For teachers of students with severe handicaps...

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by ecteach, Aug 14, 2012.

  1. ecteach

    ecteach Devotee

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    Aug 14, 2012

    Teachers go back to school Monday. Last year, I focused on a lot of the general education curriculum. Of course, I modified it...a lot. Anyway, I am struggling this year with what I am going to do with my students. I teach in a middle school. My main goal is to promote communication, reading, writing, and math. I try to incorporate science and social studies into other lessons. Here's the issue I have: Will this general ed information enhance their lives in any way? I taught EVERY SINGLE THING on the EXTEND 1 Alternate Assessment, and most of my students did not remember a thing.

    I know as a profession, we are moving away from the "living skills" approach. Up until yesterday, I was 100% on board with this. However, I was sitting here yesterday and I realized the reason for teaching living skills. It takes our students so very long to learn ANYTHING. If you teach them 5 vowel sounds in a year, this isn't going to add to their life in any significant way. However, if you tasks analyze and teach them 5 steps of tooth-brushing, and they actually retain the skills, this WILL give them a small sense of independence.

    Yes, I know there has to be a bit of everything going on in our classrooms. That being said, if you could teach anything you wanted, what would you do?

    Sorry if this is hard to follow...I just really want to do what it best for these kiddos.
     
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  3. ecteach

    ecteach Devotee

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    Aug 14, 2012

    I must add, this is my 8th year teaching this population, so I am not a "newbie." I do feel like one though. :)
     
  4. deefreddy

    deefreddy Companion

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    Aug 14, 2012

    My thoughts

    I feel your distress. I’ve gone around and around with this discussion in my own head, and what I’ve come to believe is, even though I have worked with students with disabilities for most of my adult years, is that many students who are taught in self-contained classrooms could actually be in classrooms right along with their general education peers, learning the same content, but at their own level. It doesn’t feel right to tell a student that “you are not allowed to be included with all these other kids because you were born this way. Once you get smarter/behave better/are more attentive/learn how to hold a pencil/learn to count/ or whatever you can join us.” It’s like someone telling me that I can’t shop at my favorite store because my hair is brown, and that might disrupt all the blond shoppers! I’m realistic, though, and I know at least in my district, this could never happen because our general educators don’t support this idea. Our students do learn things painstakingly slow, that includes life skills. In my first few years, I remember working with a HS student to identify his coins for 4 years. He never did get it straight. What I should have been working on is ordering and paying for lunch at a restaurant, and I doubt that he would have learned to do that independently either. So should I only concentrate on life skills and hope something “sticks”? Who wants to only work on their deficits all day long every day?
    My students all love to be around other students, and a student having a larger circle of friends may be the best thing that comes out of their education. I do not want to be another person in my student’s life restricting their potential by making a judgment call on what they’re capable of or what’s worth it to teach to them. Sometimes that means modifying a standard to the point of incomprehensibility, but at least to my students and to the rest of the teaching staff and to parents I feel I am making that statement that “You are worth it and capable!” On one of the rare occasions when my principal stepped into my room last year, I was teaching a lesson on Acids and Bases. We were doing a lab, and the students were predicting which of two identical fluids (blue Gatorade and blue Windex, alcohol and water, etc) were safe to drink by smell. A pH scale was on the board, our litmus test findings were on a poster. He was incredulous and surprised that my students could access the concepts. He said, “I though you *just* taught life skills.”
    One thing that has helped by students greatly has been to use more assistive technology and visuals to help my students learn core curriculum (thanks Kate Ahern, BoardmakerShare, and Symbolstix!) The more I use these tools, the better my students learn.
    One resource that has re-energized my resolve is “Aligning IEPs to the Common Core State Standards” http://www.amazon.com/Aligning-IEPs...gning+ieps+to+the+common+core+state+standards. It helps you to find those standards that will serve the student functionally as well as expose them to the common core curriculum.
    Sorry for the soap box. I’m a little too passionate, but I’ve had all summer to ponder it. I’ll check in at the end of this school year…by then I will have been beaten down a notch ;)
     
  5. ecteach

    ecteach Devotee

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    Aug 15, 2012

    Thanks for your reply. I went to a training at UNC-G this summer for promoting literacy to individuals with severe delays, and my eyes were totally opened to a whole new approach. I don't know where you live, but if you EVER have the chance to go to this training, I recommend it for sure. I can send you the specific name of it if you want. It was very affordable. ( I think $50)

    Of course, I found out EVERYTHING I was doing is wrong! :whistle: Now, I am sort-of second guessing everything I do or have done in the past. I am a bit of a perfectionist, and my coworkers tease me that I am harder and expect more out of my students than they do from theirs. I feel like teachers who teach this population are just left out in the cold by administration. I WANT corrective criticism. I don't want the administrator to read a newspaper during my evaluation. But, that's a whole other issue, isn't it?
     
  6. ecteach

    ecteach Devotee

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    Aug 15, 2012

    I have another question for you, since you seem to be interested in this post.......
    What is your take on IEP Goals in this day and age. I mean, if we are going to teach the general ed curriculum with modifications, shouldn't we focus more on the modifications that will be used than the goal itself? We are going to be teaching such a variety of things in our classrooms, so why would we just want a student to master ONE little goal per school year? I know we are supposed to update/change the goal once the student masters it. However, by us stating that we really only want the child to master that one thing, aren't we selling them short?

    Do I make any sense, or is this just an argument I have in my own brain?
     
  7. WaterfallLady

    WaterfallLady Enthusiast

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    Aug 16, 2012

    Good question ECteach. If I have goals for a student on his or her IEP, they aren't my only goals for him or her. I also have other goals, they just aren't as well written and documented.
     
  8. deefreddy

    deefreddy Companion

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    Aug 17, 2012

    I agree with Waterfall Lady. The goals I write are one or two priorities in an area. I work on many other things, most of the time dancing around the goal area so its not "drill and kill". Every month or so I assess the progress, and if there is none or little, then I get more focused.

    I incorporate the modification into the goal, so instead of just restating the core standard, I describe how the student will demonstrate mastery of the modified standard, i.e., "Joan will select two major themes using pictures with phrases after hearing a text summary read aloud..." I think that outlining what assistive technology will be used to demonstate proficiency is as important as the goal, and AT could be as simple as a few pictures to choose from. Its not only technology.

    Ditto the administration! Mine acts like they'll catch something. They always hit up my bottle of hand sanitizer after the students shake their hands!

    I'd be interested in seeing if the training you went to has a webinar. What is it called?
     
  9. Rhea71

    Rhea71 New Member

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    Aug 19, 2012

    I am also interested in the training.. please post more information.... Thank you!
     
  10. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Aug 19, 2012

    This is a good thread that I have personal experience with.
    My son is severely disabled and spent all his years in self contained classes. He doesn't talk and his teachers all through school did a remarkable job working with him on self help skills and also incorporating academics. They recognized that he is very bright, in spite of the fact that he doesn't speak and only responds to them with a smile. In fact, one teacher in high school, not even a SPED teacher, took him under her wing and got him enrolled in some gen ed classes with an aide.

    Will those academic courses help him in the long term? Probably not, because he will never hold down a job.

    But what helped him the most was having SPED teachers willing to go that extra mile and offer him opportunities that he would normally never have in a self contained class.

    You sound like such a teacher :hugs:
     
  11. ecteach

    ecteach Devotee

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    Aug 19, 2012

    Okay fellow teachers, the name of the training is:
    "Literacy for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities"

    You can find more information about the people that do the training at:
    www.med.unc.edu/ahs/clds

    I registered for the training through the NC Summer Institutes Website. I am not sure if the training is offered any other time in the year. I am also not sure if teachers outside of NC can register for the training.

    This is the website for the summer institute:

    http://ec.ncpublicschools.gov/conferences-profdev/summer-institutes

    Hope you guys can go.
     
  12. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Phenom

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    Aug 19, 2012

    This is a great thread! Thank you for all of the information. I just looked at Symboltix and am going to dowload the free lesson when I get to school tomorrow! I also love Boardmaker share. I am one of those teachers who teaches ALL of the subjects to my students. They are mostly functioning at a pre-k/K level and are non-verbal for the most part (though they are aged up to 12). They answer questions using pictures and even though we have to do a lesson a few times they do understand and remember some things. I would like to incorporate more life skills and social skills lessons.
     
  13. elleveeaych

    elleveeaych Rookie

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    Aug 20, 2012

    I'm really happy I've come across this thread. I'm a first year teacher and I'll be teaching a middle school class of 7 students with moderate-severe disabilities. School starts in a week and the administration hasn't given me their IEPs yet, despite asking three times. I'm having so much trouble planning without them and I'm having trouble with the life skills vs gen curriculum debate as well. I feel like I can incorporate life skills into almost everything I will be doing but how much of the general curriculum will my students actually benefit from? Right now they are 7-9th graders with little to no ability to read, write or speak. Will I be bringing the curriculum down too far if I'm teaching them their numbers and letters at this point, even if that's what they need?
     
  14. ecteach

    ecteach Devotee

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    Aug 23, 2012

    The administration probably doesn't know where their IEP's are. Oh, let me stop! I'm in a mood today. :)
     
  15. MsTeckel

    MsTeckel Comrade

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    Aug 28, 2012

    Im in a special education day school for children with autism. We actually write goals/objectives for ALL subject areas (Language arts, Math, Science, Social Science, Communication, Independent living, Computer, music, art, speech, lunch and PE...as well as their behavior goals) I still dont quite understand it, but its get difficult, especially in the science and social science goals. Do you write it so general that you cant measure it...or do you write it specific, but you have to work on THAT goal all year long. We actually have kind of a rule that we have to work on each objective twice a week...

    We dont have a general education curriculum. So we are free to do what we went....it gets tough after a while....there are times I wish for a curriculum guide.

    We are having a training in October on the Common Core standards and how they related to IEPs. According to our principal, we will learn how to write measureable goals for our kids...we have kids from the high end of the autism spectrum to the low low end of the spectrum. And those kids are mixed within the class. For instance...my class this year, has a 7th grader, pretty much on grade level (sad to say, he wont stay that way, we try our best...its just not possible in our school setting) and a low kid who is working on identifying his letters and numbers.

    We need training on our to make our IEP goals functional but still meet the Core Standards. This is what our training is going to be. Im pretty excited about it. Im not sure who it is with though.
     

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