"No more school. No more books. No more teacher's dirty looks!"
This chant and ones like it will soon be sung in classrooms across the country. For some special needs parents the end of the school year will bring relief from nagging about homework and berating their child for not listening in class. Their child can use up all their energy running in the sun and exploring the city. For other special needs parents the end of the school year brings trepidation as they are unsure how they will entertain their child for two whole months. Their child needs constant supervision and a very specific person to take care of their needs. Either way I have a reminder for both sets of parents from a teacher's perspective.
Summer is just a season. It's not a break from learning.
Choosing the right school for your child can be a daunting task. School tours and speaking with other parents with children attending the school are two great ways to see if the school would be a good fit. Another great way is a teacher perspective on what generally happens in the classroom each day. Today we'll be looking ata day in the enclosed classroom.
The above picture is NOT what my enclosed classroom looked like. In my first year teaching at a private school for kids with intellectual disabilities, pervasive developmental disorders or psychopathological disorders, I taught a class of 10 students between the ages of 4-6 years old. The students were diagnosed with low functioning autism, were non-verbal and timed toilet trained. I was working with students at a developmental level of about 18 months old. I had one full time aide and a second aide during meal and toileting times. What did I do with this group all day long?
Today I was able to take the time to attend thisparent conferencesponsored by theLester B. Pearson school board's Central Parents' Committee. Of course, I attended the workshops related to special needs and I came away encouraged and with added resources in hand. The first workshop I attended was onIPads and Social Stories for special needs students. I learned about some really cool apps but the two best take aways from this workshop were... 1) Learning about the Endeavour program. The Endeavour program is held at thePlace Cartier Adult Education Centreand provides a training and social integration program for special needs adults (persons over 16 years). As it is under the Lester B. Pearson school board it is free tuition. It is a growing program and led by a wonderful team of teachers! 2) Learning aboutMisunderstood Minds. The website is based on a documentary called Misunderstood Minds and is a great compilation of information. The best part of this website is it lets youEXPERIENCEa disability. If you click on any one of their categories (Attention,Reading,WritingorMathematics), you will see close to the top a bar labelled "Experience Firsthand". There are a number of activities you can can try and it definitely gave me a new perspective. The second workshop I attended was "Dyslexia Does Not Spell Disability/School Success with Disabilities". I went to this workshop because I had taught Christopher Simeone, one of the speakers, Secondary 4 Science and was excited to hear his story. I grew prouder and prouder as I listened to Chris speak. He is resilient, perseverant and has not let his disability define him. Rather he has come to understand his disability thereby learning coping skills and has risen to maximize his strengths. It was so rewarding to know I played a small part in this child's life. Check out Christopher's story here.
Do you wholeheartedly support inclusion or do you teach in an inclusive classroom with reservations? Regardless of what you believe, the inclusive classroom is the reality for the majority of teachers. Each day we are faced with 25 or more students and within each group of students we have at least one, if not more, students who have a special needs code. Moreover, within our non-coded students we have a variety of abilities and learning affinities. If we are lucky we have a teacher's aide for our special needs student either part time or full time. Perhaps we even have a resource teacher scheduled throughout the week. In the midst of this we are charged with the challenge of helping our students succeed academically and socially. Their success is our success. What is the key to a successful inclusive classroom?