The Top Questions Asked About Inclusive Education
Question Three: When a student has extreme behavior support needs, you couldn't include him, correct?
Patrick Schwarz: When a student has extreme behavior support needs, you couldn't include him, correct? And I want to talk about Matt here. So Matt was a student that I worked with, and I worked with him in a public school. And during his first, second, and third grade years, Matt was in a self contained classroom that had students with learning and behavioral challenges. So he was in a special education environment.
In grades four and five, Matt started to become included, so where he was included he had a general education teacher and he received special education supports in the general education classroom. He also received some individual supports in general areas of the school. He had a little study time in the library where he got to work on homework and things such as that. And things were going well for Matt with the support system from special educators and related service providers in the general education classroom.
So thinking about that what happened one day is, Matt threw a desk at a teacher. And that's a big concern because one of the things that every school district or school has on their policy is safety. So that's a safety concern.
However, I went back to that thing that I talked about with Frankie is what we wanted to do is find out what Matt was communicating. So teachers were talking about doing all these different things and therapeutic supports, and I said, Why don't we investigate Matt's current situation a little bit more closely? And we found some things out. So first of all, what we found out is Matt's father had left his mother and Matt. And Matt and dad had been close, and he had moved into another state, and Matt and dad weren't communicating as much anymore. That's a hard thing for a fifth grader.
The second thing is the dominoes started to fall after that, and Matt's mom had a tough time finding work locally, so she had joined her sister in a neighboring community. And Matt, before the incident, had been living with grandma and grandpa, and guess what? Matt and grandpa didn't get along.
So think about Matt's life as a fifth grader. Dad moved away, mom had to move away, and he was having to live with somebody he didn't get along with. It's a hard knock life for us.
And so I asked the team, I said, Is there a way we can creatively problem solve this? Because Matt is a student. Clearly, when you look at what his communication is, he is grieving. He is in a very, very tough situation. And I said, If he was to go into something that was therapeutic, what would be your criteria for reintegrating him? Because we have something in our law that's called the least restrictive environment.
So here are the models we have for special education placement. First off, we have the general education classroom. Then we would have after that which would be something more like a resource type of model. After that, we would have a mainstreaming situation. Now I've talked about inclusion.
Mainstreaming and inclusion are different. So the homeroom in a mainstream situation would be a special education environment or self-contained environment and then the student would go out for certain subjects. The first tier of subjects would be what people call the specials. So it would be art, music, physical education, recess, and lunch. The second tier might be science and social studies, but usually in a mainstreaming model, students are not included for mathematics and reading and literacy. Then we would have after that, we would have self-contained classroom and then we would have alternative school.
So Matt started out his educational career in grades one through three in a self-contained type of environment, then went to the inclusive situation, threw the desk at the teacher because he was in a grieving situation, and then they're saying he should go to the alternative school.
It's kind of like the continuum of services dance. And something that happens is sometimes people say, Well, you know what? He threw a desk at a teacher. He should just stay in that alternative environment or school. Whereas in our law, we have something called the least restrictive environment. And the least restrictive environment to me is the general education classroom. So anybody who is not there, I think, should have an integration plan for getting there or a reintegration plan if they've been there already
And so this is what the team came up with. They said they thought Matt should have therapeutic supports for a quarter. They also said, if he was to come back, he should be receiving outside therapeutic support and shown acceptance of his current living situation. Matt did get back. And isn't it a better scenario that Matt went through a process where the least restrictive environment was honored and that there was a reintegration plan in place and that he didn't stay in an alternative school? I want teams to creatively problem solve and to work out things that promote full academic access and inclusion of students who have disabilities.