Tag Archives: inclusion

great special ed teachers = priceless

great special ed teachers = priceless
There aren’t many things greater in life than knowing your child is in capable, caring, and safe hands when you drop them off at school. That feeling is multiplied exponentially when your child has special needs.

I know how wonderful Jeremiah’s preschool teacher (his aides are truly amazing also) is because I know what it takes to understand, help, befriend, and teach my son. I know how it can be daunting for others to simply watch Jeremiah and feed him snack. I know Ms. Gina goes far above what’s expected of her.

As school ended this past year, we met with Gina for a parent/teacher conference. During the conference, she said, “Since this will be Jeremiah’s third year in my class, I’m going to change my room around. It’ll be a challenge for me, but I’m going to do it.”

She knows Jeremiah is used to the room after being in her class for two years, but every year after the one coming up, he’ll be in a new environment. New teachers, new classrooms, and possibly new paraprofessinals*.

Even though it’s going to stretch Gina, because she likes the way her room is set up and never alters it’s basic layout, she’s doing this for Jeremiah. One child who’s in her class for three years. She cares that much about him, his development, and preparing him for his future.

I’m extremely grateful for our kids school,

for the principle who hires quality staff and promotes inclusion for special needs students, and for that staff who puts students needs first. The peace I feel when my child goes to school is unparalleled. Although he has special needs and is nonverbal, I’m confident he isn’t being abused, talked down to, thought less of, belittled, or placed in a corner. Having a a great special ed teacher is priceless.

*Jeremiah’s preschool is on an elementary school campus. His preschool is specifically for children with special needs and kids who are high risk. The elementary is a public school, which includes special needs children in the regular classrooms.

You can find out more about Jeremiah’s school in these posts:
Out of My Mind (I highly recommend everyone read this book)
What is Inclusion?

*Paraprofessionals, as defined by specialchildren.about.com: “A paraprofessional — often referred to as an aide — is a special-education worker who is not licensed to teach, but performs many duties both individually with students and organizationally in the classroom. Your child may be assigned a one-on-one paraprofessional as part of his or her IEP, or interact with a paraprofessional assigned to the classroom.”

Does your child have an awesome special ed teacher you’d love to brag about? What about their school? Does it make you feel at ease when you leave your child in capable hands?

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the board’s decision overrides (Autism/special needs)

boardsdecision

In January we were notified that Jeremiah would be moving up to Kindergarten in the next school year. We’ve been so happy with his progress in his current preschool (he’s now on his second year), that we were in trepidation of him moving forward. His birthday fell twelve days short of the cutoff for entrance to Kindergarten (meaning he would be one of the youngest kids in his class), AND he has Autism, which means he’s developmentally delayed. His teacher, who we greatly respect, had the same fears we did, in fact she said those fears kept her up at night. (Jeremiah has a way of pulling at people’s heartstrings.)

We are all for inlcusion, but Jeremiah isn’t ready for Kindergarten, and we know if he had another year in his preschool class, his success would be much better.

Reasons why Jeremiah isn’t ready for Kindergarten:

  • He doesn’t interact or play with his peers. He’s come a long way this year and is noticing his friends, which is awesome, but play/social interaction is a foundation piece for his future that he hasn’t developed yet.
  • He’s not able to sit still. I’ve been in the classroom he’ll be moving into and the teacher expects a lot, which is great for kids who are neurotypical, but difficult for children like Jeremiah. I’ve volunteered in my daughter’s Kindergarten class, they read quietly for twenty minutes, then they move to circle time where the teacher reads to them, then comes quiet writing workshop. Yikes! That’s at least an hour that I’m not sure what Jeremiah will do, and the class is only three hours long.
  • He’s learning more of what a two-year-old might be, versus a Kindergartener.

So, we had some concerns, plus he’d be one of the youngest kids in his class. We asked the preschool director, Karla*, to keep him in preschool another year. When Justin first spoke with her to discuss the situation, Karla said in a very motherly tone, “Many parents are concerned when their children go into Kindergarten.” Justin assured her this isn’t about our “baby” moving into Kindergarten, it is expressly the concerns I listed above, PLUS the worries we have for the teacher.

Karla said that ultimately the decision would be made by the team who works with Jeremiah – the teacher and three therapists.

We had also met with the school principal, Ellen*, and the psychologist, Jackie* (both have observed Jeremiah in his classroom) and we thought they were in agreement with us. But when Karla called Justin earlier this month, she said the final decision was up to her and the principal, she was very abrasive and said the decision was…

NO.

What? Karla’s never observed Jeremiah, yet she was making this decision which would affect the rest of his life. We also thought it odd that the principal had sided with her, because we weren’t getting that vibe.

“Don’t allow educators who’ve never observed your child make monumental decisions for them.”

Karla said there were three criteria that determine retention, and Jeremiah has to meet two of the three. They are: 1) The child’s birthday falls within ten days of the cutoff. 2) The child is ONLY socially or emotionally delayed. 3) The child has only attended one year of preschool.

Jeremiah’s birthday falls so close to #1 that Karla was willing to let that one slide (all sarcasm included in that statement). He didn’t meet #3 because this is his second year of preschool.

And about #2. Jeremiah didn’t meet that one because he’s more than socially or emotionally delayed. Basically it was explained to us, in Karla’s opinion (yes, the woman who has NEVER met my son), if Jeremiah were to attend preschool one more year he wouldn’t be socially and emotionally caught up. This criteria is set up for those who they have the “hope” of developing in those areas.

Not cool.

So, in the mind of the preschool director, the decision was final. However, she didn’t know that in our minds it wasn’t. I began talking with therapists, and trying to get ahold of his doctor and the psychologist who diagnosed him. I was gathering letters and information on the importance of him repeating preschool one more year, to set him up for success in the future. My gathering wasn’t going well, because I couldn’t get a phone consult with his doctor, and the psychologist is unreachable in the time I have to make phone calls (without a little guy jumping through the house screaming).

jerlove

But I had a big surprise (such wonderful news that I bawled when I read it) last Wednesday when I opened my emails. There was an email from Jeremiah’s case manager (yes, there are several people involved). She said the school board had changed the entrance birthday/age for Kindergarten enrollment. They moved it back two months, so this means Jeremiah won’t be five by the selected date,

so he can’t move on to Kindergarten!

In the end, the school board made the decision for us. Jeremiah will attend preschool another year. Wooohooo! Everyone who was in support of him staying in preschool, which is everyone minus two, is laughing at the situation. It’s funny how some were sticking their heels in, staunchly against Jeremiah staying another year, and behold the decision was made FOR them, and they were taken out of the equation. As one person involved said, “I call this sweet justice.”

We spoke with the principal, and she said she had no part in the decision to move Jeremiah into Kindergarten. I don’t know what Karla’s problem is, but it seems she can’t get her facts straight.

God is watching over these kids, He shows His protection over them continually; new programs popping up, and our kids are the first to go through, new services becoming available, beginning with these two, and BIG decisions made by school boards that affect Jeremiah. It’s been amazing to watch.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Some other posts that may be of interest:
Out of My Mind – including special needs
what is inclusion?

Out of My Mind – including special needs

Last week I wrote about inclusion. Why do I care about inclusion? Because of how much it’s helped my son, Jeremiah, who has nonverbal Autism. Another thing I love is the school he’s attending (which happens to be the only inclusive elementary school in our district, and is so close, I can SEE it from my house)!

Because MV* is an inclusive school, they make exceptional efforts to educate children in the realm of special needs. On the hallway walls hang words such as Autism and Dyslexia, with explanations and photos of famous people who live with those disABILITIES. Staff and students have the option of purchasing shirts that promote acceptance of disABILITIES, they have sayings like, “At MV, we see your disABILITY.”

out-of-my-mindLast week was the kickoff for their One Book, One School. The book they chose: Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper. The Denver Post says of Out of My Mind: “If there is one book teens and parents (and everyone else) should read this year, Out of My Mind should be it.”  At present, the book has been rated by 1,094 readers on Amazon and has a five-star rating! I’ve read some phenomenal books, and none of them have a five-star rating. And although our elementary school is promoting the book, it was written for young adults.

Here is a synopsis of the book: “Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there’s no delete button.

She’s the smartest kid in her whole school –

but NO ONE knows it. Most people – her teacher and doctors included – don’t think she’s capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows…but she can’t, because Melody can’t talk. She can’t walk. She can’t write. Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind – that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice…but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.”

At the school’s kickoff, there were various activities throughout the school which taught kids about what it’s like to live with special needs. At one station they needed to move a wheelchair from one point to another, at another they fed someone while blindfolded, they dressed someone whose arms and legs were straight out and completely stiff, they had to communicate their desires with a PECS board, and they learned about therapy dogs. We are so fortunate to be part of a school that’s focused on helping the students and staff learn about special needs.

Educating children about special needs will only make a better society.

inclusivesocietyI leave you with this quote from the author Sharon Draper, “I was fiercely adamant that nobody feel sorry for Melody. I wanted her to be accepted as a character and as a person, not as a representative for people with disabilities. Melody is a tribute to all the parents of disabled kids who struggle, to all those children who are misunderstood, to all those caregivers who help every step of the way. It’s also written for people who look away, who pretend they don’t see, or who don’t know what to say when they encounter someone who faces life with obvious differences.

Just smile and say hello!”

Does your school include special needs? What efforts do they make to teach children in the school about special needs?

*initials are used for school name to protect privacy.

Some other posts that may be of interest:
what is inclusion?
great special ed teachers = priceless
the board’s decision overrides

You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links. Please feel free to share this with other educators and anyone you feel would benefit.

what is inclusion? (special needs)

inclusion

I wish more people knew what inclusion is and the benefits of integrating special needs children in the mainstream classroom. When I share with others that our son attends the ONLY inclusive school in our district, they stare at me, having no idea what I mean. Information exists elsewhere on this topic, so I will share my opinion and experience, as well as share information from other resources.

So what is inclusion?

Inclusion is when children with special needs join mainstream classrooms for the majority of their day. This means children with mild to significant needs are in the same classroom with their peers. Each individuals assignments may look different when incorporating inclusion, as a child with moderate needs may not be able to complete the same task as a neurotypical child (one without a disorder, disABILITY, or developmental delay).

What does this look like for children with more significant needs?

This dynamic functions best when kids with more significant needs have a full time aid. Because of stress levels, social struggles, sensory needs, etc., the child may need to take occasional breaks from the classroom setting, which would be guided by the aid or Special Needs facilitator in the school.

More information on what inclusion is can be found at Kids Together.

Kids Together defines inclusion differently in some aspects. It really depends on where each school is in their readiness for inclusion. Our school does well with inclusion, but is not able to support a child’s every need within the classroom. When there is a child who needs intense sensory input, they’re not able to meet that need within the general classroom. Whereas, in the definition given by Kids Together, it says, “Supports follow the students, the students don’t go somewhere to get them.”

Tim Villegas of www.friendshipcircle.org says, “Inclusion is going to look different depending on each school and student. That is why I think it is helpful to see it as a framework as opposed to a one-size-fits all system.” Progress is progress, and we must work with what we have and move forward.

For a child who thrives on routine and lack of it can create turmoil within them, I believe the model of inclusion must be amended. For example, for holiday parties, assemblies, and times when the teacher is absent, one might consider creating an alternative for the child.

I agree with inclusion, but there needs to be leeway when the classroom dynamics are altered.

“Inclusion is part of a much larger picture than just placement in the regular class inclusion2within school. It is being included in life and participating using one’s abilities in day to day activities as a member of the community. Inclusion is being a part of what everyone else is, being welcomed and embraced as a member who belongs. Inclusion can occur in schools, churches, playgrounds, work and in recreation.” ~ Kids Together, Inc.

At this time in my journey with Autism, I’m in support of inclusion. I have two experiences with my son and inclusive classrooms. Jeremiah attended a mainstream classroom for two years, the teacher and aides did not have the training necessary to help Jeremiah appropriately. Because of their lack of knowledge and their unwillingness to learn about Autism, he was stuck in front of a television most of the morning.

In August 2012 he began attending an inclusive classroom that is part of our school district, and is connected to a primary school that’s inclusive. He thrived immediately. The difference? Teachers and aides who were well-informed about Autism, who were able to read his cues, and were willing to work with him where he was. He’s made great progress in his preschool (now in his second year – and we are VERY sad to see it going by so quickly). We also work with the teachers consistently, sharing his progress or regression at home, what he is saying (only a word or two), playing with, or how he’s communicating.

This helps us all meet Jeremiah where he’s at and encourage him to do more. 

Here’s a post from Special Needs Resource, which lists 10 Examples of Inclusion: For Those Who Need to See It to Believe It

Senminefield holds another opinion, he feels that inclusion doesn’t work for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Here’s what he has to say in Special School Vs. Mainstream: Pros & Cons. 

In Senminefield’s post, he discusses the teachers lack of knowledge pertaining to Autism. He does say that it’s not their fault; however, it’s my opinion that  parents should help educate teachers and staff on how to help our Autistic children. If we want inclusion, we can’t complain about every instance that goes awry, we need to work through them with educators to provide them with knowledge of our children they may not have.

Some other great resources for learning about and implementing inclusion are Think Inclusive and The Inclusive Church (for those who are interested in having inclusion work for church and Sunday School classrooms).

What are your experiences with inclusion? Do you think it would work for your child?

Some other posts that may be of interest:
Out of My Mind – including special needs
Great Special Ed Teachers = Priceless
the board’s decision overrides 

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You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner, you can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links. Please feel free to share this with anyone, including educators.