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Monday, May 05, 2008

What Does Inclusion Look Like at Your School?

I received this guest post from "Don't Know Where to Start", a public school parent in Seattle:

Last week the Seattle Times carried an article about upcoming changes to special education in Seattle Public Schools, "Special education reforms would likely include classes taught in pairs" (Wed 30 April). The article says that “As a task force begins this spring to revamp Seattle Public Schools' approach to special education, it's likely many classrooms around the district will begin to look more like Eckstein's” where children who qualify for special ed services are in general education classrooms taught by two teachers, one general ed and one special ed. Currently this model only exists at the kindergarten level.

However if you read the School Board Work Session on the Student Assignment Plan and Special Education, April 30th, there is no mention of this co-teaching model at all.

The co-teaching model should be extended beyond these specialized kindergarten contexts because, according to the external review of the special ed programming in SPS and according to the instructional leaders survey for the strategic plan, there is currently not enough support for general education teachers to meet the needs of children who are differently-abled in their classrooms. I wonder if general education teachers who read this blog could comment. Currently as many as 30% of children who receive special education are doing so in contexts that violate their rights to the least restrictive environments, yet even for those who are in general education classrooms outside of those co-teaching contexts, “least restrictive” can translate into “sit and wait until someone can individualize …”.

Co-teaching may be an expensive fix but it could be the only realistic way, in the short run, to address the situation and the realities that general ed teachers are saying that there is a gap in their ability to individualize effectively in the short run. It would be good to hear from others about the inclusion atmosphere in your schools and PTAs and where leadership on this important matter could be strengthened.

26 comments:

AutismMom said...

Most inclusion programs look nothing like what was described at Eckstein. In fact, I bet the article is wrong about that too. Inclusion programs typically serve kids in a pullout and as extra classroom support. Very few teachers "co-teach". Also, most students ARE already included everywhere since they are served in resource rooms in every school in the district.

Anyway, the district has eliminated the position of special education manager and task force manger. There's no one at the helm. So, the media reported co-teaching arrangement is pure speculation until they find whoever it is they're looking to hire.

anonymous said...

This is a very interesting topic. At Salmon Bay they use the inclusion model and many people like it. I personally don't. My kids english class had two special ed students in it. One had a daily breakdown, in which he went in the corner and screamed, pulled his hair, and threw objects. The teacher had to stop class every day, calm him down, and call for back up. The general ed kids galked at and made fun of the special ed child. The other special ed child in the class was violent. He would curse out the teacher, and fellow students, knock his desk over, and throw objects. These episodes also happened on almost a daily basis. Again, the gen ed students stared in disbelief and made fun of him. The inclusion model just doesn't work for the more sever special ed students. It's not fair to them, and it's not fair to the gen ed kids that just want to learn.

AutismMom said...

So where should they go? I suppose you think it would be a lot better for them to go to the self-contained programs where they could really hone those screaming skills as a group, get good at biting themselves and licking the wall, and learn very little. I assure you, that would not be better for those kids. There's no self-contained life, even if we all wanted it. The sooner we accept the fact that > 1% of boys have this issue, the better. Besides, lets get real here, your child witnessed some out of control and extremely immature behavior. Is that the end of the world? And if they were galking and making fun of disabled people, then they really NEED to see more of that behavior to learn understanding, if not tolerance at the very least.

Charlie Mas said...

While there can be no doubt that special education students - including disruptive ones - are entitled to an education, their rights end where the other students' rights begin. The other students in the class are also entitled to an education and they are losing that opportunity due to the disruptive behavior of two students.

It is astonishing to me that schools enforce dress codes and rules against hugging because they are disruptive to the educational environment, but regular outbursts - which literally do disrupt students' education - are supposed to be tolerated.

The situation described by 1964 should not have been allowed to repeat - let alone repeat regularly. I'm not saying that the special education students should be removed from the class, but more aggressive and pro-active steps must be taken for the benefit of all students.

As for the gawking and ridicule, that should also be addressed aggressively and pro-actively. It's reprehensible.

anonymous said...

Your right autismmom, I think that there should be self contained classrooms for the children with the higher needs. Or, if the schools go with the inclusion model, then I believe there should to be an aid in the classroom to work with that student so he/she does not disrupt the class, and allows the teacher to teach. The school we were in had one aid who was used by the entire middle school, so she was not available to assist the teacher on a regular basis. The aid was also not out on the playground, and one day my son came home with a handful of hair in his backpack that was pulled out by the special ed student on the playground without provocation. When we spoke to the principal about it we were told to be understanding. That's kind of hard to do while your child has a bald spot the size of a quarter on his head. And in fact I am understanding of the child and his circumstances, I am not understanding of the situation that the school put my child in.

It is not fair or acceptable to the general ed students to have to give up a portion of their learning time to accomodate one or two special needs children. It is not fair for them to have to duck the pencil that the child throws, or to have to jump out of the way of a turned over desk. And it is not fair for them to be expected to sit without anything to do for 20 or so minutes while the teacher is calming the special ed child down. And how is fair to the special needs child? The teacher was often exasperated? The other children in the room stared? It just wasn't a good situation for anyone.

Do you think this is a good situation?

seattle citizen said...

LRE: Least Restrictive Environment

It's the law, and for a very good reason. Forty years ago, any student who was deemed "not mainstream" (or "disruptive") could, and often would, be sent down some dark hallway to languish in a self-contained room so as not to bother the "regular" students.

That has changed. The laws now require that students be mainstreamed as much as possible, in the least restrictive environment, because to do otherwise denies these children their rights.

It's against the law to merely send these children away, and a positive interpretation of the district's current moves towards "inclusion" suggests that not only are they more closely moving towards adhering to the law, but they're doing the right thing.

But this will, by necessity, be expensive. Smaller class sizes, more aids, case managers to support each student who is struggling through each day (and make no mistake, the hair-puller, the wall licker, the shouter...these are just kids, these are not some horrible creatures), all these additional services will cost money.

By consolidating services, by streamlining where possible (shutting down stand-alone "rooms down the hall" and reallocating those staff members is a start, if done correctly) might allow for a better delivery of service.

But self-contained classrooms are not the answer, and they're often used illegally. To repeat, the law, and basic human rights, dictates that ALL students be in regular ed situations wherever possible.

Some might say, but my child will be exposed to screamers, kickers, others who disrupt. A response to that is that the world is full of people who act out in "weird" ways, and it might be a good idea to have some exposure and some responses available.

Another response is private school, many of which have a very low proportion of "special ed" (and remember, some SpEd is behavioural, it's socially predicated) and if a parent feels that his or her child shouldn't be exposed to these children, then perhaps a private school, or home schooling is an alternative. For the rest of us, compassion and the law work to ensure that every child's needs are met in a setting as close as is possible to that which the rest of us expect.

old salt said...

I have seen success in having different academic accommodations in one classroom. I have not seen it with severe behavior accommodations.

How does it work to have more than one set of behavioral rules in a classroom? 'It is ok for that child to scream, but the other child is punished for talking.' 'It is ok for him to hit you, but not ok for you to hit him.' How is that explained to children?


What do children learn if they are trained to accept kicking, chair throwing, hair-pulling from a child with emotional challenges? Is it possible that they learn to define their own compassion as being able to accept a role as victim?

seattle citizen said...

(this silly machine just ate my last response! bah!)

Yes, behavior is harder to deal with than academic. It's easier to differentiate academic than behavior. This speaks to the need for a wide support system of aid: IAs and other parapros, pull-out rooms, case management that assists SpEd teachers and parent/guardians, outside agencies to facilititate a web of support...

Good point about students maybe learning only that compassion is being a willing (or quiet) victim. Good place for a lesson.

anonymous said...

I have no problem with spec ed kids being mainstreamed and placed in "the least restrictive environment" when possible. My problem is that the district is not providing the support necessary to make it work. My sons kindergarten class had 28 students, one of which was autistic. The autistic child was very sweet, but took a tremendous amount of the teachers time. When a teacher has 28 five year olds to deal with and no teachers aid, one special needs child is to much. It took away a tremendous amount of time from the other children who at age five need a lot of guidance and attention.

So, I am all for inclusion if it is supported with appropriate funding and staff by our district. Otherwise, it just does not work.

Maureen said...

I like the idea of inclusion with co-teachers. That adds another adult to the classroom, which helps everyone (even if their primary responsibility is with a few of the children). This must be incredibly expensive though. Right now we have about four teachers and four aides/specialists to cover about 25 self contained sped kids and lots of resource room kids. If every class room needed a co-teacher, the budget would more than double.

One thing I don't understand though is how 'least restrictive' applies. Does it mean that kids have to be accomodated at the school closest to their home? That seem counter productive. I would think that you would want to group kids by their type of disability so that: teacher training and other resources could be focused on those children's needs; to reduce average costs by serving more than one child per classroom; and also so the kids and their families would have more of a community.

For example, TOPS has a deaf and hard of hearing program. The kids spend parts of the day in a self contained classroom but are included in the grade level classrooms whenever possible. When they go out to the gen ed rooms, an aide often goes with them. Some kids are completely mainstreamed, but have access to the DHH teachers if something goes wrong with their implants or hearing aids or if they need extra help on something. More and more of the teachers and even kids have been studying sign language.

It seems odd that programs like this might be discontinued and all of the kids sent to separate schools with general purpose special ed aides in the classrooms. Maybe this is a special case, but I could imagine the same set up being good for kids on the autism spectrum or with Downs, or with physical disabilities.

One thing that seems odd is how rarely continuity seems to be valued in special ed program placement. All of the TOPS DHH kids will be sent to Eckstein when they get to middle school even though we're a K-8. Meanwhile we have a Middle School self contained ('low incidence?') Sped classroom (those kids are sometimes included too, but with out aides, which probably contributes to the rareness). We used to have a primary Sped classroom, but that was replaced by a 2nd primary DHH program, so the kids who would most benefit from continuity (Sped or DHH)don't seem to get it.

In the same vein, I noticed that AE2 seems to have a primary autism program, but then they go to Salmon Bay. Why not start them at Salmon Bay to reduce transitions? At least the cohort can move with them for now, but I believe the AE2 preference to Salmon Bay isn't permanent? And then there is the Viewlands autism program which moved to Broadview Thompson; will those kids stay there K-8, I hope so.

anonyms said...

Excessive transitioning for students with disabilities, and utter disregard for families and communities is one of the most pernicious problems caused by SPS. Not uncommonly, students are forced to transition 4 times in elementary schools alone. Then middle school where-ever the district deems best. There's no consideration of siblings, distance, taxi rides, cohorts, social ties... nothing. And certainly no choice. When social connections are something that are extrememly difficult to establish, it's completely unacceptable to break the ties kids actually do make. Social skills training is definitely a responsibility under IDEA. And destroying those same skills willy-nilly is unfathomable. The district is really setting itself up for a civil rights, or OSPI complaint on this one issue.

AutismMom said...

The courts have always found that distruptive behavior can be result in more restrictive placement. Here in Seattle, students are most assuredly restrictively placed, often for very minor or controllable behavior. Behavior is actually something that can be taught and controlled. In fact, schools are obligated to do so. The district has access to experts in exactly this science. The UW provides excellent troubleshooting, often free of charge.

The situation described by 1964 most definitely been handled more appropriately if students are indeed throwing things at people and pulling out the hair of others. It is entirely possible that a more restrictive placement is warranted. And it would also be unacceptable if 20 minutes of every day was spent consoling one student. But, it's pretty hard to believe that having seen many inclusion programs. Other schools have exactly the opposite problem. At my school a second grade autistic student was suspended for throwing a rock at the building, damaging nothing and hurting no one. Some may view his behavior as dangerous. But others would say this second grader was suspended precisely because of his disability for something any other 7 year old might have done.

I'm a little more interested in hearing from someone who has ideas, experience, or opinions on the district's EBD programs, where students are more capable of sustained and planned behaviors. These are the self-contained emotional-behavior programs filled with minorities students. It's basically jail training. The sped review listed this as the most inequitable piece of special education. In fact, it's getting it's own review.

anonyms said...

Ae2 (thornton creek) autism program students get to go to Salmon Bay with everybody else? Absolutely not! Ae2 is an ultra-self-contained program. Those students do not get ANY transfer privileges to anywhere. They're NOT like other kids, you know.

anonymous said...

"At my school a second grade autistic student was suspended for throwing a rock at the building"

Is throwing rocks against your school rules? Would a non special ed student have been suspended for this action too?

If the answer is yes, then I would say you can't have it both ways. You can't ask for special ed kids to be in inclusion programs or mainstreamed, and then give them different or "special" rules. If they are in regular programs they should be able to follow the same rules that regular ed children follow. If they can't then they should be in self contained classes with specialists, and a much lower student to teacher ratio.

If the answer to my question was no, throwing rocks is not against school rules, and a regular ed 2nd grader would not be suspended for it, then I would say you may have a law suit.

AutismMom said...

You can't ask for special ed kids to be in inclusion programs or mainstreamed, and then give them different or "special" rules.

Schools absolutely can, do, and must have different rules for students with disabilities in general education. Yes, different standards of behavior are required. It is the law. There are accommodations for everything in IEP's, including behavior. There are also behavior intervention plans that are legal documents describing actions adults must take for students with disabilities. No, other people don't get them. I'm really surprised that people don't know this. Inclusion is NOT about 1 size fits all, everybody follows the same rules, everybody does the same thing. It is about tailoring a school to meet the needs of everyone.

AutismMom said...

Imagine a student with Tourettes Syndrome. Should they be suspended for involuntarily swearing? Other kids would be. At some schools, some inclusion students, especiall young ones, are permitted to use jungle gym playground every day at recess.... others only get it once a week. Either schools or parents have required this "difference". If we required inclusion students to follow all the rules and do all the work... well, what would be the point? You would really be requiring them NOT to be disabled, which isn't really possible. Parents don't really want their kids to need special rules, but sometimes the kids simply need it.

anonymous said...

I have no problem with special ed kids needing special accommodations or special rules. But if a spec ed child can not follow basic rules, especially those made for the safety of all students, like throwing rocks on the playground, then that child needs to be in a self contained classroom, or have an aid with them in a regular ed class and on the playground. They should not be allowed to put other kids at risk. Children should not get a clump of their hair pulled out by an autistic child. Where do you draw the line autismom? What if an autistic child brought a knife to school or gun? What if they hit a child in the eye with that rock they threw? Just because your child has special needs does not mean he should be allowed to put my child, or any other child at risk.

You keep citing the law. If the school broke the law by suspending the special ed student for throwing a rock, why is there no law suit?? I think it might be the opposite of what you think. I think the law suit may have been filed if the school did nothing about the autistic child throwing rocks, and he injured another child on the playground.

Get a grip. Rocks should not be thrown on a playground full of children. It is DANGEROUS. And when it happens, by any child, it should be addressed as a serious offense.

MathTeacher42 said...

wow! look at all the great writers and legal eagles!

of course, no one has provided detailed costs in time and effort, just vague odes to unfunded laws.

guess what? all kids have more rights than we pay for, so how about figuring out what any rights actually cost and how about actually paying for those rights.

inclusion is currently a cheap way to blame teachers for crazy classes, classes which rob the many of their right to an education.

reader said...
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anonymous said...

"Of course, my child should not be the cause of injury or ongoing classroom disruption for yours. But neither should your ignorance and frustration or that of an untrained, unsupported gen ed teacher be the cause of lifelong limitation of my child's potential."

Since we agree that a sped child should not be the cause of injury or disruption to the rest of the class, I would like to know what you propose should happen when they do? When a teacher has to stop teaching for 20 minutes to calm the sped child down, when the rock the sped child throws hits another child in the eye, when a sped child pulls a quarter size lump of hair out of another child's head?

I did not say that I did not like inclusion. Please read my post again. What I said was if a spec ed child can not follow basic rules, especially those that enforce safety for all students, then they should be in a contained room OR have an aid with them in a gen ed classroom and on the playground. If you don't like my idea, please tell me what you suggest to make sure that all students are safe and able to learn in a LDR (least disruptive environment)

reader said...

Ad hoc, the everyday picture of inclusion is not as dramatic as the one you paint and even if it was, please don't browbeat the parents.

anonymous said...

Marty, are you kidding? The brow beating is going both ways. Let's call a spade a spade.

Teachermom said...

Hello All,

I am a special education teacher. Now I am working with kids who are mainstreamed most of the day and have mild disabilities, but I have worked with kids with severe behavioral disabilities, whom I did send out to mainstream classes for varying lengths of time per day. I had 10 students and three aides, all of whom had a B.A. in psychology (this was in another state). That's how it was possible, and it was still hard work.

The district is not staffing the special education positions that it has already. More inclusion would mean more open positions. I am totally in favor of SUPPORTED inclusion, but not unsupported.

Mainstreamed students with severe behaviors should not be left in a gen ed classroom without support. It is not professional, it is cruel to the student with disabilities, and it is confusing to the peers without disabilities.

And there is a fine line between teaching other kids tolerance and sharing too much personal information about a child with disabilities. Creating a truly aware and inclusive classroom requires a lot of support, communication, and parent buy-in.

Co-teaching requires regular shared planning time. Right now I work with 7 teachers and am alloted 30 minutes of planning time per day. I am lucky if I get an e-mail out to them a couple of times a week.

reader said...
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reader said...

Many of the comments and concerns expressed in this thread have been addressed in the Special Education Review. I'd mention three in particular: that SPS operates on a "wait to fail" system for Special Ed students and it can take quite some time for the system to respond when a child is having difficulties, that SPS needs to provide more support to general education teachers and IAs to support these students and work collaborativesly with special education teachers, and that the whole "delivery system leads to isolated and inferior learning opportunities ...and a lack of access to resources for students within the general education setting..." (p. 16). So this gives all of us the opportunity to recognize that it is not the students who are to blame, it is the system, and the school's failure to deliver appropriate supports. Does the new proposed plan of an integrated service delivery model promise to do things better? It is a welcome idea but not sure the political will is there to put it into practice in a meaningful way.

starpepper said...

There is no inclusion at Ballard High School if your child is in one of their three fully self-contained classes. (Consisting of one autism and 2 low-grouping classes)
These self-contained classes work for kids with behavior/emotional issues and many of them would prefer not to mix with the general ed students as it is too stressful for them. Yet there are a few higher functioning students where inclusion would work and work well. Yet because these kids are assigned to “self contained” rooms, educators feel these students already have an appropriate education within the “self contained” classroom and so the few students who would benifit, do not receive inclusion opportunities.