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Arielle Hobbs: This is Arielle and you are listening to The Think Inclusive Podcast.

Tim Villegas: Recording from my office in beautiful Marietta, Georgia, you are listening to The Think Inclusive Podcast, episode 15. Today we have Arielle Hobbes, founder of The Lion League, a fantastic organization that is changing how we build inclusive schools around the United States. We talk about what inclusion looks like in her family and how The Lion League is different from other social inclusion organizations. After the podcast, please stop by our Patreon page, where you can support our goal to bring you in depth interviews with inclusive education and community advocacy thought leaders.

In order to cover our hosting, transcription and production costs, we would like to meet our goal of $100 per month. Please help keep this vital resource available to everyone by pledging your support of $1, $5, $10 or $20 per month. When you pledge as little as $1 per month, you get access to our Patreon-only feed for blog posts, special edition podcasts and picture updates along the way. Without further ado, here is the interview.

All right. Welcome to The Think Inclusive Podcast. I have Arielle Hobbes with us today. She is the founder of a nonprofit called The Lion League. She has been a thinker and writer her whole life, but found her passion when she had to rise up and fight for her son to have the same opportunities as everyone else. Through her nonprofit, Arielle has curated a curriculum that teaches students how to be more inclusive with their disabled peers. Thank you for being on The Think Inclusive Podcast, Arielle.

Arielle Hobbs: I’m happy to be here.

Tim Villegas: Now I’m saying that, right? Arielle or Ariel?

Arielle Hobbes: Arielle. You are saying it right.

Tim Villegas: Arielle. Okay.

Arielle Hobbs: Yeah.

Tim Villegas: Perfect. We had talked a few months ago now about The Lion League and I was just really excited about what The Lion League was and is and can be. I wanted you to come on the podcast to explain to our listeners what it is and how it relates to thinking inclusive and inclusion in general. Why don’t we start off with what is The Lion League?

Arielle Hobbs: Well, thank you for being interested. That always gets me more excited about what I do, when I meet people that are excited about what I do. I’m super happy to be here and explain what The Lion League is. The Lion League simply is a free school-based program that engages students to be more intentional about including their peers with disabilities.

Tim Villegas: Oh, okay. How is it more intentional as opposed to…

Arielle Hobbs: I…

Tim Villegas: Yeah. I’ll go ahead and let you explain that.

Arielle Hobbs: Yeah. For me, there is a lot of programs out there that pair children up or they have mentors or buddies, but that is a … It might not end up that way, but it starts as a forced relationship, where you’re paired with this person. It’s not a natural friendship forming. It’s not natural interests of one another. It can be that, of course, and I think it has been. I’m not saying a lot of those programs are not successful. I think that they are, but for me, I just wanted something that really focused on teaching typically developing students more about what is inclusion? What is disability? How can we be more understanding and accepting? The natural stuff comes after that because if you’re more aware of what inclusion is, of what disability is, of the people around you, then you’re going to just … The friendships and the interest level is just going to be more of a natural occurrence rather than a forced one.

Tim Villegas: Okay. Help me understand how this would look in maybe just a typical elementary school.

Arielle Hobbs: Sure.

Tim Villegas: Let me just go back and say this isn’t just for elementary school. Correct? This is for K-12. Correct?

Arielle Hobbs: Correct. We have an elementary school curriculum. We have a middle school curriculum and we have a high school curriculum. Of course, they teach the same basic concepts, but we break it down differently for the age groups.

Tim Villegas: Okay. Is this something that’s done during the school day or is it like an after school club? I guess it could be both.

Arielle Hobbs: Yeah, it can be either. I really don’t put any restrictions on the school. My focus is really just to get everyone talking about inclusion. I don’t care how you do it. That’s one of the things that I say right away whenever I speak to somebody or somebody has interest in The Lion League. “We’re thinking about an after school club.” Great. That sounds perfect. “We’re thinking about something during the day.” Great. That sounds fantastic. I have one school that’s doing it … They’re hitting every student in the school. The counselor goes around and does a social and emotional curriculum. In that elementary school, four times a year, she teaches The Lion League curriculum. Every single student in that school is getting The Lion League curriculum. I think that is really, really cool. School’s believe in it so much that they make sure that this isn’t just a group of 10 students that are going to hear this. We’re going to teach this to everybody.

That just makes me feel good about what we’re doing over here at The Lion League. It looks totally different for every school. I think initially, I started it with the thought that it would be after school programs and students would really get together and have maybe … Obviously the teacher has to oversee and all that, but really student-run. We’re still at the beginning stages and learning so much, but counselors and the administrative staff are really grabbing ahold of the idea and the concept and the mission of The Lion League. They’re really wanting to teach it to a more broad group than just 15 students that gets together after school. I’m really happy about that.

Tim Villegas: Fantastic. I have a couple more questions about the curriculum. The curriculum that is developed, is that something that you wrote or that you adapted?

Arielle Hobbs: Yeah. I wrote it just from some personal experience, from some basic research. Each year, we want the curriculum to be different because we hope that we’re maintaining some of the same students and eventually, our elementary students will be middle schoolers. We still want them to be in The Lion League. The concepts will be the same, but we hope to come at it from a different perspective every year. I have a spot on my website where you can actually volunteer to help me write the curriculum for that year. It’s just a little committee that we put together. It’s annual because we want it changing every year. It’s only a one-year volunteer position. It’s very low-key. I’m pretty low-key. I just really want other perspectives when writing this curriculum. Not just mine at all.

This year, I worked with two really fabulous special education teachers. We just approached it from their point of view and mine. That’s where the curriculum came from this year. I write the bulk of it, for sure. Just like I said, a little bit of research and personal experience. I really would love for the committee to transform into something really beautiful that everyone’s excited about every year. Like, “Who’s going to write it this year?” I want that piece to become really exciting. That’s a new facet for us within The Lion League.

Tim Villegas: Okay. For instance, let’s talk about this year’s curriculum.

Arielle Hobbs: Sure.

Tim Villegas: I know that each school is going to implement the curriculum differently, but as far as … Let’s just talk about content because as far as for people who are not familiar with what an inclusion-driven curriculum … What the content looks like. Let’s say we’re in our first lesson or unit. Can you give us some specific content examples of what would be in that unit?

Arielle Hobbs: Yeah. There’s four for elementary school and there’s eight lessons for middle and high school. Middle and high school meet monthly. Elementary, we didn’t want to put that on the elementary teachers or students. They meet four times a year.

Tim Villegas: Okay.

Arielle Hobbs: The first one is inclusion. Just what is inclusion? Then if you’re in middle or high school, that second piece of the curriculum is going to break down, “Okay. Well now how do we actually apply what we learned last month?” In elementary school, again, it’s more of just a basic overview. What is inclusion and a little bit of how can we … There’s always actions on the curriculum for every single curriculum that comes out, whether you’re in elementary, middle or high school. Four or eight. At the end of your session, when these students are learning the curriculum, they have a takeaway. They have a piece of paper that’s a printout and they put their own action items in there. How am I going to apply what I’ve learned for the next 30, 60 days?

We really want them to come back to that next session and say, “I challenged myself to talk to three new students that I didn’t know much about and ask them questions,” or whatever their personal challenges were. Then we hope that they report those challenges. Then throughout the year, we’re hoping that every single meeting gets more rich because the students are doing and understanding and just having greater awareness as we go along throughout the year.

Tim Villegas: Oh, I like that. I like that a lot. I know that you probably don’t dictate this, but what are some examples of how schools are implementing this as far as getting kids involved in recruiting, I guess, students? Is it a school-wide announcement? Have you heard of schools doing school-wide announcements or school-wide flyers? Or do teachers have their eye on certain students and they go and they ask them individually? How does that work?

Arielle Hobbs: Very different across the board. I think some really feel like, “Oh, we’ll do this as a leadership … I already have a leadership group formed. Why don’t we just add it to what they do?” That’s great, too. Then like I said, that one school really took it another step further and they’re teaching it to everybody. There’s no option there. There’s nothing going home. Every kid is hearing our curriculum, which I think is amazing. That’s an elementary school here in Texas. I have another school here in Texas that has … It’s an elementary school, but they have some afternoon after school clubs. That’s an optional sign up. The club list goes home and then students can decide if they want to join.

I have a school in Florida who just sends out … In this specific elementary school, they do 2nd through 5th graders just because of understanding. I think everyone can understand it, K-5, but they decided to do second through 5th. They sent home the option. I think they made a little presentation at school and then they asked kids if they were interested. If they were, they sent home just a little bit of information for the parents to let them know their parents wanted to participate in this. Everyone’s doing it so different, but that’s what … I love that. I have a middle school here in Texas where it’s a leadership group and a middle school in Arkansas. They have a specific group that they get together. It’s actually a reverse inclusion situation. They use some of their special education students and then some of the reverse inclusion students that come. Then they’re all working on it together. That’s been a really, really fun one to watch as well.

Tim Villegas: Yeah. That actually was my next question as far as how students with disabilities or that are labeled as special education students … How they are really included in this process. Is that also up to the school or is it something that you are on the front end telling schools that if you’re going to form a Lion League, you should also be having students with disabilities in the group as far as learning these skills as well?

Arielle Hobbs: Yeah. It’s suggested and it’s pushed on my end. I can’t make anybody do anything on their end.

Tim Villegas: Right.

Arielle Hobbs: For us, we definitely, definitely want full inclusion, even in a Lion League because it’s so much more rich when we do have students with all different types of differences, whether it’s disability or it’s race or it’s background. I think that that becomes really, really cool because they can all speak from different places. It is more than suggested that they have students with disabilities in The Lion League groups.

Tim Villegas: Yeah, that’s awesome. I love it. I guess let’s talk about your personal experience in the why of … Why you started The Lion League. In our introduction, we talked about you rising up and fighting for your son. Maybe tell us specifically what happened and why did you start The Lion League?

Arielle Hobbs: Absolutely. It was an unfortunate experience, but turned into me really finding my passion, so I’m grateful. I have three kids. My middle son is eight and he has an intellectual disability and he is nonverbal. We signed him up when he was in first grade for a kinder-first basketball thing. Kinder-first grade basketball. Very chill. It’s supposed to be just super fun. We thought, “This would be perfect for him. He loves basketball.” I called the local sports league in our area and just said, “Hey, are you inclusive?” They said, “Yeah, we’re totally inclusive.” I said, “That’s fantastic. Let me tell you a little bit about my son. I think he’s going to need a person to maybe come alongside him a little bit because he doesn’t understand basic directions sometimes.” I just gave him a little overview of him.

They said, “Yeah, this is great. We would love to have him.” I paid my money. We brought him that first time and nobody even said hello to us. I thought, “Well, that’s a little odd,” because all the other parents just threw their kids into the gym and they sat on the bleachers. I stayed with Sullivan on the gym floor and we found that they started and nobody still spoke to us. I tried to worm my way over to the coach and introduce myself and she didn’t seem very interested in speaking to me. Sully ended up playing a little bit of basketball. Then the coach was walking around, checking on all the kids. I’m the only parent on the court. It’s very obvious that Sullivan needs a little more assistance than all of the other children. She looked at me and started to walk over and then decided against it. Just turned around and walked away.

I thought, “Oh my goodness. What is happening right now?” I didn’t want to upset my son, but I couldn’t stay. I was getting really fired up. I was getting really emotional and I decided to leave. We pulled out. I called them. You know, I told them that I need my money back and how I felt about them a little bit. I was just gravely disappointed in their lack of welcoming us, not including Sullivan and just trying to accommodate I’m in a very minimal way that he needs accommodation. Sully is very, very friendly, very social. I thought that they really just dropped the ball. I found that after that, I just stayed angry. I’m a very, very happy, positive person. This was not normal for me.

Instead of letting that eat me up, after a couple weeks of being angry, I decided that this was something that I had to do something about. I created initially what was called Pride Inclusive Sports. Pride Inclusive Sports was created to try and push this idea of inclusive recreation activity. There’s a lot of things out there for typically developing children, there’s a lot of things out there for children with disabilities, but there’s nothing that’s meshing the two. Why aren’t our kids playing together? For me, all kids should be playing together. That doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

In the world of competitive sports, it’s a very, very difficult thing and I don’t look at it the way that a lot of people do. I completely failed with my first mission of trying to include people in recreation. Really, truly just totally bombed. The sports went really well, actually. For two and a half years, we had wonderful special needs disability programming for … It was fantastic. We had soccer. We had swimming. We had all of these different things, but in the end, there was no parents of typically developing children that would sign up their kids for our activities.

After two years, I decided to take a step back and just say, “What am I missing? I’m obviously missing something. I’m segregating the community that I’m trying to include, so I’m failing miserably at doing what I intended to do.” Through this, I took a break. I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue what I was doing. In this time is when I decided, “No, I’m not going to stop what I’m doing. I’m going to change what I’m doing and I’m going to educate people on inclusion and disability because obviously they don’t understand.” I was in a place of passion and that’s where The Lion League was created, specifically with my son in mind, but obviously with the benefit of hopefully affecting the lives of all people and the disability community in general.

Tim Villegas: Right. Now in seeing all of that about the segregation that happens with just sports in general, because you have sports that are so competitive, it’s such a competitive world, the sports world, especially for kids. You sign your kid up for Little League and it’s just a … It’s very intense.

Arielle Hobbs: Very.

Tim Villegas: You saw that when you created The Pride Inclusive Sports, that model, that it was attractive to families who have children with special needs or disabilities. Do you think though that there’s a place for special needs or disabilities-specific events or organizations? I know that that wasn’t … It didn’t line up with what you were thinking of what you wanted to do, but I guess in general. Right? For instance, Special Olympics. Or I know there are other organizations that are disability-specific.

Arielle Hobbs: Right.

Tim Villegas: Do you feel like there’s a place for that?

Arielle Hobbs: I’m a realist. I’m a dreamer, too, which is cool. I’m proud that I’m both of those things, but I have to live now and I have to hope for better. I think having a child with disabilities, I have found that spot. Right? I have to live in this space of, “This is what this looks like today, but I’m going to hope that this looks like X, Y and Z in the coming weeks and months and years.” For me right now, there is a place for the Special Olympics because I see firsthand how much joy it brings to the disability community. Last weekend, we participated in a Special Olympics swimming event and my son had the best time and just felt like a superstar. We had a wonderful experience and we met amazing people and everyone was having a great time.

There is space for that. Do I wish that sports were not as hyper competitive at this age? Do I wish that the world looked different and we could have kids playing with one another all on the same swim team? Absolutely I do, but I also feel like I have to look at right now. I dream about there not being a need for the Special Olympics, but I don’t think that we’re there yet.

Tim Villegas: I think that’s a really good point because you know part of my background as far as in the education world and what classrooms look like in special education. I feel very similar in that. I’m about to ask you I guess your opinion about the self-contained versus the inclusive model in special education.

Arielle Hobbs: Okay. Yeah.

Tim Villegas: I find myself thinking the same thing as in I have a dream and I have a vision that we can have inclusive schools. Those inclusive schools will look a certain way, where they’re … Like you said, there’s no need for the Special Olympics. There’s no need for self-contained classrooms, but we’re not there yet. Right?

Arielle Hobbs: Yeah. Just that.

Tim Villegas: We’re not. I used to feel really sick and bad about that because being in education for so long and seeing this disconnect that I felt like I was betraying my ideals because I’m still working in this system that does have these self-contained classrooms. I think what it comes down to for me is that I’m really in it for the kids. The kids aren’t the problem. They’re not what is holding us back, right?

Arielle Hobbs: Right.

Tim Villegas: As long as I have that in mind and just try to do what’s best for kids … Just like you. You’re trying to do what’s best for your son and kids like your son who need a little bit of extra help. You are trying to push people into what could be, but at the same time, you’re participating in Special Olympics. You’re participating in what’s right now available.

Arielle Hobbs: Absolutely. I would not deprive him of that. Yeah.

Tim Villegas: Exactly. Yeah. I just talked a lot, so I apologize. I didn’t mean to step all over your stuff.

Arielle Hobbs: No. Oh my god. No, no, no. I love it. This is the fun part.

Tim Villegas: Let me ask you, do you feel that same kind of tension as far as education for your son and what that looks like?

Arielle Hobbs: Yeah. It’s going to be a similar answer. Personally, I am all for full inclusion in schools, but in doing what I do, I’m so fortunate to meet amazing parents of children with disabilities, meeting individuals that have disabilities, young and old. I welcome this conversation always because I always want to hear both sides and I have heard both sides. I think when I first started this inclusion journey, I thought that everyone felt like me, especially parents. I felt like, “Of course they all want their kids to be..

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Rural communities are widely underserved in myriad ways. From a lack of educational resources to inaccessible medical care, rural populations are challenged to maintain what many of us consider a normal standard of living. When you factor in groups with disabilities, the obstacles to creating a stimulating, fulfilling environment mount even higher.

For students with disabilities, the lack of opportunity in rural environments can cause frustration and isolation. With limited resources, it is difficult to create opportunities tailored to the needs of children and teens with disabilities.

However, difficulty does not mean that efforts can be lackluster. It is imperative that students with disabilities be given as many opportunities as possible, whether physically, emotionally, or academically.

In the face of limited resources, inclusive programs may be the answer. As Ohio University notes, “Athletics can reflect the American civil equality progress … Athletic officials and administrators have the privilege and responsibility of upholding opportunity.” Inclusive athletic programs can create these opportunities for students regardless of their ability, which stands to benefit more than just the players.

Benefits of Inclusive Athletic Programs For Students With Disabilities

When students are segregated for activities, it limits the people they can form relationships with and creates friendships based on differences. Social skills will not develop as easily or readily when friendships are dictated. In rural communities where population density is lower, inclusivity allows organic relationships to form where students may otherwise be isolated.

Research also suggests that when given a chance to rise to the occasion, students with disabilities can accomplish more when working in an inclusive environment. For schools with limited resources, creating an inclusive classroom benefits both teachers and students.

The research study was academically focused, but concepts such as strategy and game play introduce an intellectual component to physical tasks and suggest that sports may have a similar effect.

Participating in inclusive athletic programs will raise the confidence of students with disabilities. It offers the students a forum to challenge themselves physically, and for students with autism, physical exercise can improve both mental and physical health. When students with disabilities stand to benefit so much from inclusive sports, the idea of denying or segregating their activities is illogical.

For Students Without Disabilities

Typically-developing students will benefit from participating in inclusive athletic programs by teaching empathy and improving a student’s sense of community. Students will also gain perspective by working with peers who have different limitations than they do. Patience and the ability to help peer coach with empathy will impart students with valuable life skills for future social environments.

Beyond perspective and patience, however, inclusive athletic programs model what inclusion should look like across a lifetime. Schools must invest into the character of the students and make inclusion a normal, obligatory part of education creates an expectation that inclusion will also be a priority in the workforce or other future ventures.

As students prepare to leave rural communities, the benefits of inclusive athletics travel with them, both preparing them for potentially more liberal populations in bigger cities, or creating expectations for the future of their community if they return.

Implementing Inclusive Athletic Opportunities

It’s all well and good to discuss providing inclusive athletics, but creating the programs is a completely different challenge. In the face of limited resources and the low population density typical of rural communities, it will require teamwork and determination to create inclusive programs that would be a benefit to all. Regardless of challenges, however, the community has a responsibility to provide equal opportunities to all of its youth.

Call on the Community

Inclusive athletic opportunities are not projects that can be easily spearheaded by one person. It will require the time and energy of many people to implement an effective program. By engaging the community, it becomes easier to determine what best suits the needs of the students, as well as what resources are available.

Volunteers, parents, coaches, and students will have to come together to create an inclusive, welcoming environment. The program will require the use of facilities for practicing and competing (if the program is competitive) as well as equipment and, optionally, uniforms for students. Community members may have the ability to provide, donate, or share supplies if the district is not well-funded.

Utilize Your Resources

To create a program that is beneficial to all involved, research and outside information will be necessary. Engaging with a community social worker is a solid strategy for addressing the needs of all students involved. In a rural area, social workers are called on to be “all-arounders” who understand and can cater to the needs of a variety of different community facets.

Coaches or parents who have had previous experience with similar programs will be an invaluable resource, as will the success stories of other programs. Of course, engaging students with disabilities in the decision-making process will also be beneficial to the students and the program — it creates an investment in the outcome and ensures students that their needs and wants are being considered.

Creating Opportunities

Setting up a program that fits the needs of a specific group will be a process of trial, error, and collaboration. Utilizing local resources is only the first step, and as programs become viable, constantly checking in and evaluating the program will allow it to grow and be successful for its participants.

If you’re looking for inspiration for starting a program in your rural area, consider looking at programs that are already in place in different areas of the country. Special needs programs, as well as inclusive programs, are available in various formats. Reaching out to one of these organizations for guidance, helpful information, or mentorship may prove to be just what’s needed to kick-start a program.

Reaping the Rewards

Creating an inclusive program will create a palpable psychological effect within the community. Students with disabilities will be afforded opportunities that they deserve and may not have had otherwise. In the same turn, typically-developing students will be immersed in a model for inclusion, fostering expectations for the future of their community.

Avery Phillips

Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.

The post Benefits of Inclusion in Athletics for Students With Disabilities appeared first on Think Inclusive.

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Segregated public schools have been ruled unconstitutional, and now, we live in a world where integration and diversity should be a hallmark of the school system. As borders come crashing down, societies and the global economy are becoming characterized by differences. The diversity agenda is being pursued by university officials, employers and parents who want to prepare students to live in a globalized world.

Fosters Better Collaboration

Diverse classrooms prepare students for careers in job markets with less and less concern for national or community boundaries. Through integrated classroom environments, students learn to communicate and collaborate with people from other backgrounds and cultures.

Diversity prepares students for success and citizenship in the global economy with its dynamic multicultural makeup.

Creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving are all fostered in integrated classroom settings. Being among people who are different also helps students confront and combat stereotypes, understanding the complexities that are found in the human race.

If children are educated and live in racially isolated environments, they can develop discriminatory prejudices and attitudes.

Academic Achievement

It’s not just racial/ethnic diversity that is required in the classroom whether at school or home tuition. As Brown v. Board of Education held that separate schools for black and white students are inherently unequal, the Coleman Report suggests that socioeconomic school integration could increase academic achievement even more.

Many sources show that diversity in the classroom benefits all students. Research has shown that racial and socioeconomic diversity in the classroom yields social and cognitive benefits. Yes, evidence has shown that diversity makes us smarter and students in integrated schools have higher average test scores.

Patrick Kelly, a teacher at Blythewood High School in South Carolina, has said that “both research and my experience show the link between quality and diversity in schools.”

Creativity and Confidence

Studies show that students can go further and concentrate better with people of different backgrounds working in the same environment. People with differing viewpoints have unique things to bring to the table, enabling more creative solutions. Contrary to feelings of danger or discomfort, a study in the journal “Child Development” has illustrated that students feel safer in life and school when they are educated in a diverse environment.

Due to learning about different types of people from different backgrounds and cultures, they become more comfortable with these differences and with themselves.

Integrated classrooms can improve students’ intellectual self-confidence. Research on diversity at the college level shows that when students have positive experiences interacting with students of other backgrounds and view the racial and cultural climate on-campus as affirming, they emerge with greater confidence in their academic abilities.

Organize a cultural fair. Sound out when you notice educators biased towards different student groups. Check in on whether there is a racial bias at the school staff and faculty level. When we help our students begin to understand how diversity is important and to celebrate our differences, we’ll see them slowly excel and achieve so much more.

References:

The Benefits of Socioeconomically and Racially Integrated Schools and Classrooms (n.d.). Retrieved from https://tcf.org/content/facts/the-benefits-of-socioeconomically-and-racially-integrated-schools-and-classrooms/

Geraldine Lee

Geraldine is an education writer, currently serving on the content team at Yodaa, a Singapore ed-tech startup. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business and Literary Studies. In her free time, she researches on parenting issues, education tips and technological trends.

The post The Benefits of Racial Diversity in the Classroom appeared first on Think Inclusive.

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“Almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by having high expectations for such children and ensuring their access to the general education curriculum in the regular classroom, to the maximum extent possible.”

Most parents of students with Down syndrome have heard a variation of the quote above, especially if you’ve tried fighting for inclusion. I assumed this statement was just hyperbole. I figured there was some truth in it, but that there was probably just as much research showing self-contained classes were more beneficial than inclusion. At least that’s what most school districts and even many parents would have you believe.

Imagine my surprise then, when I read the EXACT quote above in the introduction to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (read it for yourself right here). The actual law, supported by both Democrats and Republicans, states that a regular classroom with proper supports is best for ALL students with disabilities. I was a bit taken back, and wanted to know more about this research the law touted.

What I found was even more surprising. Did you know there’s not one quantitative research study, since research began on the topic, that shows an academic advantage for students with intellectual disabilities in separate settings? None! Zip! Nada! Here’s the research study citation to prove it: Falvey, Mary A. (Spring 2004) Toward realization of the least restrictive educational environments for severely handicapped students. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities. 29 (1), 9-10. 

Luckily, I’ve learned a lot more about the research that supports proper inclusion for students with even the most severe disabilities as part of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates Special Education Training. It’s a year-long course I’m taking to prepare for my own son’s entry into public education, as well as to fulfill my goal to help other families advocate for inclusion for their child. The information below is credited to the amazing Selene Almazan, special education lawyer who specializes in the least restrictive environment.

In the area of IEP quality, time of engagement, and individual supports:

1. In a 1992 quantitative study, Hunt and Farron-Davis found a significant increase in Individualized Education Plan (IEP) quality in measures of age appropriateness, functionality, and generalizations when students were moved from a self-contained classroom to a general education classroom. This was true even when the special educator stayed the same and moved with the child into the least restrictive environment. Experts interpret this to mean that there’s nothing going on within the four walls of a self-contained classroom that provides value and quality when stacked up against general education classroom settings.

  • Citation: Hunt, P., & Farron-Davis, F. (1992). A preliminary investigation of IEP quality and content associated with placement in general education versus special education. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicapps, 17 (4), 247-253.

2. Two years later, the same researchers looked at engagement of students with severe disabilities within general education. They found that there was an increase in the amount of instruction for functional activities for students with severe disabilities within general education compared to self-contained classrooms. Students in self-contained classrooms were less engaged and more isolated.

  • Citation: Hunt, P., Farron-Davis, F., Beckstead, S., Curtis, D., & Goetz, L. (1994). Evaluating the effects of placement of students with severe disabilities in general education versus special education. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 19 (3), 200-214.

3. Similar results were found in a study of a small group of students with severe disabilities. Some of the students were placed in general education and some were in a self-contained classroom. The study found the general education setting provided more instruction time, a comparable about of one-on-one time, addressed content curriculum more, and engaged in peer-modeling more.

  • Citation: Helmstetter, Curry, Brennan, & Sampson-Saul, (1998). Comparison of general and special education classrooms of students with severe disaitatebilities. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 33, 216-227.
In the area of non-academic time and individualizing supports:

4. A 2000 quantitative study found 58% of time spent in a self-contained classroom was classified as “non-instructional,” compared to 35% of the time in a general education classroom. The students with severe disabilities in general education classroom were also 13 times more likely than their typical peers to receive direct instruction during whole-class time, and 23 times more likely to receive one-on-one support. This challenges the common argument that students with disabilities cannot receive individualized instruction in a general education setting.

  • Citation: McDonnell, J., Thorson, N., & McQuivey, C. (2000). Comparison of teh instructional contexts of students with severe disabilities and their peers in general education classes. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 25, 54-58.
In the area of student outcomes and impact on typical peers: 

5. A 2001 study out of Indiana looked at academic progress for students with disabilities in general education and self-contained classrooms over two years. 47.1% of students with disabilities in general education made progress in math, compared to 34% in self-contained classes. Reading progress was comparable in both settings. Interestingly, the study found typical peers made higher gains in math when students with disability were present. Researchers hypothesized that extra help and supports in these classes created gains for all students.

  • Citation: Waldron, N., Cole, C., & Majd, M. (2001). The academic progress of students across inclusive and traditional settings: a two year study Indiana inclusion study. Bloomington, IN: Indiana Institute on Disability & Community

6. A study looking at the outcome of 11,000 students with all types of disabilities found that more time in a general education classroom correlated to less absences from school, fewer referrals for misbehavior, and more post-secondary education and employment options.

  • Citation: Wagner, M., Newman, L., Cameto, R., and Levine, P. (2006). The Academic Achievement and Functional Performance of Youth with Disabilities: A Report from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2). (NCSER 2006-3000). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International

7. Many schools and parents make the argument that typical peers may be negatively impacted by the presence of students with disabilities. Especially those students with behavior problems. But a 1998 study out of Montana found that inclusion does NOT compromise a typical students academic or social outcome. The Indiana study above shows they actually make more progress because of inclusionary practices.

  • Citation: McGregor, G., & Vogelsberg, R.T. (1998). Inclusive schooling practices: Pedagogical and Research Foundations. A synthesis of the literature that informs best practices about inclusive schooling. University of Montana, Rural Institute on Disabilities.

This article was originally published at Inclusion Evolution.

Courtney Hansen

Disability Advocate & Blogger

Proud military wife and mother of 3; one who happens to rock an extra chromosome. Disability advocate and blogger at http://www.inclusionevolution.com

The post 7 Essential Research Studies on Inclusive Education appeared first on Think Inclusive.

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Getting injured at no fault of your own can be one of the most challenging things to get through. This stress is only heightened when your injuries have altered your way of life. Not only do you have to heal physically and find a new sense of normalcy, but you must also learn to cope emotionally.

The road to recovery, often easier said than done, requires an in-depth plan of action to reclaim control of your life. Here are effective ways to cope with a life-altering injury.

Find Ways to Bring in Income or Cut Back

When your injuries have resulted in your inability to work, finances can quickly become a problem. The lack of funds to care for yourself and your loved ones can create a lot of stress and anxiety. Heightened negative emotions like stress can hinder your ability to heal both mentally and physically. Therefore, finding avenues to supplement your full-time income is the best solution. Some options might include:

  • Talk with an Attorney – Since your injuries are the direct result of someone else’s negligence, there is a real possibility that you could be entitled to some compensation. An aggressive personal injury attorney will go to bat to get you everything you deserve. Whether this means settling with the other party or going to court to plead your case before the courts, having legal representation will increase your chances of getting a payout. This may or may not include lost wages, pain and suffering, and the cost of medical bills and treatment.
  • File Disability – Though not quite as much income as your full-time job, disability benefits can provide some financial relief. After you’ve received documentation from the doctor on your injuries, course of care, and intended amount of time out of work, you can provide this as proof you’re incapable of working for a period (or indefinitely if that is the case).
  • Cut Back – While you wait for your disability benefits and to kick in or your personal injury suit to settle, the bills will still be rolling in. Therefore, you’ll need to find a way to live on whatever money you have saved up or coming in from other members of the household. This means running a tight ship and scaling back on costs.

Find Support for Your Disability

Coping with a disability is a tough pill to swallow. Realizing you have to give up a lot of what you enjoy doing. Whether it’s the inability to return to work, the difficulties in completing common tasks like walking, or the fact that you’ll never be the same again, the healing process is easier when you have support. Some places you might reach out for support include:

  • Your Friends and Family – Your friends and family are often the best support group to have. They know you and care about your well-being. Having them as a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen to, or an aide to help during your recovery makes getting through this grueling dilemma easier.
  • Support Groups – There are both online and offline groups you can join for additional support. These are generally groups comprised of individuals who are living with disabilities. You can hear their stories, learn from their mistakes, and be inspired by their triumphs. Having the support of those who know exactly what you’re going through makes you feel a little less alone.

Self-Care is Important

Though you’re going through a tough time emotionally and financially, you must remember to care for yourself. It is only when you are your best self that you will overcome these new challenges presented to you. Caring for yourself means doing things like

  • Making sure you’re exercising
  • Keeping regular doctor’s appointments
  • Following physical therapy schedules and routines
  • Eating a well-balanced diet

Getting injured extensively to the point that it alters your way of life is unfortunate. The fact that you’re unable to do things you’ve been able to do your entire life is nerve-wracking. As you go through the grieving process and try to find a new normal, remember to take care of your finances, emotional well-being, and overall physical health.

The post Coping with a Life-Altering Injury Physically, Emotionally, and Financially appeared first on Think Inclusive.

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Out of the sheer number of individuals aiming for the professional educator degree, there are those who would want to specialize in their craft. The will to teach is already a very noble cause and a highly-respected career path to take. And if you decide to push your skills further and educate kids with special conditions, the feeling is even more rewarding.

Maximo Nivel is an organization created to provide international education to three of the most culturally-rich countries- Peru, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. Since its establishment in 2003, the organization was able to provide high-quality education to a number of kids. It was able to host numerous volunteers and professionals as well. Simply put, this organization merely exists for children with the strong desire to be educated. It’s also for people with the desire to help and the passion to educate.

Fact is, there are people that wishes to utilize their skills to help children with special needs. And Maximo Nivel offers not just a simple platform for that. It offers you the chance to explore with the international special education internships.

Many aspiring teachers get to accomplish their dreams in the international scene. Why limit your experiences to your own country when this choice is available? Not only will you get to have the first-hand experience in teaching, you’ll also learn the cultures and traditions of many international communities you weren’t aware of. The chance to help schools from developing countries is also given.

Even without the professional teaching license, you’ll still be eligible for the position. To qualify for a position, it’s imperative that you work on your skills and acquire the needed requirements to prepare for your next venture

Basic knowledge of teaching processes and techniques. It’s preferred that interns have specific units in education and teaching. Hence, your degree should be closely related to teaching. But the most important thing is to have an idea of the basic processes and approaches used for teaching kids with special needs. This way, effective communication is established and it also serves as the foundation of your skills.

Having a teaching degree is not essentially required since a lot of volunteers don’t have such requirements.

ASL Proficient. Most students have hearing and speaking impairments. This essentially means talking about lessons won’t work and it certainly won’t create the desired result for the children. It’s required that interns and volunteers have mastery over the standard American Sign Language to properly communicate.

It’s not only imperative during lessons but on day-to-day communication needs.

Intermediate Spanish level. Spanish level mastery should be at least intermediate level. Teachers and interns are required to communicate on a regular basis. And even if you’re teaching English, the lessons will progress better when you can speak Spanish with ease.

Understanding is the first step to effective learning.

Passion and the drive to provide quality education in varying environments. Nothing can be accomplished without the passion to see through everything. No matter how skilled you are as an educator, if you lack the motivation and drive, the results will be substandard. Thus, it will not be as fulfilling as you want it to be.

Special education placements mean that you’re working closely with private schools. The internship entails working closely with a teacher as an aide or providing one-on-one lessons for each one. You’re also given the chance to conduct your own lessons. All of these contribute to your growth not only as a person but an efficient educator.

The post What You Need To Qualify For the Maximo Nivel Special Education Internships appeared first on Think Inclusive.

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There is nowhere I go in my daily life where adults call me “mom,” so it is with great wonder that it happens to the mothers with whom I work at IEP team meetings with regularity.  Now for some reason, I don’t experience that fathers are referred to as “dad” by staff.  It is a practice reserved for mothers.

As a parent of a child with a disability and a special education advocate, this practice used by school staff bothers me.  It usually begins right at the beginning of the meeting when everyone goes around and introduces themselves.  Parents will say their names, usually followed by “I’m the mom or dad.”  So for the rest of the meeting, everyone on the team calls the mother “mom.”

While the speech and language pathologist says “I’m Susie, the speech, and language pathologist,” nobody refers to her as “speech and language pathologist.”  People around the table call her “Susie.”

The cynic in me believes that referring to mothers as “mom” lessens their position as an equal team member.  Being the “mom” to my sons is my greatest accomplishment in life, but I still want to be called by my name, it’s Julie.

I have a solution for it.  As an advocate, I NEVER refer to the parents with whom I work as “mom,” or “dad.”  I call them by their names.  In this way, I try to model the behavior I would hope the rest of the team follows.  It rarely happens that team follows suit, by the way.

As a parent, when I am at my own IEP team meetings if a staff member calls me “mom,” I politely say “oh, please call me Julie.”  I advise the parents with whom I work to do the same.

Perhaps you are not offended when IEP team members call you “mom” or “dad.” I suppose it’s a personal thing, but having attended hundreds upon hundreds of IEP team meeting with parents, my opinion is that parents should be treated equally on the team.  You are a member of the team and, it is my opinion, you should be called by your name, just as everyone else is.

Julie Swanson

Special Education Advocate and Author

Julie Swanson, is a parent of a young adult son who has autism and a special education advocate. She is also the co-author of Your Special Education Rights: What Your School District Isn’t Telling You and co-founder of Your Special Education Rights.com, a video-based website that teaches parents about their rights under the IDEA.

The post Please Don’t Call Me “Mom” appeared first on Think Inclusive.

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It is easy to see the benefits of inclusive education, but there are some significant barriers that many schools have to overcome. Kurth & Gross (2015), highlighted a few including some possible solutions.

Click on each barrier to reveal a possible solution.

Barrier: No Staff Training

Solution: Early Release Days / Allocate Professional Development Days

Barrier: Not Enough Time To Plan

Solution: Common planning for each grade level. Consider block scheduling.

Barrier: Lack of Materials

Solution: Create a Book Room or Leveled Library (Access to all)

Barrier: Money

Solution: Move resources from self-contained classrooms to general education classrooms or pool funds together.

Barrier: Attitudes

Solution: Create an Inclusive Practices Support Team to encourage inclusion throughout the school.

Barrier: Curriculum

Solution: Advance the practice of Universal Design for Learning to provide multiple modes of access and representation.

The post Possible Solutions to Inclusive Education Barriers appeared first on Think Inclusive.

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The research is clear, inclusive education is the ultimate win-win situation. Here is an annotated list of some of the best research on inclusive education.

“Thirty years of research shows  when all students are learning together (including those with the most extensive needs) AND are given the appropriate instruction and supports, ALL students can participate, learn, and excel within grade-level general education curriculum, build meaningful social relationships, achieve positive behavioral outcomes, and graduate from high school, college and beyond.” – SWIFT Schools

Benefits of Inclusive Education for ALL Students
  • Students without disabilities made significantly greater progress in reading and math when served in inclusive settings. (Cole, Waldron, Majd, 2004)
  • Students who provided peer supports for students with disabilities in general education classrooms demonstrated positive academic outcomes, such as increased academic achievement, assignment completion, and classroom participation. (Cushing & Kennedy, 1997)
  • No significant difference was found in the academic achievement of students without disabilities who were served in classrooms with and without inclusion. (Ruijs, Van der Veen, & Peetsma, 2010; Sermier Dessemontet & Bless, 2013)
  • Kalambouka, Farrell, and Dyson’s (2007) meta-analysis of inclusive education research found 81% of the reported outcomes showed including students with disabilities resulted in either positive or neutral effects for students without disabilities.
  • Time spent engaged in the general education curriculum is strongly and positively correlated with math and reading achievement for students with disabilities. (Cole, Waldron, & Majd, 2004; Cosier, Causton-Theoharis, & Theoharis, 2013)
  • Students with intellectual disabilities that were fully included in general education classrooms made more progress in literacy skills compared to students served in special schools. (Dessemontet, Bless, & Morin, 2012)
  • Students with autism in inclusive settings scored significantly higher on academic achievement tests when compared to students with autism in self-contained settings. (Kurth & Mastergeorge, 2010)

Adapted from Research Support for Inclusive Education and SWIFT (2017)

The post What does the Research Say about Inclusive Education? appeared first on Think Inclusive.

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As of 2013, inclusion has become one of the hot issues discussed by society. Its wider notion is the ideology of embracing, and this notion narrows when we talk about a particular field.

What is inclusion in education? It’s the right of every student with special needs to attend their neighborhood schools and regular classes and the right to be supported to contribute to the life of their schools.

But including students with special needs into mainstream classrooms can be very difficult and challenging. These students often become the victims of bullying, which has recently become a burning issue in the US.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported that approximately 48% of students are bullied at school. Unfortunately, students with disabilities are included in this percentage because of the lack of understanding on the part of their peers.

But what can the teachers do? Which strategies to use to wash out the borders between children with and without disabilities in the classroom? Here are 5 major tactics.

GET FULL SCHOOL SUPPORT

Regularly talk to the principal and school management staff to organize school activities, which will unite students with and without disabilities. This way you will attract more attention of the school management to the problems you regularly face in the classroom.

Which activities exactly? It can be field trips which will unite all students together, or school picnics and thematic nights where you can discuss the problem of support.

Unfortunately, students without disabilities can be blind to the students with special needs. This way you can attract their attention and explain the importance of their support. This also may inspire students who are struggling to find their career path, to discover their mission in life.

MAKE SURE THAT ALL STUDENTS GET ACCESS TO THE TECHNOLOGY

In today’s world, it’s hard to imagine education without technology. The role of technology in education is huge, it’s the source of motivation, engagement and is the possibility for independent learning.

Inclusive education requires the access of all students to all resources, including technology. If the curriculum requires using computers or tablets during the class, all students should have the possibility to use these devices.

ENGAGE OTHER STUDENTS TO HELP YOU

How can you fully engage students without disabilities and help them better understand students with special needs? This is all about how you plan your classes and curriculum.

First, you can assign a student without disabilities to help students with special needs with their homework. This way you don’t only teach other students how to be compassionate, but they will also bond.

Also, during classes, you can also assign a student with good reading skills to help a student who struggles to read. Or also you can assign a student to help students with special needs to keep track of the deadlines and assignments, thus helping them better perform at school.

Bonding students through collaboration and help is a great way to make your class more organized and united. This way you will create a group of people who will stand for each other, support and trust one another.

ADJUST THE CURRICULUM

It’s not a surprise for many teachers that most of the curricula are designed for so-called “regular” students, without taking into account the specificity of teaching to the students with special needs.

Many teachers struggle to adjust curriculum for special needs students in inclusion classrooms. You may want to start with providing a calm atmosphere in the classroom, as chaos can provoke anxiety, which often makes students with special needs tune out and immediately affects their performance.

Breaking the program for each class into smaller chunks will help all the students in the classroom grasp the information better. Make the presentation of new material more visual, colorful and interactive. Explain with simple words and phrases. Embrace divergent thinking – all opinions must be welcome in your classroom.

These are only a few tips, but every classroom is very different, so don’t be afraid to rely on your creativity and intuition to choose what will be better for your students.

REMAIN POSITIVE

Your image is what affects the learning skills of all the students in the classroom. It’s important for the teacher to stay positive, even if you struggle to make your classroom a welcoming place for both students with and without disabilities.

Embrace their differences as they are all special. Show students without disabilities with your own actions how important it is to support students with special needs. Your actions must explain others that all students have equal rights and must have the opportunity to be equally engaged in the learning process.

And to conclude it all…

All members of the educational process, teachers, parents, students and school management staff should be equally interested in the successful educational process. This process should be based on collaboration and mutual respect to ensure that all students can fulfill their right for good education.

Lucy Benton

Lucy Benton is an editor, an assignment writer who finds her passion in expressing own thoughts as a blogger. She is constantly looking for the ways to improve her skills and expertise. Also Lucy has her own blog ProWriting where you can check her last publications. If you’re interested in working with Lucy, you can find her on Twitter.

The post How to Wash the Border Between Children with and without Disabilities in the Classroom appeared first on Think Inclusive.

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