accept one another_2

Photo courtesy of Knightsbridge Photography

You can listen to a recording of this post by scrolling to the end.
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Gotta love kids right? Since having a son with Autism, I’ve seen a whole new side of children I hadn’t seen before. I’ve worked with kids for years, I’ve been a teacher and a nanny, and only since watching kids and how they interact with Jeremiah did I gain a whole new perspective.

Kids accept each other, despite what obstacles stand in the way.

What obstacles might that be? Well, Jeremiah can’t talk, he doesn’t play with other kids (he’s only beginning to parallel play, meaning play next to other kids, not with them), he doesn’t usually smile at other kids, he doesn’t share what he’s playing with, and I will reiterate that first point again, he doesn’t talk. I feel that point is so important because our society in general doesn’t easily make friends with people who don’t talk, but not only doesn’t Jeremiah talk, he can’t communicate.

You would think even in a child’s world commonalities and similar interests would bring two kids together and they would want to be friends. This isn’t so with Jeremiah and his little friends. Jeremiah is usually in his own world, he’s slowly breaking free from it, but he doesn’t engage with these other children who consider him their friend.

Two years ago, when Jeremiah was three, he started preschool. A girl named Zoe quickly became his best friend. Zoe even called him her boyfriend. Jeremiah had no clue which is the most adorable part. Okay, there are more adorable parts. Zoe is a sweet girl, a tiny little thing, so cute, has leg braces, and uses a pint-sized wheel chair. Love her. And, she loves Jeremiah, they’re now in their third year of preschool together. I think it’s a lifelong friendship, maybe they’ll even get married. 😉 That’s just a little of the Mommy of a child with Autism hoping for the future.

The other day when I picked Jeremiah up from school, a boy in his class said good-bye to Jeremiah, then proceeded to tell me, “I know Jeremiah.” I was thrilled. This boy “knows” my son, my son who doesn’t talk, or reciprocate relationships. Well, he does reciprocate a little, he likes sitting by Miss Zoe in circle-time.
When special needs students are included

My brother-in-law, Rob, once said, “Kids and dogs.” This was after Jeremiah let him hold him during a time in Jeremiah’s life when only mom, dad, and Grandmas and Grandpas could hold him. We told Rob we couldn’t believe Jeremiah went to him, and then he made that statement, meaning that kids and dogs know people, they have intuition for who someone is.

These kids know Jeremiah and the sweet spirit he has. They like him for who he is, even if he can’t communicate, play swords, or if he eats the play dough. They accept him. They’re learning through being in class with special needs children that we are all unique and different in some way, and acceptance is part of everyday life.

No, not all kids give Jeremiah attention, but then not all kids are friends and get along with everyone, neither do adults. However, I’ve been surprised and pleased each time a child is aware of Jeremiah, says “Hi” to him, or tells me they like him. What joy it gives me to know that kids like my son, who happens to have Autism. Many of them will grow up with him, go through school with him, and hopefully stand by him if he’s ever bullied. I’m very grateful to these kids, kids who are only doing what is natural, before the rest of the world and it’s judgements get in the way.

Another example of this acceptance is in the picture at the top of this post. It’s Jeremiah and his sister. She’s now an amazing special needs advocate, compassionate with those who have special needs, and is in tune to their needs. I write more about her and her relationship with her brother in the post, Hurting Children CAN Develop Empathy.

Does your child with special needs have friends? Does this surprise you?

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where the abuse of Autistic people begins

abuse of special needs
You may have seen it in the news, a teen was talked into the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but, instead of ice, peers doused him with urine, feces, cigarette butts, and spit. This enrages me. Part of me can’t believe people would behave this way, but then I have not lived the secluded, naive life, and I know what humans are capable of. Still, it’s maddening and inexcusable.

You can see the video here. ABC News Channel 5 says about the video, “The above video is graphic and disturbing. The boy’s parents say he is ashamed and scared by what happened but are sharing to raise awareness about the cruelty of bullying and the need for tolerance and kindness.”

There may be arguments as to whether it’s appropriate to share the video so publicly, especially since the teen is ashamed of what took place. I’m giving you a link to the video if you have older children and want to share with them how others will treat people with disabilities. Children and teens need to know how to stand up for those with special needs, they need to understand what’s not okay.

If the offending teen’s parents were talking about special needs in their homes, this wouldn’t have happened. If they’d had conversations about people who are different than them, this terrorizing wouldn’t have taken place.

If they went to a school that included special needs children in the regular classroom, there’s a good chance this teen wouldn’t have been abused. If that inclusive school educated students regularly on special needs, these offenders wouldn’t have committed a hate crime.

Special needs and Autism need to be talked about in every home, not just certain homes, in certain families, in certain areas of the country. Not just when there’s someone with special needs next door, or a clerk at your local grocery store. Education needs to be everywhere because you never know when your children are going to meet up with someone who has special needs.

Don’t keep your children away from people with special needs because you’re afraid of what your child will say, there are excellent teaching moments everywhere. If someone is in a wheelchair, you might be afraid that your child will ask, “What are you in that rolling thing for?” You can then kindly explain to your child that it’s called a wheelchair, and the person in said mobile unit may share information. If not, when you walk out of hearing distance you can share why they might not be able to walk.

Deborah at www.care.com wrote a fantastic article called, Teaching Your Child about Peers with Special Needs, it’s an excellent resource I highly recommend.

I feel the teens who abused the Autistic boy didn’t understand he has feelings, likes, dislikes, and opinions just like they do. Those teens didn’t see who this teen is and appreciate him for who he is, they only saw his differences. They viciously attacked his differences and made a mockery of him. Understanding, empathy, compassion, and acceptance can happen through continuous discussions about special needs and the differences in others.

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inclusion vs exclusion: special needs in the classroom

inlcusion vs exclusion- special needs in the classroom
You can listen to a recorded version by scrolling to the end of the post.

Are there benefits to having special needs children in the mainstream classroom? Are there benefits for the typical students? Are there benefits for the special needs students? Should children with special needs be secluded in their own rooms?

If you’re wondering what inclusion is, there’s a great article over at Special Needs Resources, called, Inclusion: What It Is and What It Isn’t. The author, Karen Wang, has provided an excellent photo to explain what inclusion is, and what it isn’t.

Inclusion has innumerable favorable outcomes:

  • Inclusion reduces bullying. When typical children are around children with special needs, understanding will go far to reduce bullying. Our school makes great efforts to educate children on special needs, it’s part of the curriculum. They show videos of the special needs children and explain to all students what behaviors they might see and how to handle them when they see them. They have photos on the wall of famous people who have special needs and explain each disability. An inclusive community is an accepting community. 
  • Michael Emmons*, a Professor of Special Education, comes to our children’s school to facilitate the staff and students in including the special needs students in the regular classrooms. He’s had over thirty years of experience in special education, specializes in inclusive education, positive behavioral support, language, literacy, and communication. Emmons has shared some situations with us about special needs children who benefitted profoundly from being in an environment with other “typical” students. One was  about a girl who has Autism. The school she attended was in the beginning phases of inclusion, she walked through the school screaming, and ripped the papers hanging in the hallways. Now, she’s fully included in the regular classroom, with “typical” peers, and she’s doing great.
  • The benefits for typical kids are innumerable. For kids to accept and understand how to interact with the special needs community is priceless. When typical children feel comfortable around those with special needs, and understand the capabilities of a person who has a disability, it’s invaluable. We can’t teach any of this in a classroom where there are no special needs, this won’t happen when children are polarized. These life lessons will be with them forever, making them better people.
  • Children learn from their peers. If children are only exposed to others with special needs, meaning similar skill levels or having like behaviors, that’s what they’re learning. It’s essential to have children interact with others who have comparable abilities, but they also need opportunities to grow, which happens when they’re around others who are more advanced developmentally. In the article Special Needs Children Benefit from Mainstreaming, Rick Naurert says, “Researchers have found the practice of educating children with special needs in regular classes helps to improve the language skills of preschoolers with disabilities.”
  • I highly recommend the book, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. It’s a story of a girl who has cerebral palsy, she’s nonverbal and when she’s finally included in the regular classroom, and given the opportunity to communicate, she astounds everyone with her vast knowledge. 
  • Children with special needs have feelings too, inclusion makes them part of the community.

There are negatives to exclusion:

  • In special needs classrooms children can have the same teacher each year, this could mean several years with the same educator. And what if that teacher is  dissatisfactory? What if they don’t treat special needs children as typical kids who have feelings, thoughts, and abilities? What if they don’t talk to them as though they are able to understand? What if they read baby books or work on number recognition when your child is capable of so much more?
  • Abuse can take place when teachers and aides are alone with kids who may not be able to, or know how to, express what’s going on.
  • In the article Special Needs Children Benefit from Mainstreaming, Laura Justice says, “The biggest problem comes when we have a classroom of children with disabilities with no highly skilled peers among them. In that case, they have limited opportunity to improve their use of language.”

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I’ve said it before, but our kid’s school rocks. They’re inclusive. The principle, Mary Biagini decided to go full inclusion four years ago, and they’ve made great progress. The school partnered with Listen 2 Kids Productions last year to create the video, I See Your Ability, which discusses inclusion from both the students and teachers perspectives. This is only a preview of the video, but you can purchase it here.

In the video above you hear children talk about helping those with special needs, it’s an every day occurrence, it’s part of everyday life. One child came to the school as a third grader and he’d never seen a special needs child before. He didn’t know what to do, if he should talk to them or not.

Children in the school admit they are different because they’re in class with special needs students, one says that he has a lot more patience and acceptance than he would normally have.

Here are some quotes from the video:

One child makes it very clear what inclusion means: “Martin Luther King worked to end segregation from whites and blacks, and if you’re a principle and you only want [typical] kids, no special needs kids, you are no better than the people who wanted to segregate blacks and whites.”

“I can see how much [the special needs kids] love playing with us, and when we’re not there, they’re sad.” – Student

“I really don’t see the needs of the gifted and talented or the higher end learners being compromised.” – School Counselor

“Inclusion is not just about getting kids in regular educations classrooms, it’s about creating belonging for students in regular education classes.” – School Psychologist

Not only is it essential for special needs parents to promote inclusion, but we need parents of typical children to step up and speak up. It’s the parents of typical kids who are worried about the special needs students being included in the regular classroom. We need parents who’ve witnessed a change in their children to come forward and advocate for special needs children.

Please share with others to promote inclusion of special needs students in general classrooms.

If you’re looking to incorporate inclusion in your school (this means parents too, as you’ll be the most influential advocates), know that it’s a process. This doesn’t happen overnight.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.