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I have noticed that most place are integrading special needs children into the classroom.
I would like to have a respectful conversation about this from teachers and parents and any one who is interested.
First, I have to say that every child and every situation is different. It really depends on what kind of needs the child has, but in general I believe that integration of children with special needs is really important. Since I do not know what special needs you are thinking of, I'm answering this based on the most common special needs such as autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, behavioural disorders, and severe learning disabilities.
Is this good for the child?
Is it good for the whole school population?
Is it good for the teachers?
Is this good for the parents of both special needs and other children?
With this being said, integration isn't an all or nothing thing. Sometimes children with very severe special needs are partially integrated. They may participate in certain parts of the program and then do other parts outside of the classroom with their EA.
Just my 2 cents worth.
Just so you know where I'm coming from: I have worked in Early Childhood Education for several years. I am a Psychology student with a particular interest in autism and I plan on going into Elementary Education. These are issues that are very near and dear to me.
Thanks namaste. I have no one special in mind. It is just a general question.
We have had experience with both segregated and integrated learning environments with specialson. I would strongly agree that the answers to all of the posed questions would be an "it depends".
Specialson is presently mainstreamed in a regular grade four class with a registered nurse who has a dual role of acting both as specialson's nurse and his educational assistant. For the moment this is working very well. Specialson's brothers wanted him at their school (elderbrother has just moved on to junior high) and we feel strongly that we wanted our community to come to know specialson.
I believe that the school community benefits greatly from specialson's involvement in the school. I believe that specialson can teach children a great deal about diversity, ability and acceptance.
We do expect that we will transition him back to a segregated learning environment in the next few years. For specialson, integration works well in the early years but I have difficulty with the idea that sitting in the back of a classroom listening to grade six science will be in his best interest. As the classes transtion to more and more deskwork it will make sense to move him to an environment that will have activities geared to his abilities.
In our experience the teacher makes a huge difference in how well ANYTHING (integration, segregation, whatever) works. If a teacher does not want a particular child in their class for whatever reason they can make the year pure hell. Fortunately, in recent years, we have worked with teachers who welcomed specialson into their classes and worked with the team to create an environment that would work both for specialson and the other kids in the class.
Ironically the worst year we had with specialson was his final year in a segregated environment before moving him to our neighbourhood school (where he is integrated). I think it probably had a great deal to do with a personality clash...this particular teacher seemed to struggle with her role and, in my opinion, clearly overstepped her boundaries at time. She felt comfortable making decisions that rightly belonged to either me (the parent) or in some cases the medical team. For example, she decided that an appropriate goal one year would be that specialson would learn to swallow. Specialson is maintained on a feeding tube and putting anything in his mouth was a direct route to his lungs and a lung infection. Needless to say we had issues here.
For us the straw the broke the camel's back (with this particular teacher) was an issue with specialson's nurse (I am venting now!). Specialson has a nurse that is assigned to him. She seemed to believe that the nurse was assigned to her class and that she could direct her away from specialson. We had meetings with the school and nursing agency to address this idea but continued to have difficulty. One day, when she had directed the nurse to another student, specialson was attacked by a severely behaviourally disordered student. We removed him from this class as soon as possible.
So my rather long winded answer to your questions is that it really depends. It depends on the needs of the students, teachers and school. On the whole I am in favour of integration wherever possible. However, I have also found with specialson that there are limits to what integration can manage. The school board has very finite resources and kids like specialson demand huge supports. I would love to keep specialson in our neighbourhood school until grade eight but I don't see it happening. The school simply won't be able to meet his needs for much longer and I am a realist.
I was hoping you'd respond, Specialmom. As an educator, it's nice to see things from the parent's perspective too.
For example, she decided that an appropriate goal one year would be that specialson would learn to swallow.
Well that's plain bizarre, specialmom...
I've only had experience with 2 special needs students in my boys classrooms. An autistic boy that I taught Sunday School to was a great experience for my son and also for the autistic boy. It didn't work for him once he became a teenager and had some behavioral problems due to hormonal changes. Although many teens express themselves oddly during this time, Steven couldn't cope with the noisy classroom.
The second student in elementary was severely challenged and there was no scholastic benefit for her classroom attendance but there may have been a social benefit for her...I'm not sure as I didn't know her or her mom well enough to discern that. The students, though, learned tolerance in this area with a great teacher...so I was glad she was in my son's classroom. I don't think she attended a main stream program after elementary.
Is this good for the child
It would depend on the child and the classroom teacher's ability to raise peer awareness. Like adults kids can be understanding of obvious special needs. They see Billy in a wheelchair they understand that Billy is different in someway. They see Billy in a rage they just think that he is nuts or worse, badly behaved.
Sadly there are some educational professionals who are deficient in this regard. Thinking that all "mental" issues are behaviour problems. It has gotten to the point where I wanted to explode and demo a classroom just to show what really bad behaviour looks like.
The support required really goes beyond what happens in the classroom, it is systematic. If the School Administrator is a doofus you are probably better served by moving to another school. If that isn't an option contact the local human rights tribunal. The next time you have a meeting with "officials" invite the human rights tribunal to send an observer. That really gets peoples attention.
You do not need to proceed with an actual human rights hearing.
Nobody was much help in NL until we brought one along and I started going through the education act line by line offering interpretation and challenging what the weasel administrator from the Board office was feeding us. Of course, my wife being a Special Educator herself employed by the Board was able to steer me to the most appropriate legislation.
Oddly, everyone got all conciliatory and helpful like,
It was weird.
We left as soon as possible. The doctors weren't a great deal of help either.
Again, it depends on how helpful everyone decides to be. If the teacher and administrator don't model helpfulness don't expect to find it in the students.
Ideally it would be good for the whole school population. Special Needs students grow up to be Special Needs adults and Special Needs members of our community. They need to be respected not feared. Whatever their Special Need is odds are very long that it is contagious.
I have to qualify my answer here as well. Some people have an intuition that helps them work with kids identified with Special Needs. Some people don't appear to be good even with Typical Needs kids (We call them "Tips" in our house or "norms"--we have one tip out of three kids, of our two Special Needs kids one is challenged the other is gifted).
All three have had excellent teachers who were gifted educators and all three have had teachers that were gifted asses.
I suspect teachers are like every vocation/occupation. Some are in it for love and others for the money.
Depends upon the parents. Some actually refuse to acknowledge that their children could be identified as "Special Needs" while some insist that there is a problem when none actually exists.
Our son (Dual diagnosis of Bi-Polar and an Autism Spectrum Disorder) was in integrated settings until grade 7 but the pressure was mounting and the best childhood psychology we could get in NL refused to assess for a Bi-Polar disorder based on their belief that children never manifest it.
Since our return to ON our son has been in segregated classrooms with much success. He has tried some limited integration this year (at 16 and 6'3" he is still afraid of high-school kids though he isn't running into many that can tower over him). Of course within two days of our return to ON he was assessed for Bi-Polar and prescribed Lithium and we have seen remarkable improvement in his character and ability.
Our oldest daughter was in an integrated classroom and given the opportunity to pull out for a full-time enriched program which she accepted. She was the only girl in a class of 8. She is now in high-school and enrolled in an enrichment program which is being run in conjunction with our local Laurier University branch. So she is moving between segregated and integrated subjects.
Our youngest daughter participates in a one day enrichment pull-out program. They offered her a full time program but she has decided to stay with her friends.
My wife is a Special Educator and works part-time with:
-Hamilton Health Sciences Autism Schoo Support Program
-Our local board of education as a Learning Resource Teacher.
-Redeemer University College where she teaches AQ courses for the Special Ed Specialist certificate offered by the Ontario College of Teachers. (She has also written the curriculum for Redeemer's new AQ course focussing exclusively on Autism--it is the first the Ontario College of Teachers has ever offered.)
-Tyndale University College where she is teaching courses in Tyndale's fledgling Department of Education
She defends her Doctoral Thesis "Teacher as Therapist" at Brock University on November 14/08.
Not that I'm bragging or anything.
Grace and peace to you.
I wonder when you read this comment, if you can detect any patronizing intonation? It comes in the form of . . . "the parent's persepective too".
It is really odd to merely ask for a parent's viewpoint, when in fact, if teachers were taking directive from parents, they would achieve actual rather than virtual education of our children.
Now the disclaimer. Of course, there is no money in the system to allow the children in the classroom to actually be educated. The contemporary classroom works in a shit hitting the fan system. The shit is thrown out and where-ever it sticks is considered success. The rest can all go join those who "work with their hands".
So far, I have only 2 months experience with the school system, and that is in SK. That said, what I have seen so far is very worrying. My daughter is so bored at school already, that she is refusing to go. She drew a picture of herself going to grade 1 with a sad face yesterday, and I nearly cried. The school and the teacher have simply not proven very able to able to adapt to her. The best compromise we have so far is that if she can get the required worksheet done quickly, then she can get more.
This is french immersion, btw, on the theory that the language would help, but she is catching on so fast that it isn't making any difference.
This does not fill me with hope for the local school's ability to deal with our next daughter.
Ab - I t hought it was bizarre too! It was even written into his individual education plan...."specialson will swallow pudding during snack time". AAAARGH.
I'm not sure which is more disturbing.
That this actually happened . . .
That I am so not surprised that this actually happened.
I'm going to run this by my wife. I suspect I know how she will react (I predict she will flip her lid).
Small consolation, but when chatting with other "special needs parents" we have found that the school system is much more responsive to specialson's very apparent and observable needs than they are to less obvious needs such as learning disabilities. In addition our board tends to be very concerned about the liability surrounding Matthew's care and are very clear about his need for a nurse vs. EA. This has helped mobilize resources well as a rule.
My only real beef about our current situation is that sometimes the school needs to reminded that social inclusion is more than having specialson in the building...he needs to be INCLUDED. However, they are trying and have never had to deal with a child as complex as specialson before and I respect, admire and are grateful for their genuine efforts.
As well, like you, our older child is very bright. In the early years of schooling he spent time in programs for gifted kids at the school board. Why then they were surprised when these kids returned to their regular classes and were bored was a bit lost on me! However, in recent years we were receiving feedback that eldest brother was underperforming...which meant b's and maybe the odd c rather than a's. To be fair his teacher was very concerned and worked with us to try to address the issue. However, the school as a larger organization was not at all concerned. He wasn't failing, he wasn't a behavioural problem (yet???) he just wasn't meeting his potential and was bored with school....not a concern...no real need for intervention. Eldestbrother is at a private school this year. The main issue was the smaller class size which allows the teacher to be more responsive to the student's needs and interests. It also has an enriched curriculum. It seems to be working well and we are seeing an upward trend in his grades and his general interest in school (and yes, I am truly grateful that we are able to afford this option on his behalf).
I agree with your post. However, in our case we have found that our school board just plain freaks out if you even mention "human rights violation" or "human rights tribunal". They do not get conciliatory they get aggressive, defensive and just plain impossible to work with. I mentioned "human rights violation" on one occasion (ironically again when he was in the segregated class) when he was being openly excluded on a trip to the apple orchard of all places. My goodness, things went from bad to worse very quickly.
Now I am not sure if their defensiveness comes from the fact that the board has already been fined for a violation (I'm not sure they know I know that!) or because I am married to a lawyer and that makes them ultra sensitive when we throw those words around but it was a bad scene.
jlin...interesting response and I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with you.
On whole I found namaste's interest and response affirming and I felt as if she valued my parental input. And fortunately, on the whole, during recent years in the school I have that found the overall team values my input as someone who probably knows Matthew better than anyone else. I also, on the whole, found the front line teachers very concerned about elder brother and genuinely interested in doing their best to support him and us. I was truly impressed by their commitment to him when they were managing huge classes of 30+ students many of whom would have had more complex learning needs then elderbrother. Their commitment was impressive and for me, communicated all that can be good about public education.
However, I don't totally disagree with the idea that the school system, out of necessity I believe, does their best to meet the needs of a huge range of our country's children and hopefully is able to meet the needs of the vast majority. And a result, some kids who fall outside the median (very bright or have learning issues) get lost (don't stick to the fan to use your analogy) and this is a huge concern. I honestly don't know what the answer is. I am not sure we as a country can vote for lower taxes and thus fewer educational supports and then complain when the boards don't have enough resources to be able to address all the needs of every kind of child, unique or not.
Did anyone see CBC last night, They did a documentary on Autism.
I think for many teachers, they are pulled in so many directions that they can be overwhlemed by a class. A supportive school is essential for the child, the parents and the teacher.
As to kids being bored in school (Rev Matt) , it is a tricky thing. My kids have gone through the "I'm done " stage only to get more work. Not exactly what they wanted. At older grades they alwasy kept a book in their desk to read when they were done with the school work.
But again, it's a challenge for the teacher to try and juggle kids who do the work easily and those who don't. I also found with my son that sometimes he did the work fast but sloppy so we tried to assist with hadnwriting skills.
I still use the " tell me one really cool thing about school today" line when they come home. Sometimes it's a friend, a fact, a game..... but it gets them thinking of the good things about school.
the various "centers" that teachers set up. Encourage the use of the ones they don't go to normally . " today try out the science table and tell me what you did after school".....
Like others have posted I think there are times for integration and times when segregation is the best way to go - it should be based on the needs of the individual - with consideration for the teachers and other students.
My daughter's experience throughout school was that at the beginning of every year the school (all the staff that would work with my daughter), other professionals from the community, and ourselves would sit down and come up with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for the year. The process was not perfect, nor without glitches, but it did help.
In the earlier grades my daughter did not have an EA with her (we had no diagnosis, no name, and therefore the government offered no funding). The teachers accommodated her the best they could, and I did the best I could to help as a parent, both with resources at home and in the classroom. In the early grades she was always integrated into the regular classroom, with some resource help outside the classroom. As she got older, and we got smarter, we (the school, medical profession, and us) managed to secure some assistance for her and she had an EA with her half time. Because her disability has to do with fine and gross motor coordination, safety - in all areas, was the major concern for her. She needed assistance with mobility and with general tasks.
Academically she was integrated into the classroom until the beginning of Grade X, except for her time in the resource room. Once she hit high school and it became apparent she was lagging behind her core courses became "modified". She was integrated into the regular classroom for all other courses that were not core courses. For her core courses there was a special classroom with about 10 other students that also needed modification for a variety of reasons. The classroom was set up to accommodate the students. Some of the students were segregated from this classroom situation if it was required to accommodate them and their disabilities.
I think the needs of the student should be the determining factor for integration/segregation.
Hope, peace, joy, love . . .
Almost every child has special needs. My son with a December birthday was always the youngest in his classroom - and often the least socially mature. This was especially apparent the year he was put in a split Grade 2-3 class. His teacher who obviously did not like him complained to me that he was immature. When I questioned her I discovered that he did not measure up to her expectations in a situation with my friend's child who was 23 months older than him. My son was also very intense, obsessive/compulsive (as an adult he is still OC), and extremely bright and advanced academically. This same teacher complained to me that he was reading books meant for Grades 5 and 6 rather than those intended for his grade level. Even in high school, my son worked for the teachers who appreciated him, valued and encouraged him, and occasionally let him work at something outside the perscribed curriculum. He wouldn't (or couldn't) work for those who didn't like him.
My daughter was very quiet and lacked self-confidence. She was easliy overlooked - seldom raised her hand. Since report cards in elementary school were (and are) extremely subjective, she usually got Bs and Cs. Seldom did a teacher even try to find out that she knew the work. She just wouldn't promote herself.
My granddaughter is much like her uncle - intelligent, intense, with a mind of her own. Last year she had the perfect teacher. He liked her / she liked him. She had an excellent year. She's just entered middle school. I don't know how that is going.
My point is, every child is an individual. Every child needs and deserves special attention. Yes, special needs children need to be intregrated into the classroom, whether they are OC or hyperactive, ADD, or blind, or deaf, or crippled or have a learning disability. There are things that almost every child can do well if given the proper encouragement and affirmation, and things the the most gifted child might find difficult.
I'd say that the most important thing is a good relationship between the child and the teacher with lots of feedback with the home.
I'd like to just chime in & note that in my very limited (8 weeks of Kindergarten!) experience, attitude of the school and the teachers is key.
My son was diagnosed with Autism just recently, though we've suspected it for a long time. That "diagnosis' was the key to getting him aide funding. But, I always felt that our school was going to do their best whether he got funded or not.
We do our first IEP tomorrow & while I have a few small issues to bring up, on the whole the teachers & administrator have been overwhelmingly supportive.
And, it's nice to see that even though I've been away for a long time, all my favorite posters seem to have remained. Nice to "see" you again.
I'm dealing with the same issues, RevMatt, and in SK, too. Or have been for a while. Bee, my elder daughter is in grade 6 and the Tigger is in grade 2.
We were very lucky with Bee's first 3 years in class because she had experienced teachers who recognized that she was academically gifted but an asynchronous developer (emotional and motor development was normal for age, but ability to read, grasp concepts, etc was well ahead of age). This was complicated by being an end of the year birthday kid, too. It wasn't until we got a teacher who had no idea how to adapt for her in grade 4 that we ran into problems. Huge problems, exacerbated by personality clash. Very rigid, tidy teacher, flexible and messy, highly creative student who can, by all accounts, be a pain in the butt when she's bored and over-reacts to being shouted at. Anyway, that could turn into a long, sad tale so we'll stop there.
Saying that your daughter has to finish the work sheet to get more is a common mistake made with gifted kids. Challenging or interesting work shouldn't be used as a carrot to get them to do the work that isn't appropriate for their level -- I would suggest asking for adaptations to the curriculum. Chances are that the teacher won't know how to do it, so you should suggest that they bring in their learning resources teacher or consultant from the board of ed. We've had to do this a couple of times, and it is very hard to get them to take you seriously at first. Persevere, though, because it's what your child needs and deserves.
We're just getting into the consulting/adaptation process with the Tigger. She's well advanced in language arts and math so we're looking for overall enrichment and adaptation. The teacher is trying, but she's very young and hasn't had to do this before so she's a bit out of her depth. I hope they get it together soon, since the Tigger is starting to get disruptive and more negative about school.
That this actually happened . . .
That I am so not surprised that this actually happened.
I'm going to run this by my wife. I suspect I know how she will react (I predict she will flip her lid).
Okay in defense of the regular classroom teacher. ATA claims that the Alberta education system for teachers is far superior than the the teacher education system in Ontario. In undergrad this is how we were taught how to write IPP's. If specialson has to be fed by an aide then that would be on his IPP. After I got my Master's Certificate in Special Education I realized that this was kind of useless but classroom teachers are not trained at all in special needs so this would not surprise me at all.
So I have written similaar things on IPP's. Last year I never even read my IPP's and as an option teacher (and the only teacher on staff wtih special needs training) I was actually on several As far as special needs students being mainstreamed I think that it is a waste of time because the classroom teachers are usually not trained in special needs and it becomes a frustrating experience for parents, teachers, students, and the special needs student.
I have no solution at least not an easy one. Classroom teachers could go to special needs workshops but it is hard to implement changes in your classroom without funding, without materials, without administrative support, wtihout Educational assistants, large class sizes, and behaviour problems.
Timebandit - your description of Bee sounds like you know my daughter very well! :) Thanks for the ideas.
My 7 year old son has autism so this is a decision we struggled with. We're lucky as our school has a resource room which is one class with around 3-1 ratio, the teacher trained to deal with special needs; there's I think 8 or 9 kids from all grades (alot of schools around here have phased them out). Our first thought was that we really wanted to integrate him. He is not very verbal and has a very short attention span. He loves other kids and isn't violent but when he's upset he tends to scream as he doesn't have the ability to communicate enough (yet). We thought with an aide he'd be alright integrated but we were steered towards the resource room, with the proviso that if we didn't like it, we could try integration with help after 6 months.
I'm so happy he's in the resource room. He loves it, if things are getting too much for him they understand and let him have a break. They have their own bathroom in the room, which for someone who'll take his pants off on the way in, is a very good thing. They also have their own computers which is his reward for working. The thing I really appreciate is that his teacher can take the long view as she knows he'll probably be in her class again next year. There are 2 girls in his class who tried integration; one of them threw a chair threw a window in frustration, the other just couldn't cope. They're so much happier in the resource room and you can see them developing.
So he's in a comfort zone, he still plays at the playground with everyone else but isn't on display as much if he's having a meltdown. They still focus on academics and allow everyone to learn at their own pace.
Talking about teachers with a lack of special needs training, we had one day where the teacher was sick & the one aide who has been there for 14 years was also off, they put in a substitute who had no special needs training. Her plan was to teach all these children to read that day (for some reason). It was the first & only time my son ever hit another child. He got so incredibly frustrated, and the aides that were there didn't see it in time.
So I'm all for integration or not integration, dependent on the child's needs combined with the teacher's abilities & whether the child can have enough support in the class. Sounds like a fantasy world when the education department does what everyone actually needs!
Thank you for all the replies.
Time bandit and Rev Matt;
One mother I know took her child out of FI and is having a better time with her in English because it is just easier for the child to work at her own level in English without becoming bored and unhappy. Langauge aquisition is a different process than advanced learning. It is hard on kids who are ready to move move move it on up.
Another way of dealing with gifted children is to allow them to learn to socialize in the muddy waters of the intellectually not gifted , keep them hugely busy after school with extra curricular physical run till you drop stuff & also fun work books and quizzes, music of any sort, dance, and expect them to keep near you in reading ( I mean in reading ability). Do that & I assure you the boredom will dissipate soon and the complaining will cease to the point of dissappearance.
We do this with our kids. The youngest is dyslexic ( can't convince the teachers she is but she is) and this seems to work with her as well. Reading for her is so painful and so difficult that we are both screwed by the time she gets to the end of one of her books. If I didn't read to her from great books and only kept her reading at the level of her ability she would be so bored and miserable and have so little to grow on. AS it is she digs all the visuals I can throw at her and always has her nose buried in some book or other.
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