Special Needs

If your child was in an inclusive classroom...

I am a teacher and this year will be my first working collaboratively with a special education teacher. It's Prek with children 4 and 5 years old. Many of our special needs children have ASD. To give you a little background  we will have 20 children, 6 of which have IEPs. We have 2 teachers and 1 assistant (she is very much a teacher in the room too, not just there to sweep, clean etc.)

My question is, what, as a parent, would you want this classroom to look like? We have our first day on Monday and this is definitly a new experience for me that I am eager to see how it evolves. My goal is obviously for the class to unite as one community and meet each child at their developmental level. I worry about their being a speration between the two groups of kids (NTand ASD) but hoping  that will not be the case. Anyone have experience with this from a parent's perspective? What would make you the happiest/most comfortable?

BTW, my older son is possible aspergers, not formally diagnosed yet. So conicidentally, although I am a general ed teacher I have read up a lot on ASD. I can appreciate a parent's desire to have your child "fit in."

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Re: If your child was in an inclusive classroom...

  • We are brand new to preschool (2 weeks in) and my son might be the only child with ASD in the class, though one or two may have IEPs. One thing I like is that the NT kids are often involved in the therapy. Our school calls it Theraplay. They pull my son and maybe 3 others out or aside. I feel that there is a conscious effort to work support in seamlessly so that it's not obvious or stigmatizing. A strength of our current program compared to a less supportive "Kids Day Out" he did last year is flexibility. His previous experience included a very authoritarian teacher, and his anxiety and negative behavior increased within her rigid class.

    I also like that our current school has a code: I take care of myself, I take care of others, I take care of my school. Within those they can break out many subtopics to work on. There is much emphasis early on about "taking care of others" as they work on compassion and empathy, which benefits ALL kids, and seems essential for success in an inclusive classroom.
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  • DS attends inclusive daycare and we love it. The ratio is about 50/50. Everyone participates in everything in their own way, with whatever assists they may need. Therapies are only done on a consultative basis, but the therapists come in and model them with the kiddos in their classroom environment, so the teachers can use those techniques.

    DS is only going on 2, so it is a little different than pre-K which I am sure is more strictly standards based. They just celebrate the little successes and don't stress the failures. I love that because his teacher is the one person who can write me 2 full pages of only positive steps he has taken, as opposed to evaluations always showing where he is lacking.

    I guess I just really love the attitude that "We all have times we need a hand. When you have one, we will be there to help you, without acting put-out or stressed-out, or embarrassing you." 

    There is also a pervasive attitude of caring for one another in his classroom, which he has certainly embraced. There is a little girl who also has limited mobility, and if they are together and she cries, he will pat her back to comfort her. LOVE it! :)

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  • image-auntie-:

    My son was in an inclusion setting for 6th grade. Not sure my experience translates to preschool but it was not a good year.

    My district has a policy that requires every student to spend at least one year assigned to an inclusion setting. This mandate prevents families from opting out as a way to avoid the distruptions that are typical of this sort of class.

    What I would like to see-

    1. A higher ratio of typically developing kids to IEP students. Especially in the younger grades where IEP identified kids have a level of impairment significant enough to have triggered a classification early and where many others have behaviors but are in a RTI program or have parents/schools taking a wait and see approach. Once the number of special needs kids hits about 30%, the class becomes a defacto special education setting. At the high school, inclusion might mean 2 or 3 students with IEPs in a section with 25 other kids.

    2. I prefer true team teaching. I have seen to many inclusion teams tag team kids where one teaches the lesson while the other off preparing lesson plans, attending meetings and generally disengaged. I get that this is necessary work, but it can interfere with the spirit of team teaching.

    3. Get to know all your kids. DS's general education teacher declined to get to know him. Her attitude was not just that he was a guest in the classroom, he wasn't a guest worth getting to know. His right to LRE was dependent on her participation and she dropped the ball. Repeatedly.

    4. Be sure you understand that ASDs can look very different depending on age, IQ, degree atypicality and personality. DS's 6th grade classroom teacher painted with a wide brush and assumed things about DS on the basis of her experience with other kids.

    5. Be mindful that sometimes behaviors you find amusing or even endearing are symtomic and that parents may be pained to be on the receiving end of such tales if you don't have a plan in place to help eradicate them. OMG. DS's sped teacher from 6th used to call me weekly to report symptomatic behaviors as "cute stories"

    6. Be very careful how you pair kids up. I have had enough of my kid being paired with the class weirdo just because well developing kids gravitate to one another. Resist the urge to pair two kids with ASD up as if that's something they have in common and can build on. Typical peers exist in this setting to provide appropriate behavior models and teach functional play skills- please allow my child access.

    I think the "tag team" team teaching is a bunch of BS. I have seen exactly what you said happen, and it really cheats the students. 

  • image-auntie-:

    5. Be mindful that sometimes behaviors you find amusing or even endearing are symtomic and that parents may be pained to be on the receiving end of such tales if you don't have a plan in place to help eradicate them. OMG. DS's sped teacher from 6th used to call me weekly to report symptomatic behaviors as "cute stories"

    Wow, you just put into words something that has in fact pained me. Really, I'm only ok with DH and I joking with each other about ASD related stuff. I never really could put my finger on what bothered me before when people relayed certain information. But the nervous laughter that accompanied stories that, to me, revealed anxiety and rigidity on DS's part was heart-breaking. 

    "Oh that boy of yours -- he could sit in the sandbox all day long, ha ha ha."

    Yes, yes he could. 

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  • Thank you. This is some very helpful information. I would be lying if I said I didn't have any reservations about teaching in this classroom. I'm nervous about team teaching (I think often teachers by default are kind of control freaks- guilty!) and have worried about losing time in our academics. I am so glad you mentioned a little bit about what not to say to parents. That actually was one of my concerns; saying something that would insensative to parents.

    I'm the kind of person that gives 100% to what I do so I decided today that this is going to the  BEST inclusion classroom in our county! Thank you for your input and feel free to add any more thoughts!

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  • I can give you my thoughts about DD's inclusive experience, but keep in mind they're my thoughts alone, and certainly not indicative of every parent in similar shoes.

    DD's starting her second year of preschool- she's born on 9/2, two days past the school year cut-off, so she could've easily been in pre-k had my water broken 48 hours earlier. :)  I do think our experiences so far would apply to an inclusive pre-k classroom, though. Like your classroom, there is a reg. ed. teacher and a sped teacher. To be honest, at first, my biggest concern was that she get adequate support to get as much out of the classroom experience as her typical peers- if that meant more time in her sub-separate group or with therapists, so be it. This year, I'm more interested in helping her develop her independence and self-sufficiency skills in the classroom... I realize she'll still need lots of support from teachers and aides, but I'm okay with them pulling back a bit.

    I've also read some of the replies about anecdotal stories from teachers rubbing parents the wrong way. To be honest, that doesn't phase me, so long as I don't feel that the "issue" is interfering with her progress and not being addressed. I feel her teachers and I have bonded over some of her "stuff" (like, for example, her obsession with the color yellow, or how she freaks out if her crocs get wet)... so long as they recognize that her "stuff" still needs to be worked on, I have absolutely no problem hearing a funny story. Hell, I laugh at it most times to keep from crying. I might be in the minority here, but I've always used humor as a coping mechanism. Autism has been great fodder for some chuckles. Smile

    I think the fact that you're even considering your sped parents' feelings is a good indicator. Like I said, I'm only one person and one opinion, but I think what I've appreciated most from DD's teachers is their willingness to communicate regularly with me, to really hear my concerns and to take an honest, vested interest in the future of my daughter.

    Good luck!!


    A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost. ~Marion C. Garrett
    image7_0002 A ~ 2.7.06 S ~ 9.2.07
  • My DS will be starting his 2nd yr of inclusion preschool.

    They have 2 teachers and 2 aids.  Both take turns leading circle time, etc.  Both interact with all the kids during art projects and such.  And a few of the "regular" kids get support from the OT who comes in the room.  So really it functions like one big classroom.  We have been very happy with the classroom setup.

  • Thank you everyone! Today was day #1 and I have to say it was a huge success! Did we have to do some major redirecting? Of course, but that is par for the course for all the kids. The kids were great and I hope tomorrow can go as smoothly. Thanks for all your input!
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