Inclusion teachers: How do you explain Sp Ed to students?

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by Mellz Bellz, Aug 26, 2013.

  1. Mellz Bellz

    Mellz Bellz Comrade

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    Aug 26, 2013

    I'm curious with how you tend to bring this up with your inclusion students. As a middle school teacher, I feel by 6th grade my students need to understand what being in the Special Ed program is and what it isn't. At the middle school they are being expected to be more accountable for their learning and will need to start to learn how to use the resources that are availble to them to their best advantage. Even though legally most of them are too young to attend IEP meetings, our Sp Ed director encourages us to start including them. I agree with this because I feel by this age a student is the best one to tell us what helps them and what doesn't as far as classroom and testing mods go.

    I find that by 6th grade many of them have no idea what an IEP plan is or even that they are receiving Sp Ed services. When I do slip and use the phrase "EC" I usually get "I'm not EC! Those are those kids in that 'special' class!"

    So, I guess I'm asking how do you educate your students?
     
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  3. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    I'm not sure why it's important to bring up to kids that they're in special education. I get that you want open communication with the student about their learning styles and goals and you want them aware of their rights and responsibilities. However, I think you're playing with fire by initiating a discussion about how they're in special ed. Kids - especially middle school kids - are often mortified by any differences between themselves and what they perceive to be as an "average" kid. I would never, ever, announce to my students "You may not know this, but you're in special education." I have talked many times to kids about modifications we can use or supports that are available to them but I wouldn't go out of my way to make sure they know that they're in SPED.
     
  4. Zelda~*

    Zelda~* Devotee

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    With Primary ED it's a little easier--they come to understand that they're working on their behavior and how to make good choices in school. And that they can eventually "leave" my classroom and not need me any more.


    I'm not sure how or if I would approach the subject with sixth grade students. I think if you made a "big deal" out of it, it would do more harm than good.
     
  5. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    In what situation would you bring this up? When I'm working with a student (SPED or otherwise), and they ask me what I "do"...I tell them that I'm a teacher who specializes in helping kids learn. So no matter what challenges or difficulties a student has with reading, writing, or math...I know how to help them understand it.

    As an inclusion teacher, you should be available to ALL students. It should never be, "you're my SPED kids and I'm here to help you." I understand your need to help them develop self-advocacy skills, but I think that 6th grade is too young. Some of my 8th graders know they're "on an IEP", some are none the wiser. When I invite them to an IEP meeting, I just tell them that we want to help him/her succeed in school, and we need their help coming up with a "plan" to do so. I'm not lying or trying to cover it up, I'm phrasing it in a way that's easily understandable and developmentally appropriate. In middle school, they don't need to know all of the nitty gritty. Just enough to make them feel comfortable :)
     
  6. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    I'm chiming in as a non-sped, HS teacher-- THANK YOU for those who make sure sped students know by the time they leave middle school. I had quite a few HS freshmen this year who didn't even KNOW that they had IEPs/504s!

    I had one student who was to be given extra time on long projects. So the first time I assigned one, I gave everyone a due date and then later pulled him aside and told him to turn his in a week later. His response was "Why? Why would I get more time than the other students? I don't understand."

    Does this mean other teachers weren't providing that extra time? Who knows, but he was really upset to learn that he was being held to different standards and as someone with NO training in sped, I had no clue how to respond to him.

    By that age, students should know their own education plans however it's done.
     
  7. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    Aug 26, 2013

    I wouldn't have pulled him aside and gave him a different due date. In my inclusion class, everyone gets the same due date initially. I monitor EVERYONE'S progress throughout the project. If I see some of the sped kids are struggling with the pace of the project, then I will offer them the extra time. I say, "I notice that you're struggling with this. Would a few extra days to work benefit you?"

    Sometimes they are grateful for the extra time, sometimes they insist that they can get it done in time. It's more likely that the student you speak of has never been singled out and given a separate due date, rather than he has never been given extended time.
     
  8. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    *shrug* Like I said, I have no training, so I always go right to that student's sped rep and ask what implementation works best for that student. Like that godawfully vague "preferential seating" which means something different for every single student.... I was told to assign different due dates in private.
     
  9. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    Not saying what you did was "wrong", but just offering how I do things. It sounds like doing private due dates is the norm in your district, so I would stick with that :)

    I hate preferential seating and never include it in my IEPs. If I get one that says that from another district, I just ask the kid where he wants to sit lol.
     
  10. Mellz Bellz

    Mellz Bellz Comrade

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    Aug 26, 2013

    I just want to clarify that I don't necessarily want to confuse my kids anymore or tell them more than they need to know. I try not to even say the words Special Ed, but my kids do know that even though I am in the inclusion classes and I help everyone, there are certain kids that I have to pull out when we are taking a test for instance. I try to keep these situations at a minimum, but realistically they know that they get certain things that most kids don't.

    They also figure out pretty quickly that I'm an EC Teacher and once I start giving them invitations to IEP meetings to go home and pull them out for tests they start to ask questions.

    So just to play devil's advocate SHOULD kids know that they are in a Sp Ed program? Not necessarily using the term Sp Ed of course. Or should we hide it from them? Just curious what your thoughts are and when is an appropriate time if any to start educating them?
     
  11. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Ok, I'm not an inclusion teacher but this is something I've always kind of wondered as well. In the past I have not told kids that they're in sped. Some kids knew (from parents, I assume) and some kids really had no idea. I've always worked in title 1 schools with a lot of ELL students, so there are lots of "special" services and pull-outs going on due to gen ed kids being pulled for title or ESL. Therefore it's not really weird or different when my kids come with me. We haven't started school yet this year, but in my first sped position I really think most gen ed students didn't know I was a sped teacher either...literally at least half the kids in every gen ed class would beg me to take them too/include them in my class. If kids asked why they couldn't be in my class or why there were in my class, I said that we decided which teachers would be the best for each student, and the students in my class were picked because I was the best teacher for them. Just like some kids are in Mrs. title teacher's class or Mrs. ELL teacher's class.

    I did have a couple of parents at initial IEP meetings ask me what they should tell their kids about the IEP. I told them that I don't explicitly tell kids they're in sped, but I support whatever decision they make at home about how much to tell the child (so if a kid asked me straight out, I wouldn't lie). Personally I think the way I do it is developmentally appropriate. My kids know their IEP goals, but we just call them "goals" and they know about their accommodations too.

    However, I know in my first position the middle school sped teacher would get upset that kids coming from the elementary programs had no idea they were in sped. I debated having a talk with my 5th graders at the end of the year explaining what sped was and why they were in it so they'd be prepared for middle school, but didn't end up doing it because that teacher was leaving the following year anyway.
     
  12. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    Do you pull gen ed kids, too? When I read tests aloud, I always mix in some gen ed kids with my group. Many of them BEG me to pick them! They appreciate the auditory input just as much as a struggling learner, and it helps take the stigma away from pull out.
     
  13. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    I think the decision to have "the talk" about SPED is totally based on your district's values and beliefs. If it's expected to let students know about their SPED services, then you should find ways to do that in order to keep continuity. In my district, I don't feel the need to let them know specifics.
     
  14. bros

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    Aug 27, 2013

    You don't have to bring it up to the kids that they are in special education/have an IEP. Especially since they are in sixth grade, they will try to blend in and appear normal at all costs. Just don't make a big deal out of it.

    Perhaps communicate with the parents, see how well-educated the child is about their IEP, perhaps invite them to their next IEP meeting, as sixth grade is old enough to attend at least part of the IEP meeting.

    That... is just bizarre. I have no idea how your district got away without inviting that student to their eighth grade IEP meeting - which is typically the first transition meeting (as in what they are going to do after HS).

    For preferential seating, you could ask the students where they'd like to sit. Ask every student, but ask the ones with preferential seating first.
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    As a mom, thank you for that post. My younger daughter has a 504 and it never occurred to me to mention that to her.

    She knows she gets extra services with the reading teacher and the audiologist, and that I meet twice a year to figure out what services, but I KNOW I've never used the phrase "504" or anything similar with her. I don't think she's at all aware of the formal process, and I think it's probably a good idea for her to be aware of it as time goes by.

    She's going into 5th grade, so I still have some time. But somewhere between now and middle school next year, I'll run this stuff by her simply so she's aware of it.
     
  16. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    This is really fascinating.

    I have never hidden from my students that they are in Special Ed. (I looped from 6th to 7th this year.) I have always tried to make them reflective about what they need to be successful since I see everything I do as a stepping stone to high school where they will need to advocate for themselves. I feel better writing IEPs with student input. We frequently have conversations about their specific disabilities.

    None of these conversations have been public though. Always one on one in private. Do you think this was overstepping? Perhaps I should stop? :unsure:
     
  17. GemStone

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    We're not allowed to read tests to anyone who doesn't specifically have that accommodation. We'd never be allowed to pull gen ed students for that.
     
  18. GemStone

    GemStone Habitué

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    I'm in elementary. I've always tried to make students aware of accommodations to which they're entitled, such as calculators, verbatim reading, scribing, etc. I do this in the natural flow of class, all year long, so that they will know to use it for standardized tests. (We can't suggest or tell them to use those accommodations during the actual state tests, so we teach them and practice it all year.)

    We don't really use extended time for long-term projects, but rather for classwork and tests as needed. Even then, there's a limit to it. They get time-and-a-half or double time, according to each individual IEP.
     
  19. Mellz Bellz

    Mellz Bellz Comrade

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    Aug 27, 2013

    Same here... I too have a few gen ed kids who always ask to come with me and I have to unfortunately explain to them that since they don't get read aloud on the state tests, I can't read aloud classroom tests to them. The only gen ed students I can pull with my kids are one's with 504's.

    In the past, when I've gotten them all together (usually for the first big test) I'll kind of try to explain why they are being pulled out for their tests. Surprisingly, I don't think the elementary school is following up on their classroom mods because a lot of them seem very confused at first that they are pulled out for tests.
     
  20. bros

    bros Phenom

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    You don't have to stop if it is working.

    With me, I don't remember when I was exactly told I had an IEP, but I always knew I was different from everyone else. I couldn't write like other kids could. I couldn't walk as steady as my nondisabled peers.

    I definitely was fully aware of my differences by first grade, but I think I was told about my IEP in detail definitely by sixth grade. I know through sixth grade, my mom would send me to school on the first day with a letter explaining in detail my disabilities and my accommodations per my IEP.
     
  21. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    As a parent, I don't remember when my daughter learned that she had an IEP. Maybe sometime in middle school? Those were a rough 2 years. They wanted the kids to either let the person know that they needed help or be aware of what their accommodations were. She would NEVER ask for help. HS was different as they did it as a class.

    She didn't go to her first IEP meeting until the Spring of her Freshman year. I didn't realize that they were inviting her. She thought she was in trouble when she got called to the office. :D
     
  22. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I teach HS. With that being said, I couldn't imagine if a student in HS didn't know s/he was on an IEP. I think students should be told as needed. Our students are very upfront about the fact that they are sped. Even my sophomores are already great at self-advocating. Our sped teachers are literally scheduled to be in at least two places at once every period. We all evaluate the schedules each week and decide how time should be split, but sometimes the students will request their sped teacher on specific days.
     
  23. FourSquare

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    I tend to agree, however now I am considering parental wishes. None of my parents have ever complained...in fact several requested me again this year...but I'm wondering if some of my kids came to me "in the dark" on purpose. I never even considered that!
     
  24. elleveeaych

    elleveeaych Rookie

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    i'm a middle school self contained teacher (grades 7-9) and this year I have three students who came to me from 6th grade and were under the assumption that they had "graduated" from EC. It's been very difficult to explain to them that they're still in EC. One was very upset and wanted to be in regular classes but she's adjusted well. The other goes out for a few resource classes but refuses to walk with us in the halls, will sit at the opposite end of the table at lunch and keeps asking me if he can speak to his old teacher because he says she lied to him. I think it's important to be honest with your students about the goals they are working on and their placements because if they are high enough to realize that there is a difference, then they will be high enough to be upset about the situation if they are not informed.
     
  25. Tutor

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    I did my masters in self-determination. We talked at great length about talking to kids about sped. I teach elementary and I talk to my students about their IEP. They know they have difficulties, they know they need help. I go over the IEP and talk about each section briefly. I answer any questions they have and then we only talk about it again if they ask. They also like to know when I'm meeting with their parents and why. In 6th grade I include them in their IEP meetings.
    I think talking to them helps them become better advocates for themselves.
     
  26. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Mine has always known and he is now in 5th grade.
     
  27. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I think that it's also important to consider the parents in this discussion. I have had some parents who asked me to sit down with their children to explain things to them, some who wanted to do it themselves, and some who didn't want to talk to their children "yet". My students always knew before they moved on to high school (we are a K-grade 8 school) at the very latest; most were pretty clear about their learning challenges and needs by the time they started grade 7.
     
  28. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I agree with others who have said that it's important that students know that they are in special ed at least by the time they get to high school. By high school they should be familiar with their needs and accommodations, and they should have had a fair amount of time practicing advocating for themselves. Sometimes, especially at the beginning of the year when students are new to me, I don't know that they have special needs because the paperwork doesn't always get to me in a timely manner. I need students to be able to tell me what they need from me, because otherwise I won't know. I want to provide the best possible learning opportunities and environment for all my students, and I can't do that if I don't know that Billy needs to sit in the front or that Jamie needs printed copies of my notes. Most of the accommodations I've dealt with are fairly easy for me to implement, but that doesn't matter at all if I don't know that certain accommodations are necessary.
     
  29. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Having taught SPED at the high school level, all of my students were aware they received services that other students did not. They understood what their IEP goals were and what accommodations they received in the classroom. By the time they hit high school, they need to start self-advocating for themselves, especially if they plan on going to college after graduation. I always told mine that no one in college is going to make sure they get their accommodations but them.
     
  30. Mellz Bellz

    Mellz Bellz Comrade

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    Thanks guys. Now I am starting to feel better. I usually try to start explaining things to them in 6th grade, but it really does depend on the child. Some of them are really great at advocating for themselves and are very open about their learning disabilities, where others just aren't there yet. I have always had a few each year who are very much afraid of their friends finding out that they had learning diffculties and were so hung up on being different that they just flat out would refuse help or any participation in anything. Those students are tough to work with because where I see where they are coming from it gets to a point sometimes where I just want to tell them to get over themselves and stop worrying about what others think of them. That's really hard though for a 6th-7th grade student. It's also really hard to make any progress with a student who is refusing any help.

    I feel really bad because one of my students from last year wound up being placed in self-contained this year. It was a really hard desicion because socially she's so much more mature than the kids in that class, but her behaviors prevent her from being sucessful in the inclusion classes because its just way too over stimulating for her. We really don't have an "in between" option availble for students like her so we decided to try self-contained and wean her back into the inclusion program one class at a time. In the mean time though this girl is super depressed and is being bullied by other kids for "being in the slow class." In a way I feel sorry for her and am now doubting our desicion, but on the flip side we had MANY conversations last year about her behavior and how if she did not start making better choices, she would not be able to stay in classes with her peers. There comes a point where you finally have to follow through and hopefully this will motivate her to make some positive changes.
     

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