Question about including kids with severe disabilities

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by teachersk, Dec 22, 2009.

  1. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Dec 22, 2009

    If someone here teaches in an upper level (middle school or higher) self-contained classroom in a public school, I need some ideas.

    I teach an autism class (middle school) and it is the first year that this school district has had an autism class at the middle school. It is brand new. All of the teachers are terrified of my kids. It just so happens to be that this is the sweetest bunch of kids ever. They are so good. They don't really have any of the "severe autistic" behaviors like biting, humming, etc. They are very likeable. I'm not sure what everyone is so afraid of. I am also so surprised that in NEW JERSEY (where everyone says is SO WONDERFUL for special services) they have such a lack of training in the area of including kids.

    So, here's the problem. I have them all day (self-contained). They get one period for electives with regular ed. We have day 1/day 2 schedule so it is split to two electives per semester. One of the electives is gym. The gym teacher is fabulous and loves the kids and is so nice to them. They are included as though they are part of the class (this is how it should be).

    Then there is day 2. It's art class. It's sixth grade art, so they are doing perspective and other art "theory" type things. I don't know much about art but it's really intense stuff. I'm actually surprised because it doesn't look that fun. The kids (regular ed) don't even seem to really enjoy being in there. At any rate, I have five kids (that the school put ALL in the same elective class) that go to art. They are ranging from developmental level 18 months to probably about 5-6 years. 3 out of 5 can write, but 2 out of 5 need hand over hand assistance to even write their names. 3 out of 5 are verbal, 1 is minimally verbal (echolalia, unintelligble requests, etc.) and 1 is non-verbal but using PECS. The teacher sits them all at a separate table. When other kids sat at the table at the beginning of the year, she said "That's the autistic table, why don't you come over here." So, since the beginning of the year, she has tried hard to come up with things for them to do, but she just really throws supplies at my two aides and they sort of run their own "class within a class." The art teacher is complaining to administration that she has to run two classes in one period, and it's not fair and it's too much work. My issue is, she doesn't need to make it so "separate" - but she claims my kids could "never do what the other kids are doing." I tried to give ideas like they could work on handwriting if the other kids are doing worksheets, or they could match colors if the other kids are doing color wheels, etc. I think she just doesn't have the background or experience to "modify" to their level.

    The other issue is that the school has previously had "special" electives where the special ed kids are all in one class together (like special ed computer class or special ed art class). Well, how does that EVER do them any good to have ZERO exposure within the school day to any regular ed kids????

    What I am wondering is, what do your schools do to include the kids, and do they do a good job? Art is about to be over and we have to pick another elective. They will continue to have PE. I am debating whether to just send them to every day PE (day 1 PE and day 2 PE - which does not happen for other kids....)

    The teachers here just don't know what to do with my kids and they are so afraid of them. Now, the art teacher is saying that she can give me the lesson plans so I can modify them. Well, I have, um, 1000 other things to do than modifying SOMEONE ELSE'S lesson plans. Last time I checked, it was THEIR job to figure out what to do with them when they are on their roll. I would GLAD to be supportive and show her HOW to modify them... a few times, and then she does it.... but I've done that. I've tried to explain things they can do and she just doesn't get it.

    None of the other teachers (electives) want them, and I don't know what to do with them next semester. I could keep them here, but that would mean I would lose my prep, it'd be against the law because they'd have NO exposure to other kids (but this school has done it before) - I'm just at a loss.

    I am looking for anyone who might have a suggestion on how to make "inclusion" work for severe kids with autism. I've done elementary school and it's much easier. Because you do apple painting projects and pumpkin hats. But in middle school, you do perspective. And theory. And other boring worksheet-style things. There are NO fun electives available (we do not have shop, home ec, cooking, "leadership" or anything like that.) I believe all we have available is Music (which is similar to art in that it's not musical instruments like elementary school... it's theory and worksheets and lectures). We have art (which has been a bust), we have computers (which is excel spreadsheets, etc.) and we have health (which is obviously over their heads also, as it is lecture format).

    PLEASE someone suggest something for me... I can't change the attitudes of these people, and I can't TEACH them how to modify.
     
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  3. Securis

    Securis Cohort

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    Dec 22, 2009

    I'm an art teacher and I was on the opposite side of boat. I had a single student who has some very severe motor skills issues. You can see that she's aware but she's trapped in her body.

    I have very little idea what to do except put the materials there and have the assistant work with her hand over hand. I do my rounds and I help her participate just like the other students who come to me from the same self-contained inclusion group. I talk and interact with them just as if they were mainstream students.

    Art is a very cerebral thing sometimes and you express that perspective isn't much fun. Agreed but it is important to understand as a scaffolding skill for other concepts.

    Your art teacher has the same issue you do, she doesn't know what to do any more than you. I posted a thread here about a month ago and got very little in the way of advice about what to do with children with severe exceptions. Sorry I can't help except to commiserate.

    I'll keep looking and if something cost effective presents itself, I'll come post it for you.
     
  4. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    But, here's the question. Does she sit at her own table? Does she do something completely separate? It sounds like you at least treated her like a human being. My kids are capable of speaking (for the most part) and interacting with peers. I am not doubting that perspective is something important in art (I know nothing about art, so excuse my ignorance, I didn't mean to be offensive or act like somethign is not important).

    All I'm asking for is the teacher to accept the kids and treat them like they are humans. She looks and talks to them like they are aliens, and now the other kids took on that idea and do the same. My kids are now getting "booted" out of the art class and we will do something in my room during elective period. It's just frustrating that the teacher won't "accept" them as students, she thinks she has the power to say she can't teach them because they're too low (and she does apparently, because art will be done after Holiday break).

    I get it that it's impossible to do grade level stuff with them, but just a little acceptance from the teacher would be appreciated. I am frustrated that I am now losing a prep period AND my kids will have ZERO exposure to typical kids. When you had that student, did you ask the special ed teacher what she could do? Or for ideas?

    If it were your decision, would you ask her to be removed from your class? Did you see it as "unfair" that you "got her" on your roster? I guess I am just having a hard time seeing the perspective that these teachers have, that my kids "don't deserve" to be in their classes because it's unfair to the other kids. I understand both sides of the story (other kids deserve their teacher) -- but these are kids too.

    Thanks for posting and I do understand the challenges. I just wish there was a solution so that nobody gets screwed (kids, teacher, regular ed kids, special ed teacher, etc.)
     
  5. Securis

    Securis Cohort

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    So, really, the issue isn't content. It's the classroom atmosphere which has been the struggle from day one when students with disabilities were added to regular ed classes under inclusion. You need to go up your chain of authority and express your concerns. Note it in their IEPs and say what has to be said at those meetings. Bring in the art teacher when those happen. Make her look those parents in the eye.

    It's simple but it's also a tough thing to do, standing in the gap.
     
  6. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    I mean, I think it is a little of both. Even if she liked having them in there, she has no idea what to do with them (and either do I).

    But, you're right in that we won't get anywhere with the content if we start out from square one with the teacher not wanting them in there.
     
  7. Crzy_ArtTeacher

    Crzy_ArtTeacher Comrade

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    I really think it comes down to designing completely different lessons for those groups of students. The art teacher needs to put in the effort to make each child successful. If your kids need work at an elementary level, then so be it. If they are successful and if they have fun with it that's what it's all about. Also, I wouldn't rule out the other specials subjects, if art and gym can make an effort to modify shouldn't other specials like health and computers do the same?

    Why not give it a shot, and give the kids more experience in new subjects.
     
  8. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Okay, so I just want to be sure that's what the expectation is, and that's what other teachers are doing elsewhere. I guess I kind of see her point when none of the other art teachers have to design two lessons for one class.

    I think that she should be doing things to make the kids successful, and she often comes up with things for them to do, but what she is talking about with administration is that it is too hard for her to design two lesson plans for one class period. Which makes sense. But if this is the standard, then I want to support her as best as I can and show her how to come up with things that complement what we're learning in my room.

    They really don't have any interaction with the other kids, and then doing their own special project, they really are separated. And if it is going to be so much work for the art teacher, and so forced, it just seems like a waste of time for them. In elementary school (where I've previously taught) - the kids are able to at least do a modified version of whatever the other kids are doing, they share their work, the peers sit with them and help them, etc. but it is so different in middle school.

    I guess I'm trying to get a gauge for what other classes do. If this is the norm, why is it so forced? I'd rather have my kids in here for an extra period and do something that's meaningful to them. They don't get peer interaction in here, but they get specially designed 3:1 instruction in a calm , structured environment. They are not getting this in art, nor do I expect them to, but I figured the point of inclusion is to get them acclimated to their community of peers.

    I guess I'm too optimistic about the whole inclusion thing? For these schools thare a "full inclusion" - how do they do it? These kids just "can't" do what the other kids are doing and it's near impossible to modify the projects that the teacher is doing for the level of an 18 month old.

    I am so baffled and I so badly want what's best for my kids, but to be fair to the art teacher and myself as well.
     
  9. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Dec 22, 2009

    I have the same situation, but with younger children. If the specials teacher isn't willing to modify and work with the children, the experience will be negative. I don't know if you can do this, but, our PE teachers offered to take my children more often and they integrate them into the other classes without major problems. Can you do PE again since that appears to be the only specials willing to work with you?
     
  10. bros

    bros Phenom

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    New Jersey is known for having great special education returns in terms of money (At least better than NY, which is #39 out of all states) but the state DoE doesn't have the best reputation in the eyes of sped parents and advocates.

    Why not do something like have your class and another class together for a period to watch a movie or something? That would show the teachers that they aren't hellions.

    It might just be easier to have the IEP team make it so the child doesn't have to take art. That is what was easier for me.
     
  11. Securis

    Securis Cohort

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    Easier doesn't necessarily correlate with best for the student. Besides, I'd rather have her there because my behaviors in those two class go down significantly. First because there is a second adult and also because they know my attention is divided.
     
  12. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    I am considering two periods of PE class. They love PE, the teacher enjoys having them, and it would be consistent (we have period 2 for electives - one day is art, one day is pe and it's kind of a rough schedule for a child with autism).

    Of course I will have to get this approved, but it seems like it makes the most sense. A serious amount of modification is not required, the teacher doesn't mind having them around, they get a ton of energy out, are totally interested in interacting with peers and it's a great time to do so (throwing balls, hitting balls, running, etc.)

    We'll see how that goes. I've decided I'd rather pull them from an environment where they're viewed as a burden rather than the bundles of joy that I know they are. :)
     
  13. Crzy_ArtTeacher

    Crzy_ArtTeacher Comrade

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    Wouldn't the students like to experience all subjects? I just hate for your students to not experience art (health, music, etc...) just because the teacher hasn't learned how to work with them successfully yet.

    I can't help but feel like the students get the short end here, where the teacher chooses, or the IEP team chooses to pull them from a subject. Just my opinion.
     
  14. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    I would very much love for them to experience all subjects. I just don't think it's beneficial for them to go to a class where they are unwelcome and where they have no social interaction. You know?


    I can't make people love my kids like I do. I can't tell them to do extra work, when all they have to do is say it's too much and my admin gives in....


    I'm just really apalled that NJ is so far behind the "inclusion" movement. My school in TX has been including these kids for many years. We even had severe profound kids that were included and everyone was so good to them: admin, teachers, other kids.


    It's just a whole mentality. I'm not sure how to fix it.
     
  15. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I have a thought. It might now work, but it would be worth a shot. Would it be possible for you to put together a workshop for the next professional development day the focuses on how to modify plans for your students? You could start off by explaining, in general, what the different designations mean, and what a teacher could expect out of a child with a certain diagnosis. You could come up with one example from the regular curriculum of several of the specials and give appropriate modifications for one or two types of students.

    For example; you mentioned art. Lets say the regular ed students are studying prespective. You have a non-verbal student who needs hand over hand. The art teacher can copy a picture with objects in the foreground and background. The student can be given a highlighter to make a "dot" on the objects in the background (points for getting anywhere close). A student with rudimentary drawing abilities could be asked to draw two people, one behind the other, with instructions to draw the person in the background smaller and higher than the person in the foreground (stick figures okay).

    For music, your students can participate in listening activities, even if they can't do worksheets involving theory. They might be able to "clap" when they hear a specific thing such as major or minor, piano or forte, ect.

    There's a ton of possibilities, but it will take your whole school working together. There's also a chance that the regular teachers are scared because they simply don't know what to expect or how to deal with certain things. Its possible that a little educaiton will go a long way in bringing you guys together.
     
  16. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Oh, and forgive me if I'm way off base. I teach regular ed math, so my experience is limited to the few inclusion students I had and my interaction with my cousins kids (one with downs syndrome, one on the spectrum, but high functioning).
     
  17. bros

    bros Phenom

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    Believe it or not, that is a common request that parents make for their ADHD children during elementary years. It gets approved after the parents and child and IEP team pick what subject to drop.
     
  18. clarnet73

    clarnet73 Moderator

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    mm, those sound like fantastic ideas. I know at one interview I went to, the P asked me how I'd handle a situation where the other teachers in the school didn't understand my kids, and one of the things I mentioned was that I'd be more than willing to lead meetings or trainings or whatever about the needs of my students and how the rest of the ubilding could help. Although I didn't get the job, hetold me he really liked that answer.

    One of the things I do as someone who's providing some "unofficial" RTI for kinders (I'm considered unofficial because we're not using one of the specified computer programs, I'm doing hands-on stuff as skill builders) is try to give suggestions to some of the other teachers. For the most part, they welcome it (except the old-school ones, but they aren't going to change for anything).

    I think most people are willing to work with SpEd kids, they just don't feel like they know how to or what to.

    You also mentioned that your aides are really good at modifying stuff as long as they know what the activity is... would it be possible for the art teacher to give them a heads up about the upcomig lesson so they can all work together to modify it? (or... would she be willing to modify it if she didn't have to feel like she was alone in doing so... maybe she really just doesn't have any idea what's appropriate)
     
  19. LouiseB

    LouiseB Cohort

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    I feel for you! I teach resource at middle school and we have those elective classes where one of the teachers will not modify. Her thoughts are that if the student can't do the work she expects, then don't send them! And this is for FCS where there are life skill things that would be very good for them! I already need to concentrate on the core subjects where my students are in inclusion so it is difficult to take two periods to help students in these elective classes. (My students are much higher functioning and are accepted by the reg ed kids.)I think the idea of a workshop or staff development is a great idea. I hate to sound jaded because I believe that those who really do need to change are the ones that just won't listen. (Sounds like kids in the classroom?) But I do believe that it is worth a shot.

    I think the sad thing is that it takes the sped person to be accepted with other teachers before the reg ed teachers will listen. As a sped teacher, you HAVE to develop a relationship with the teachers that your caseload students are in. You MUST do that before any changes will happen...and it CAN happen. Hang in there!! Have a discussion with your principal or sped director in your school.
     
  20. bros

    bros Phenom

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    Call an IEP meeting, request that the teacher be present, and show them the part of IDEA that says acommodations/SDI must happen if the student is on an IEP. Stretching the truth a bit by saying the teacher could be sued (even though that can only happen under 504) might make them perk up a bit :p

    I had some gen ed and elective teachers in HS who refused to allow me to use my accommodations and discriminated against me. The one who was the biggest offender stopped near the end of the school year when they threatened to strip her tenure. The elective teacher stopped when the guidance counselor yelled at her (The case manager was her friend and refused to believe me over her friend)
     
  21. luvsped

    luvsped New Member

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    I am a Functional teacher in High School. I have been teaching special populations for six years now, but this is my first experince with Functional students. My students have a very similar schedule (A day, B day) They are all in adaptive gym on A days (which my higher functioning kids hate) and they are broken up into electives on B days. In your situation, I would talk to the future teacher as soon as possible, and try to get them on board with the importance of our students interacting in the "real world" of thier peers. If you can get the teacher on board before they're opinion is poisioned by the art teacher, you will be better off. As for theory, tell the teacher to simplify things for your kids, and let them do some activites where they are sharing examples of different theories or generas of music. I know that they are limited, but our kids, especially autistic kids are so intuned to certian things. They probably see many interesting things in the paintings and the art work examples in art class, and the teacher is not taking advantage of alternate perspective they provide. Explain to the music teacher that some autistic kids are very intune to sounds and they may be able to express things, or hear things that other students would not. That is how I would sell here. Then encourage her to use homogonous groupings so it does not add to her work load, and all students are included.

    What follows is what we do at my school. I know it is long, but it might help.
    This year the electives kind-of sucks. I have two kids in ROTC, two in advanced photography, one in Criminal Justice, three in Geometry (such a joke), four in advanced video production, and a few in various tech classes (one is an advanced class). We had some serious resistence from some of the teachers, and we had others who really wanted to work with our kids, but wern't sure how. We began the year explaining to the teachers that these are pass/fail classes and the purpose we for the students to work with their non-disabled peers and we have continually reiderated this throughout the year, and we have helped teachers modify and include our students. One of the big things that has been done in art and was carried into the tech and video production this year was to structure the class with lots of group work and give the kids specific jobs in the group. This allows them to work with non-disabled peers and particiapate in a meaningful way in the lesson. We have been lucky, that the photography teacher and the video productions teacher were very excited to include our students, so the photography teacher has our two girls work with non-disabled groups to complete projects and she displays all art work and encourages her standard students to look at the other students pictures for thier interpretation of the objective. Our students in the video productions class work on special projects with one or two standard students so they can appear on the morning news show. The tech classes run in much the same mannar. Some classes, like geometry and criminal justice have not been so successful. I think they are kind of a joke for the kids. In criminal justice, there is one student and she mostly works one on one with an aid on her assignments. In geometry two of the three students are very low functioning and do work sheets related to shapes and numbers. They sit at a seperate table with an aid and personal assistant. This, to me, is not the intention of the program. In the past, our functional students have been expected to do assingments that have a similar objective, and they have mostly been graded on a diffrent level.
     
  22. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

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    This particular art teacher needs to open her eyes, her mind, and her heart. How are you going to do that? It won't be by what she sees as "throwing them in" without considering her own (selfish) needs.

    I like the idea of you looking at her plans and then showing her how to design/modify the lesson for them. Then clue in the aides on what to do. It's going to be a gradual process with her. Don't confront her with "you have to, here's their modification plans, etc." You'll have to approach her with something she can accept, even if it's done grudgingly.

    Baby steps.

    Work with how to modify, then work on getting her to enjoy and take pride in what those kids are doing (posting the work, bragging about it so that she hears, etc.) and eventually getting her to put them with the other kids.

    I've had several autistic kids placed in my classroom--two this year. Love them. However one autistic boy I had last year just simply wasn't comfortable working in a group. He couldn't focus and was way too disruptive. So the aide and I modified even more. But he was still included as much as we could--his work displayed, a role given to him when role-playing, science experiments done with a partner, etc. He just couldn't sit with the others for very long. We all had a highly successful year.

    This year, one of my autistic boys is loved by everyone. The kids absolutely love being near him because of his very unique sense of humor and perspective. You should see them all clap and cheer when he finishes a writing project, and how he beams.

    You'll get there. Consider yourself a teacher not only of special needs kids, but also of regular ed teachers who have attitudes. :)
     
  23. ITeachSDCkids

    ITeachSDCkids Rookie

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    I teach middle school SDC (all 3 grades) and all my students have PE and 1 to 2 grade level electives. The rest of the day they are with me. While many teachers modify, others over the years have wanted to teach 1 lesson and 1 lesson only to the class, it has been a problem, not just for my students, but for others as well. It is the elective teacher's responsibilty to modify and include all students in their class. However, some resist this. One thing I have done is just talked with the teachers and suggested modifications, then during our last period I try and help my students or have the Para support them to work on their projects, presentations or study in my class. For presentations I let them go through it in front of our class first. I always suggest alternative testing be done, including verbal. Music and drama have been challenging at times for my students, art and computer class have not been. Art allows for various ways to approach things. I do not agree that a Para should be teaching a separate class within a class. The whole idea is that students are in the electives to be involved and included (LRE). They should not be seated all together and "grouped" but spread out with the Gen Ed students. How your school ever had "special" electives is astonishing-that is against NCLB and IDEA, it is discrimination. Collaborating is one thing, but you can't modify someone elses lessons. I also have found "peer buddies" very helpful (Gen Ed students in the classes who volunteer to be a buddy). In fact, my students always have done much better in classes where they had a buddy, both academically and socially. It is mutually beneficial for both students. Your program specialist may be able to observe the electives and later call a meeting to suggest ideas. Also I always include a list of modifications each student needs and give it to the teachers (I use a check off list). I also make notes about any other things about behavior. Since your students have overall positive behavior, that may help to lessen the fears. I also include a statement about any modifications needed in IEP's. It may include seating near the front, extra time for tests, verbal testing, frontloading, etc. I am specific with it and I copy that part of the IEP for the etachers as well. Advocating for students comes with the territory.....
     

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