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Dec
01

Inclusion: The Ongoing Illusion!

It is my privilege to have Dr. George Van Horn as my guest blogger this week for: Inclusion: The Ongoing Illusion! 



2 signs: perception and reality

I have long believed in inclusion. Inclusion is a school environment that welcomes all and provides what is necessary for all students. But believing in inclusion is not enough. Many people don’t realize that P.L. 94-142 did not create special education, it created general education. In an effort to allow children with disabilities access to the public school system, states and local districts started with the assumption that the environment was focused on educating only students who were already educated in public schools and a system needed to be created. Hence, the creation of general education. Prior to the passage of the federal law, the system educated “all” students. Through P.L. 94-142, “all” was expanded to include children with disabilities. In order to accomplish this, the system in place was kept, named general education, and continued to serve students. However, to educate students with disabilities, a parallel system was created because the existing system was viewed as only being for students without disabilities.

 Mainstream education for all
As time moved on it became clear a separate system for students with disabilities was not effective and the initial solution was “mainstreaming”. Students with disabilities were still a part of the separate special education system, but would “visit” general education classrooms. This practice was useful in introducing general education educators and students to students with disabilities. But, the “home” for children with disabilities still remained the special education classroom and they were not members of the general education environment. This practice led to the next step in educating children with disabilities – inclusion.

mainstreaming and inclusion

Inclusion means all children are members of one educational environment, meaning there are no more general education and special education systems. As I reflect on the many years I have supported inclusion, I have come to the conclusion that in reality what many of us have accomplished is advanced mainstreaming. In most educational environments, children with disabilities are still viewed and treated differently. Many educators continue to struggle with the concept of equitable access versus fairness. Inclusion is not about giving all students the same (fair), it is about providing students what they need to be successful (equitable access). While progress providing equitable access for all students has been made, there still remains two educational systems, general and special. While this is not our goal, it is a step toward achieving the goal of creating truly inclusive educational environments. What’s next?

students working together in a classroom

The barrier that has not been addressed is the need to create education environments that remove barriers and create options for instruction, assessment, and most importantly student learning. Until this occurs, it does not make sense for students with disabilities to be placed in classrooms where failure is probable because we have not changed why we do what we do, how we do it, and what we do. The focus in education needs to shift from the individual as disabled to the environment as disabled. I suggest the framework for accomplishing this monumental shift is Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

UDL is a framework that begins with several assumptions:

  • Variability is the norm
  • Disability is contextual
  • Focus on the learning environment and curriculum, not the students.

Through the use of the principles and guidelines of UDL in designing learning environments, educators can identify barriers and create options for ALL students. UDL is not about some students, but instead, focuses on improving learning outcomes for all students. Educators know that students come in all shapes and sizes. Variability is the norm. We know the students we work with will all be unique. In addition to variability, we also know that all students have strengths and weaknesses depending on the activity. Hence, disability is contextual. Everyone is disabled depending on the circumstances. For inclusion to become a reality, we must create one learning environment for all students that allows the students to choose what option works best given the activity. The creation of an environment where all students have a sense of belonging and ownership is our ultimate destination. While this is not an easy shift, it is necessary if we truly want to educate all children.

image of Dr. George Van Horn
Dr. Van Horn is currently the Director of Special Education for the Bartholomew Special Services Cooperative in Columbus, Indiana. Dr. Van Horn completed both his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees at the University of Dayton. He received his Doctor of Education degree from Indiana University with a concentration in the areas of school administration and special education. Dr. Van Horn has been a teacher of students with emotional disabilities, as well as having served as a principal, school superintendent and director of special education. Dr. Van Horn has also been an adjunct faculty member at Indiana University Purdue University Columbus (IUPUC), Manhattan College in New York, and Northern Illinois University. He has consulted with school districts throughout the country in the areas of Positive Behavior Supports, Universal Design for Learning, and Inclusion.

2
Nov
16

To app or not to app!

Many of you who know me or have heard me present know that I am a very proud mother. I have been trying out Assistive Technology (AT) tools and devices on my daughter since she was in Kindergarten when I first started working for PATINS in 2001. I used her as a test student for Co:Writer, IntelliTools, and many others. After she was old enough to join me for trainings after school she would tag along. It wasn’t too long before she was assisting the participants. Soon after she was up in front and presenting. So, it is not hard to believe that she is now a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) for our local school corporation. She recently attended the Access to Education (A2E) 2022 Conference. Afterwards on the ride home she was telling me about her favorite parts of the conference and was throwing out suggestions for my blog. So I suggested why don’t you do it and she did. Enjoy!

Staff

Hello, my name is Courtney LeBarron and I am Sandy Stabenfeldt’s daughter. She is the Indiana Center for Accessible Materials (ICAM) Digital Services Specialist. Recently, I attended the Access to Education (A2E) 2022 Conference hosted by the PATINS Project. Although there were MANY great sessions over the course of the two days, my mind kept going back to one particular session:  “Teaching the Swipe Generation: Carefully Curating Apps for Young Children with Disabilities” presented by Beth Poss. Many, many times throughout my short career, I have been asked, “What is the best app? What app can I use?” Well, that question is way more complicated than it may seem. How old is the student? What are their fine motor skills like? What are your goals for them?

During her session, Beth Poss broke it down in a clear and simple way. She listed the 7 steps of what makes an effective learning app. There were two that really stood out to me. The first one was “Does it meet a developmental need?” and the second was “Does it enhance and encourage interactions with adults or peers?” As a SLP these are the two questions I most frequently ask myself: Can it promote literacy or vocabulary development? And will interacting with this app promote interactions between the communication partner and my student? 

Courtney, Chris Bugaj, and Rachel Maddel

So, the next time you find yourself thinking,"Is this app really effective?" Or you are asked, "What is the best app?", think about these criteria. If you find one that meets the criteria of an effective learning app you can borrow it to try with your student. PATINS lends iPads with apps or they can send apps to iPads that are not managed by the school corporation. If you need help in determining an app to try, please talk to a PATINS specialist. Information about the PATINS lending library is available on their website. Not all technology is bad, and not all is good. It is our job, as educators, to help our students figure it out. 

0
Nov
10

A Guide to the Guide

Let's pretend Parents have already been notified that you are preparing to screen your 2nd-grade classroom with a universal dyslexia screener approved and provided by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), see Appendix C, pp. 11-13. You know to do this because you have consulted the 2022-2023 IDOE Dyslexia Programming Guidance for Schools. You know that Indiana schools are required to screen for characteristics of dyslexia in grades K, 1 & 2 because you've had meetings with your corporation's reading specialist, who has been trained in dyslexia, see Appendix A, pp. 8-9. Not only are you required to screen your students, but you are also looking forward to the process because you understand that the results of the screening will yield important information about each of your students.

Perhaps you have noticed one student who mispronounces multisyllabic words, and you know which student struggles to identify words that rhyme. And because you are very attentive you have seen the student who asks a friend to tie their shoes a couple of times every day and you've observed the one who bumps clumsily into desks as he approaches his seat. You've also seen that he still, at age 8 cannot remember if he goes left or right down the hall to get to the cafeteria. So before you administer the universal screening, you know which of your students have traits and classroom performance that already have alerted you and others who work with them. There is data from previously administered universal screenings. You have written, kept and filed anecdotal notes. You discuss concerns with other educators and special services providers, and the reading specialist. All data is part of each child's story. You are ready to screen.

Post-screening, the parents of the students who were not flagged by the screener will be notified, and regular educational programming will resume for them*. The screener flagged six students in 2nd grade as "at risk" or "at some risk" for characteristics of dyslexia. One of the flags surprises you, the others, you expected. Immediately you notify the parents of the six who were flagged on the screening results, with information on your school's plan for Response to Instruction with a program of Multi-Tiered System of Support (RTI/MTSS) and again, a request for permission. You are prepared to begin the interventions as soon as you have the parent's signature. (So today, as you read this, check to be sure of your school's plan for RTI/MTSS. If you are unsure of who to speak with and what questions to ask, prepare yourself with some talking points. Included with parent notification is a consent request form for a Level 1 diagnostic assessment to test for characteristics of dyslexia. As soon as you receive consent, you will administer the Level 1 diagnostic assessment for characteristics of dyslexia. 

As per the requirement in the IDOE Dyslexia Guidance, the school is approaching the 90th day of instruction this year, so you are right on schedule. Buy yourself some flowers, and keep going. You should be regularly collaborating on behalf of your students with the reading specialist for your school corporation. The data you are collecting, as part of the state's Reading Plan, must be reported to the IDOE every year, and the guide tells you exactly which data to include in your report to the reading specialist, who will compile and submit data for your school corporation to the state.

If any of these 6 flagged students, or any others in your class has a current IEP for a specific learning disability (SLD), there are systems in place to help them. Work through the ICAM/IERC NIMAS CCC Forms to evidence a print disability, in this case, a reading disability. The Case Conference may need to reconvene to fill in forms 1, 2, 3a. Form 4 must be signed by the teacher, reading specialist, school psychologist or any one of the professionals named in this list. Then, determine which books the student needs in an accessible format, fill in form 3b, give the forms to the digital rights manager (DRM) and the student can begin using accessible materials from the ICAM. Very soon. 

If a student currently has an IEP indicating the presence of SLDs, they may not be required to participate in the universal screenings, although it would be helpful to create a full snapshot of the child with their strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully, you have attended some of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) trainings presented by PATINS staff, and have explored the Virtual UDL Classroom--this will help you plan whole-group instruction as you meet the learning goals of your students with specific needs related to dyslexia, as well as those of your students who were not flagged, the ones who have resumed regular educational programming. Typical students do not require extra support but it may enhance and reinforce their learning.*

It is SO important that we support our dyslexic learners in every way we can. If you are not yet familiar with the IDOE's Guide get in there. SB 217 is a state law now, and lost time never comes back. We just have to keep moving forward. Contact PATINS/ICAM staff on how to get started, or how to keep going. If we cannot answer a question, we will find out who can. Any of the PATINS Specialists can help you with technology, devices and software. Borrow from the PATINS Lending Library. You entered teaching for specific reasons and then realized that teaching is not a destination, it's a journey. Let us support you as you travel. 

My high school English teacher would scold me for using that cliché. Please forgive me.

Thanks so much!

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