9.02.2011

Special Needs. Feedback Friday


Two of my friends recently got into a small spat over a story about special needs students integrated into a public school classroom. My friend talked about a teacher who always has an over abundance of special needs students while other classrooms have none. She was trying to explain that this isn't fair to the other students in the class due to numerous disruptions and behaviors displayed by 5 of the students while the other 15 students are trying to learn.

One mother told a story about an adaptation for tests that required one student to have the test read aloud while the remaining students were to read the test silently. The students reading silently were distracted and frustrated because this adapted form of testing occurred within the same room. This same 6th grade student was unable to sit at a desk and only stood and had several crying outbursts during the day.

The other friend became agitated and told her that kids need to learn to accept others and she didn't see the problem. She was clearly offended.

I started to think of two separate friends of mine who made different choices for their own special needs children, one chose a special needs school and one choose inclusion in the public setting. They both have valid arguments for their own choices.

So, a Feedback Friday topic was born...

Do you believe adapted testing should be conducted in another room or should everyone be together at all times?

Is it realistic for a whole class to adapt to one student or should one student adapt to the class?

Do kids learn about acceptance of others by including special needs students in the classroom or does it cause resentment?

Have you ever seen kids feel burdened and/or enlightened by spending classroom time with special needs students?


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18 comments :

  1. This is something I question all the time. My daughter had a special needs student in her room last year that disrupted the entire class. I understand the argument that there is a benefit to these students being integrated into the classroom, and I can appreciate that if I were the parent to that child then I would want the best for him/her. BUT I'm not, and I want the best learning environment for my child, and I'm not sure having constant disruptions in the classroom is best for her. I agree with teaching children acceptance of everyone, but I'm not sold on the fact that it has to be done at the expense of her education.

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  2. A child's "special needs" do not trump all of the other needs of the kids in the classroom. There needs to be balance. Kid's need to learn compasion, empathy, acceptence, etc, but not when it gets to the point of seriously harming their learning experience. ie: having to take a test when soomeone is reading the test aloud to a student in the same room. Confession: when my daughter was in first grade she had a very strict teacher that always got all the discipline problems. She struggled for months and I let her, telling myself it was good for her (character building). By February, she started to shut down and get sick a lot. My child who has always loved school was dreading it. Being in chaos for hours a day was affecting her personality-she was moody, anxious, depressed. I finally made the tough decision of switching classrooms and have never regretted it. She thrived the rest of the year. The bottom line, no matter how un PC it sounds, is that my job is to be an advocate for my child and her needs.

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  3. Morning Jenn,

    Thoughtful topic...I agree with Jennifer , not at the expense of education for the other students. There are plenty of other situations were students can be taught acceptance...the playground...phys ed classes...art classes...after school activities..etc..etc

    My sis-in-law is an aid in a special needs class of a public middle school and the stories she tells me are scary. Many of these children are very hard to control and have a very small attention span. She tells me that hardly any real learning goes on.

    Lack of parental support makes it worse...they are being relied on to teach these children hygiene, manners and educate them...it is too much.

    If you integrate these children into a class with non special needs kids...all will suffer a lack of any real learning.

    I do not want to sound uncaring...I care a great deal
    (I am an aunt to a special needs person) but there has to be a better way. One that will benefit all students...not cater to one group.

    Janet xox
    http://theemptynest-janet.blogspot.com/

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  5. Many years ago one of my children was in a classroom like the one described here and was having problems learning due to the increased noise and talking. The teacher was putting my child in a separate place that was quiet, but very separate. A place that in prior generations would have been a "time out" place. When I initiated a conversation with the teacher her response to me was about all the other "difficult and hard to handle" children. My response to her was I felt sympathy for her and those children's with special needs and those with behavioral problems, but I felt that my child should not be handicapped and treated differently and that she was not the problem, and that those concerns about the difficult children are not my problem, that she should address those problems with the disruptive children's parents, not me. There are many ways to keep integration intact without further harming the whole class.

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  6. I would probably want to observe the class and also ask my child candid questions. Our county is fortunate to have a lot of resources. My son is in 5th grade and this year and last, both teachers are teaching with a special ed teacher in same classroom. I am not sure of the noise level. My son is out of the classroom several hours a day (GA is one of 16 states that have the gifted program) so if there are disruptions for him he is able to be in the class just half the day. Middle school is a whole different scenario with only inclusion classes.

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  7. Wow!!! "These children". "Those children". I read those two words so many times in the above comments.

    I wonder how many kids are not "those children" but cause disruptions in classrooms, bully other children, and are in general, difficult to deal with. I also wonder how many of us, as adults live in a bubble, with no one in our workplace, community, or life who is in any way "different" from ourselves.

    First, I should say that I am the mother of a child with a Central Auditory Processing Disorder, and mild A.D.D. I am also a parent advocacy representative on our school district's Board of Special Education. (My child attends Public School in NYS.) My daughter's learning issues affect the way that that she processes information and she has an IEP (individualized education plan) to help her with her learning experience. Included are accommodations that apply to how she is tested in certain scenarios, and she gets extra help (in a separate classroom) for one period per day to make sure that she has really absorbed the information. She does not have any hyperactivity or behavioral issues. One of her accommodations is having certain tests read out loud to her. It is part of how her brain processes written information. This modification (per our school district standards) is done is a separate room. As far as I am concerned, that is as it should be. Both for the benefit of my own child and for the overall benefit of her classmates. The distraction caused by a test being read aloud dictate that it should be done separately, in my experience.

    No classroom should be a chaotic zoo. Children should be encouraged and allowed to learn in a way that benefits their individual needs. Sadly, our public school systems are not equipped to do that, in many cases.

    As far as one classroom having a large amount of special needs students, often times that is because the teacher is specially trained or emotionally equipped for that particular group.

    Every child is different. Every child deserves to grow and learn in an environment of encouragement and exploration. To label "those children" as being a problem makes me sad, discouraged, and concerned for the next generation of adults that we are raising.

    These children are our future. "These children", ALL of our children will be the leaders of tomorrow. They will be the teachers, the parents, the shop owners, the politicians, the janitors. Our children need us to advocate for their needs. That includes the non special needs children who are receiving less than their best education because of poor district policies, overcrowded classrooms or the rotten classmate who bullies the other children. No child, special needs or non should be taught in an environment that is anything but encouraging.

    If you, as a parent have concerns regarding the environment where you child is learning, SPEAK UP!! Volunteer in your children's classrooms, and GET INVOLVED!! Don't join the PTA and gossip about the other parents and teachers. Don't hide behind others when you have something to say. Advocate for your child, but keep in mind that the world DOES NOT revolve around any one student. There are scores of children in these classrooms, and ALL of them deserve the very best that our education system has to offer.

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  8. I have spent the last 5 years volunteering at least one day a week in my youngest daughter's classroom. Each year there was always at least one special needs student in the class. The student was often disruptive, yelling and acting out. Learning activities were often hard on the other kids because of the constant interruptions.

    We also have a special needs student on our bus ride home. He doesn't tolerate noise, so the students are not allowed to talk at all on the bus. Total silence is demanded by the child's parents. If it's not silent, he has complete melt downs; screaming and cursing at the other kids. How is this fair to the other bus riders?

    I believe that there needs to be tighter controls on "inclusion". The rights and needs of one should not supersede the rights/needs of the many. Not every special needs child is an appropriate candidate for full inclusion. No one wins or excels when a bad match is made.

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  9. This topic and the responses have me in tears because this is my life every day. I have almost 9 year old boy/girl twins. My son has autism, my daughter doesn't.

    I can see each side of the coin on this one. On one hand, I want my son to be allowed to be in a classroom with "normal" kids. He won't learn how to be social or interact with other kids if he's only in classes with other kids like him.

    On the other hand, I wouldn't want my daughter to be in a classroom that is constantly interrupted to cater to one student, or by a student that can't control themselves.

    In a perfect world, there would be balance. Each special needs child would be able to integrate into the regular classrooms with a 1:1 aid for as long as they could tolerate it. Then, they should be able to retreat to the special ed. room so they wouldn't disrupt the learning of anyone else.

    Unfortunately, our world isn't ready for my son or the thousands of kids like him. I have the option to send him to a school specifically for kids with special needs, or send him to public school with a totally clueless aid who has no idea how to help him. I tried public school with an aid for kindergarten, and it was a total disaster. He's now at the school for kids with special needs.

    It makes me sad, and (I'll admit it) angry that he's being separated from the people he needs to learn from. He NEEDS to see regular kids interacting so he can learn how to do it himself. No matter how many social stories we read and write together, he can't learn without someone to watch.

    Anyway to answer the specific questions that were asked:

    I think adapted testing should be done in another room so each student has the chance to do their best.

    I think it is realistic for a whole class to learn to adapt to one student. If it's done right, then everyone will learn more, not less than a class without any special needs kids.

    I do think that when kids are exposed to special needs kids when they're young they will learn to be more accepting.

    More than in the classroom, I see both at home. My daughter does get the short end of the stick sometimes when we have to leave a fun outing early because it's too much for her brother. On the other hand, I've seen her get so proud when my son finally gets something that we've been working on.

    So, if your child ends up in a classroom with a child with special needs, please, don't just assume the year will be filled with disruptions and no one will learn anything. Your child may learn empathy, and the other child may learn how to interact with others, two things that can't be learned from books.

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  10. Wow, Jill! That was such a fantastic response. I'm so glad you chimed in.

    When I was in school, a long long time ago, there was a boy with cerebral palsy in my class. He was mute, and drooled (over lack of control to swallow) and did not have control of when he went to the bathroom. He generally changed his clothes 2 or 3 times a day. I still think about him and wonder if that was the right choice for him, public school. I befriended him and learned sign language. It was cool to communicate with him. Though it was challenging to be around him due to smells. He wasn't always clean which may have partially been due to lack of teaching. His mind was fully functional. He took AP classes and had great grades. His was his phycial body that challenged him. Hismother faught hard to get him in the public school and for the most part I do think it was good.

    Then when my daughter was in 3rd grade she had a girl in her class who had Downs Syndrome. There were some meltdowns but this teacher was particularly fantastic. She was not formally trained to care for special needs children but she had a heart so big she didn't need formal training. She really did a fantastic job of keep the class balanced. When it came time for the girl's birthday party the teacher pulled some of us mom aside and explained that the year before no one had shown up to this girls party and she didn't want that to happen again so this year about 15 girls showed up, almost every gift was a baby doll bc this girl just LOVED them and it was one of the most happy parties I've ever seen for a child. It was truly something to witness.

    If we could only all treat each other this was all the time.

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  11. I grew up in the first of the "inclusion" wave and went to high school with many special needs kids. I'm gonna say this in a the kindest way possible. We think that kids are being taught tolerance but that isn't always the case. Sometimes because so many of the special needs kids are not ready for a classroom, the other kids just reinforce the stereotypes they may have heard. Not that ADHD is the same as the kind of special needs being referred to above, but I am going to use it for an example. My daughter's "stereotype" of ADHD kids is really negative. No matter what words we say to her all she sees is that being at the table with the ADHD kid is a lot of trouble and makes her life harder.

    Put your self down in your child's mind. Forget what you know and believe about tolerance and think about it. If you are a little kid and you look around your classroom and week after week after week you are having negative experiences you are going to start having negative associations. Children don't know any better. Not to say that they don't need to be taught, just that I don't think dumping all the kids in there together is doing it. We are saying one thing and putting them in an environment that is teaching them something else.

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  12. Whilst I'm all for equal rights and think people should accept others for who they are, I think having special needs kids in a regular classroom should depend entirely on whether they disrupt the class or not. When I was at school there were two 'special needs'/'learning difficulties' kids in my class--one was really quiet and basically just needed extra in-class help, the other was incredibly disruptive and would even become violent towards others. Obviously the teacher had her work cut out for her trying to get one to behave and trying to help the other one understand the work.

    When it comes to adapted tests, I think those who have the adapted version should take the test in a different room if it will disrupt the rest of the class. It's not fair on other students to have distractions when they're trying to take a test--it could affect their results.

    Based on my own experience of special needs children in the classroom, I think inclusion of special needs kids is more likely to cause resentment if the child in question is disruptive, etc. If on the other hand the child isn't disruptive, I think kids just accept him or her as they would a regular classmate.

    Still, I don't think it's necessarily the best idea to put special needs students in a regular class. It can affect the standard of education received by the whole class (special needs kid included) and so isn't fair on anybody involved.

    There was a feature on the news here recently about a centre for special needs children that has just started to work with local schools, to integrate their students with students of the regular schools, so they'd do activities together and so on. It seemed on both sides the kids were enjoying it! I think if children are to learn to accept others, this is a much better method of teaching them--through fun and socialising, not to the possible detriment of their education.

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  13. This topic is close to my heart I work in a special needs class. On the inclusion front what I've found is the regular ed and special needs student enjoy being around each other. They sit with them at lunch, play with them at recess help them on projects. We don't spend the whole day with the regular ed students. We are with them for Science, Social Studies,P.E.,and music and of course lunch and recess. If one of our students needs something read to them on a test we take them back to our class. So we don't distract the other students. If one of our students is having a bad day and disrupting the class. We take them back to our room to finish what they are working on or until they say they are ready to go back. So what I'm saying I do think its good for everyone it teaches us to be compassionate to others. We all are different whether we have a disability,nationality, different beliefs ect. God bless those families with special needs children put yourself in their shoes.

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  14. Coming from having a down syndrome sister and watching her go through school, I have a different perspective. I can see why parents are concerned to have special needs kids in a class. But I can also see how much good it has done my sister and the kids in her class to have her at least partially intigrated. Granted, she does have an aide that goes with her to some of her classes and she doesn't have disrupting outbursts. But seriously, we need more people like her in the world. I see her as a gift to my family and everyone she associates with. She teaches love and acceptance in a way that no one else can. Isn't that what we need in the world?

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  15. While this may sound harsh...it is not meant that way. If the parents of a special needs child wishes to integrate their child into the public school system the special needs child needs to be ABLE to be integrated. When lessons and classes change to accommodate the child's special needs, IMO, they are not integrating. The CLASS is.

    Yes, children need to learn to accept the disability that some are burdened with. However forcing them to function with disturbances is unacceptable.

    While some children with disabilities can easily be integrated, others would benefit from utilizing the classrooms created specifically for them and their needs. I sometimes feel the need to integrate is not coming from the child but the parent and THEIR desire to have their in a public classroom. Sometimes it's more important to think about the big picture. Too many times that doesn't happen.

    There's nothing wrong with the schools and classrooms created for special needs. The stigma that there IS, is what is fueling this debate. If your child NEEDS special assistance, take advantage of the programs provided to you and be PROUD that you live in a country that offers them.

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  16. This conversation just makes me angry. If parents were truly concerned about their children's education they would be more responsible for it. Instead, as in most things, we arm chair quarterback the teacher or the school or another family. We know everything that THEY should do so that WE are accommodated. And that mantra is chanted even louder if it's the majority.

    When your child is unable to learn in a classroom b/c of a poor teacher, a bully, a distraction, peer pressure it is up to YOU to fix the problem. It's not up to another parent.

    The real issue is making your children's education a priority. It's hard to find a parent who will actually step up to the plate themselves though, they usually want someone else to do it for them.

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  17. The needs of 15 outweigh the needs of one. The constant disruption only causes resentment, and I'm convinced, a greatly diminished learning environment for all.

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