Some educators and parents of students with special needs are unclear about what is meant by the term inclusion. Some think it is having the student with a disability in the same location as “nondisabled peers.” Some think it involves doing the same exact tasks or academic work.
Sesame Street figured this question out years ago. The girl in the red shirt in the video below (video set to start with her) was experiencing inclusion, not because she was next to the other kids. She was not jumping rope but was most certainly included and appeared to love it! (Note: “inclusion” is not defined in IDEA, so formally this issue would be one of least restrictive environment.)
Below is a genius representation of inclusion (not my idea).
It appears that inclusion is sometimes viewed as a dichotomous choice. For example, I observed the student in a school who was the most severely impacted by a disability sitting in a grade level history class during a lesson communism. This was an effort to provide inclusion but was he was experiencing proximity.
Below is an example of inclusion for a student with autism in an algebra 1 class. Below left is a typical math problem. To the right is one I created for the student with autism. It was designed to help him understand the concept of matching inputs and outputs without using a lot of the math terminology. In his case, the focus in math was on concepts.
Announcing 2 workshops for educators working with students with special needs on math. These are designed to be hands on, with immediately implementation and can be delivered to schoolwide or district wide audiences.
Identifying, writing, and monitoring progress for IEP math objectives that will support the entire year of math and that will allow all team members to track progress
Math instructional strategies that are designed to address challenges specific to ADHD, ASD (autism), and LD (learning disabilities)
Human senses are bombarded by external stimuli: smells, images, sounds, textures and flavors.
We have a filter that allows only some of these stimuli in. We focus on the ones that are most interesting or relevant to us.
Our working memory works to make sense of the stimuli and to package it for storage. It is like a computer, if there is too much going on, working memory will buffer.
The information will be stored in long term memory.
Either it will be dropped off in some random location and our brain will forget the location (like losing our keys)
Or it will be stored in a file cabinet in a drawer with other information just like it. This information is easier to find.
Analogy to Classroom Learning
Here is an analogy to what happens during school instruction. You are driving down the street, like the one shown below.
There is a lot of visual stimuli. The priority is for you to pay attention to the arrows for the lanes, the red light and the cars in front of you. You have to process your intended direction and choose the lane.
Other present stimuli may be filtered out because it is not pertinent to your task: a car parked off to the right, the herbie curbies (trash bins), the little white arrows at the bottom of the photo. There is extraneous info you may allow to pass through your filter because it catches your eye: the ladder on the right or the cloud formation in the middle.
Maybe you are anxious because you are running late or had a bad experience that you are mulling over. This is using up band width in your working memory. Maybe you are a relatively new driver and simple driving tasks eat up the bandwidth as well.
Impact on Students
For students with a disability that impacts processing or attention, the task demands described above are even more challenging. A student with ADHD has a filter that is less effective. One with autism (a rule follower type) may not understand social settings such as a driver that will run a red light that just turned red. Another with visual processing issues may struggle with picking out the turn arrows. Their brain may start to buffer, like a computer.
When I train new math and special education teachers I explain that teaching math should be like feeding a hot dog to a baby in a high chair. Cut up the hot dog into bite-sized pieces. The baby will still consumer the entire hot dog. Same with math. Our students can consume the entire math topic being presented but in smaller chunks.
My approach to doing this is through a task analysis. This is very similar to chunking. It is a method to cut up the math into bite-sized pieces just as we would break up a common task for students with special needs.
While waiting for my coffee order at a Burger King I saw on the wall a different version of a task analysis. It was a step by step set of directions using photos on how to pour a soft cream ice-cream cone. I thought it was amazing that Burger King can do such a good job training its employees by breaking the task down yet in education we often fall short in terms of breaking a math topic down.
This story parallels what we encounter in special education. Several people may encounter the same idea, image, curriculum objective, lesson etc. but have a totally different perspective (see photo below).
To meet the needs of such students we must work from their perspective and not ours. We must meet their needs. We must first take inventory of our bias and our subjectivity in how we perceive students, learning, doing math work etc. Here is a site, Different Brains, that I have not fully investigated but that looks interesting and important.
Painting the letters on the ground is a performance point for the person responsible for this task. The task was discussed at some other time and location. Performance points, as explained in another post, are the situations or locations or times that a person has to perform a task. For students with special needs this is where special education gets real. It is where the supports play out. For students with more severe disabilities, e.g. ADHD, Autism or Down Syndrome, most if not all performance points require some support so identifying these points is important and often overlooked.
Below are a list of performance points students encounter in k-12 education.
transition between classes
using a hall pass
arriving or leaving school
riding a school bus
transition to and from lunch
transition to and from specials
entering and starting class
packing up and leaving class
transition between activities during class
choice or down time during class
following directions given in class
retrieving, using and returning class materials
asking permission to use a pass
identifying appropriate reasons to use a pass or to ask a question
responding to questions or participating in class discussion
paying attention to presentations
studying for an assessment
bringing materials to class
organizing notebook and book bag
using a notebook effectively, e.g. finding and following examples
interacting with classmates in a socially appropriate manner (during classwork, free time, down time, in the hallway, at lunch, at recess) – note: socially appropriate would need to be defined with observable behaviors
empathizing with others
reciprocating in a social conversation
curtailing behavior when presented with negative feedback
greeting others appropriately – initiating and responding
identifying non-verbal cues and communication
Certainly there are more. Please comment below if you want me to add anything to the list.
In the photo above you see a contrast between how children learn and how educators often teach necessary skills. Children learn to ride a bike by actually performing the target skills. This is a performance point – the setting in which the child actually performs. In school students are often taught necessary skills in isolation, away from the performance points. Imagine teaching a child to ride a bike by having him sit at a desk while the parent points out all the steps for riding a bike.
Often accommodations and supports are provided in isolation or out of context. Students with autism have lunch buddies in a contrived setting with an educator leading conversation. Students with ADHD have a weekly time to organize their notebooks. Students who have trouble functioning in a general ed classroom may be pulled out as a result.
Below are a couple of examples of how support can be provided at the points of performance. The photo below shows a checklist I used for a students with autism in my algebra class. They would follow the checklist and self-evaluate by checking off each step as it was completed. They were learning how to perform necessary skills at the point of performance.
Another overlooked point of performance is in organizing a notebook. Students should organize a notebook while IN CLASS and on a DAILY basis. I use the rubric below to help support students with this task.
Dr. Russell Barkley, an expert on ADHD, talks about performance points for students with ADHD in his book and in his ADHD Report. This focus at the “points of performance” can and should apply to any student with a disability (and students in general).