Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Feature: The Power of Inclusion

I'm so happy to have Kristin as our next guest blogger for February. Kristin is a great blogger with tons of practical ideas make sure to follower her links at the bottom of the post!

The Power of Inclusion

When I first started working in the school system, I dreaded getting an IEP where the service minutes were in the general education setting. I had my classroom all set up, I had activities I wanted to do with the kids, I didn’t want to go into someone else’s room. On top of that, there were not too many teachers who understood the concept of inclusion. Many teachers felt uncomfortable with a specialist coming into their room to work with their students. They didn’t know how to effectively utilize my services and trying to get planning time in with them was next to impossible. So most of the time, my inclusion minutes left me sitting on the side or next to the student helping him or her finish their classwork. That was not effective and that did not get my goals for the student met.

The idea behind inclusion is team work. Inclusion is really powerful if it is done correctly and both parties truly understand it. This year, I have been doing inclusion therapy with a new preschool teacher and the end result has been amazing! The preschool classes at my school are a blended model (meaning that some of the students are voluntary preK kids and some are special needs kids.) The reason that this works so well is that the teacher has welcomed me into her classroom with open arms. When I take over a lesson, she doesn’t feel like I am trying to take her job. We work together to plan lessons for the time that I am in her room yet she gives me enough flexibility to plan activities that will help my students meet their goals.

When I go into the classroom, the class is already in their whole group circle time. I join in the group and have some fun singing and dancing with the kids before it is story time! When it’s my turn to lead, I always introduce the story, let the kids make some predictions about it, and introduce some vocabulary word. I include every student- no matter if they are on my caseload or not. Below is a picture of me leading whole group. This week we were reading Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman. The preK class was on their Weather unit so I chose this book because it takes place in the winter. This story and activity tied in great with what they were doing in their classroom, yet I had the flexibility to use the materials I wanted to.

After whole group ends, we have small group. I allot 1 hour in the preK room so I can also participate in small group as well. This is my chance to really work on individual IEP goals. The class is split up into 4 groups (one is ran by me). This gives me the ability to work on my students goals a little better and with less students. I usually create an activity (or download a fabulous one from TpT!) that is related to the story. This week, the kids and I played a matching game with vocabulary from the story. I love that I have the flexibility to create my own activities so I can target what I need to with my students.

I have been so pleased with the way inclusion has gone this year. When it is done with team work, it is very powerful. Here are some tips for successful inclusion therapy:

1. Talk with the teacher. If you have a clear plan on what you want and what the teacher wants out of inclusion, it will work out well. Know in advance what will be going on in class when you are in there. Have the teacher share her lesson plans with you (I get them emailed to me weekly) or even better, plan together.
2. Be flexible. Days can be unpredictable, we all know that. Be flexible and understanding when the teacher has a special activity or is running late in his or her daily schedule.
3. Make sure the teacher is aware of the students’ IEP goals. This way he or she can find the best time available for you to work with the students you share. For example, if you are working on comprehension goals, literacy centers or the reading block may be a great time for you to come in.
4. Make sure the teacher is aware of your job description. This may sound silly, but if he or she doesn’t truly know what your job entails, you may end up being the “tutor” in the classroom. Make sure the teacher is aware of your purpose in their classroom.
5. Be creative! I have found that teachers love when I add something to a lesson or send something to them that I have used before that relates to their lesson. As SLP’s we tend to look at everything through a “language lens” We often see a way to present information and look at things differently.

Kristin Cummings is a school based and private speech language pathologist from St. Petersburg, FL. She is also the author of the [simply speech.] blog. You can contact Kristin by:
Twitter: @simply_speech