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The Top Questions Asked About Inclusive Education

Question Seven: What are examples of the best supports for students in an inclusive classroom?

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Patrick Schwarz: What are examples of the best supports for students in an inclusive classroom? So differentiation is making learning work for all students in the classroom. So for example, we have when we're teaching students essential concepts that we want all students to learn, expected concepts that we want most students to learn, and enrichment concepts that we want some students to learn. But any student could be learning those concepts.

So let's say we have a general education classroom and we're including students, is thinking about first of all, is there are students who may finish certain things first depending on the subject area and the interest in that subject area, and then we want to go beyond and have other choices. Maybe the student comes up with an option or a project or something such as that. So we have a place we can go in terms of learning for everybody, a way to support everybody in the classroom. That's differentiation.

The second one is universal design. And what that would mean is making things accessible. So access first of all in terms of representation. Are we representing all of our curriculum materials both with audio, visual. Some students may need to interact with materials; things such as that.

I get excited when I go into classrooms that there are students that are able to interact with Promethean boards. I went into a class one day -and that's an interactive type of board for learning it was a music class. And there was a student who has Down syndrome but was part of that class. Loved the classroom when I walked in there. There were bleachers that students were sitting on, and they had all of these different instruments kind of through the classroom. And it kind of looked like something, if you've ever seen an episode of I Love Lucy. Remember the Tropicana ballroom where Ricky Ricardo played his bongo drums and things such as that.

And so this teacher had YouTube clips and students were playing along to musical clips and videos and things like that. And this young man with Down syndrome, Dan, who went up there, he actually was interacting with the interactive board, the Promethean board, in the classroom and he was able to write things on that; and it was somewhere between a music class and a Vegas act. And I had so much fun. The students learned all the concepts that the teacher was trying to promote well and it was thrilling to be in there. And I think I look at Dan's learning and that type of classroom, what a dynamic way of supporting him, and, clearly, he loved that class.

Accommodations. When we're talking about accommodations, we're talking about something that's for an individual student. So, for example, there's a student and her name is Christina. And Christina has things programmed into her communications system. And what that helps her to be able to do is to be able to participate in the classroom, do her work, and things such as that. And it goes a little bit beyond how the teacher has differentiated and how they have provided universal design supports, but it makes things work individually for her and she's able to access the general curriculum successfully.

Software. I was mentioning this before. Things that might add audio, that add visual, that add highlighting, that add pictures - fantastic - that students can dictate to. Leveled books, so everybody looks like they're carrying the same book, but it's at reading levels or supports that match students' abilities.

The next one would be schedules. And so there are some students in classrooms who are very concerned about the schedule and they say, What's happening next? What's happening next? And there may be a schedule in the classroom, but could that student have an individual schedule that they could use?

And there's lots of different ways to do that by low tech means or high tech means that could support a student. Sensory integration - so these would be sensory experiences that help make you feel more together.

Temple Grandin actually uses a support for herself called a squeeze box that gives her body pressure. She designed it herself, and she says, After I use my squeeze box, I'm more able and willing to cope with the world.

So things in a classroom perhaps is different seating options. Could a student sit on one of those balls that you use to do abs on in the gym? Could they have a seating cushion? Could students have the option to manipulate a stress ball or one of those widgets that you would see? Could students have an option to use different types of writing instruments and things that are on the back of writing instruments?

And this is not just for one student. How could we make a whole classroom sensory friendly? So if a student who really needs these supports needs them, what we do is that we make difference ordinary by promoting it for every single person in the classroom. And so I'm a very big fan of that because I've seen many instances where it can support people.

The next one is technology. And I want to share with you a meet-Ari story. So Ari's a student that I've recently met in a school, and I was called into the school and they said, Dr. Schwarz, we have this student, his name is Ari, and he has some behaviors when entering the classroom. Can you help us? So I'm going to do my enactment of Ari. He's in my new book, so I have permission to do this.

And so Ari would go in the classroom and here's him entering. [Patrick making weird sounds]. And so I had to spend the first few minutes, is Ari… was actually giving me a comic relief a little bit, a break from my day. And so I had to spend the first few minutes kind of hiding myself because he was entertaining, I must say that. But, clearly, I was being brought in to support this situation. So what I had to do is think about how do I address this one because the school and the teachers were living it day to day.

So I asked, after the observation, Could I just get to know Ari? And so I got to know him and I found out his passion is technology. He was talking about all these different things and the computer and things he was using. And I said, Wow, it's great to get to know you, Ari.

Then I got permission the next time I came in to film Ari. And so I just got a little flip camera and I filmed him, and I asked if I could meet with Ari afterwards. And here's what I said to Ari. We talked a few minutes in the beginning. We talked about technology and caught up a little bit. Then I said, Ari, there's something I want to show you. And so I showed him the film of himself on the camera, because my thinking was has Ari ever seen himself? You know, he's thinking about a lot of different things when he has done that, but has he ever seen himself? And I showed it to him, and Ari was appalled at the video.

And so one of the things that I did I said, Ari, clearly, you don't like this. Is there something you would like to do about it? And he said, Yes. And I go slam dunk, you know, at that point. And here's what we agreed to do, is I would film him doing a different way, for him doing better, and he would look at that.

And so we did that, and we did it with a few routines during the day and then, here is the golden ticket, is we actually put these clips as visual modeling clips on an iPad. And Ari got to view these before he would enter the classroom to view the way he would like to see things. Because this was, actually, came from him in terms of what he would like to see. And it was a wonderful thing because I was able to incorporate one of his passions and interests of technology. Kids thought it was way cool that he was using an iPad and things such as that. And they had iPads for access in the classroom for other students too, but Ari carried one around with him for these supports. And so I'm thinking about these types of things, and there's lots of different things that work for students to make learning come alive and engaging and supportive for kids.

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This project was supported, in part by grant number 2001MNSCDD-03, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

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