Thursday, July 31, 2014

Making ALL kids matter: Special Education Students

Has your principal ever walked into your room and said, "So.....we have a new friend and I think YOU are the perfect teacher for her!" You know in that instance everything you THOUGHT you were going to do this year just went out the window. This may pertain to a student with an IEP, a very active 504 kiddo or my favorite: no label-needs a label to get some help, tears the classroom apart, class revolves around them, 'special' friend. Today I want to give you 5 super simple ways to include your Special Ed babies into your daily activities without recreating everything you do!

Now, I am a huge GIGANTIC proponent for inclusion. Now, inclusion does not mean, in my class when it's not appropriate and the kid doesn't know what in the world is going on. I mean, as Cara Carroll said in Vegas two weeks ago, "Sometimes you have those Sweet 'N Low babies and as sweet as they are they are looooooow." I loved it because she was right. Sometimes our lowest babies are so stinkin' sweet and we don't mind having them in our class because they just want to love on us and us on them. This isn't doing right by the student though. Every second of a child's day should hold value and meaning. If they are learning how to work with a partner in your room even though the concept be way above them, awesome. If they are actually understanding your science concept you are teaching, even better! However, it is an injustice for that sweet baby to sit in your class, alone, just because they are 'easy' and 'cute.'

So when do we incorporate these Sweet 'N Low kiddos then? So glad you asked!

  1. In my district, my kiddos last year went to lunch and recess and specials (computer, art, music, and PE) with their grade level peers. They may have had an aide with them but it was imperative that they go and socialize to their max ability levels and within reason. Obviously, my guy that was in a wheelchair last year and is incredibly fragile wasn't going to P.E., however, you bet your bottom dollar he was in computers and art twice a week!
  2. Invite them for special activities. Every student WANTS to feel a part of a community. Here in Texas, we rarely get snow and when we do it is a BIG DEAL! I'm talking everyone gets bundeled up and goes outside for pictures. This is a PERFECT time to include your other students that are not in your room all day. The worst thing in the world is for you to send the pictures to your parent distribution list (including your sped babies) and they are not in the picture. Yes, it has happened and it is not pretty. 
  3.  Library time. Most students love books whether they can read them or not. Invite your student with exceptionalities down to the library with your group. What harm is there in that? They listen to a story, check in their books, check out books, and 20-30 minutes later, you have made that child feel a part of your class. 
  4. The most important activities to go to was birthdays. Everyone has one and eventually they would have one too. I was imperative that the grade level teacher call down to my room and ask if Susie could come have a cupcake. Sometimes Susie didn't like cupcakes but I made sure her booty was in that room to sing and celebrate! 
  5. Be participatory in the ARD/IEP meeting and have something good to say about the child other than, "They are so sweet," or "They are so cute." As a grade level teacher it is important that you see these kiddos are YOUR kiddos too because when you are sitting in that ARD/IEP meeting, the parent wants to know how they are doing with YOU more than with the special ed teacher. They want to make sure that YOU are holding them accountable and that YOU care about their kid just as much as the kids that you have all day. They need to know that their child is valued in your classroom as a member of the community so it is imperative that you get to know these babies just like you do the rest of your class. 

I know it is not the easiest thing to always have student in special education in your room for a variety of reasons, but, great teachers make all students feel special and valued. I'd love to hear how you incorporate all learners into your room! Next time, I'll post how to help your un-identified child that needs.....well....behavioral assistance be successful; not just in their academics but in self monitoring and self regulating their emotions and reactions too!

Until next time!

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