Planning For Independence

 Accommodating Students in a Regular School

Placement in a regular school and class is an option provided for some exceptional students, in instances when it is felt that a student's learning needs can be appropriately met in a class of non-disabled peers.

Like all placement options, placement of an exceptional pupil in a regular class depends for its success on good planning.

Teaching Strategies

Following are descriptions of some teaching strategies that have proven successful for integrated students.

Peer Tutoring

Peer tutoring is an effective way of promoting interaction between exceptional and non-exceptional students. Students who are not disabled develop positive attitudes towards their exceptional peers as they spend more time with them. These positive attitudes in turn lead to greater self-confidence and a sense of belonging on the part of the exceptional student.

Peer tutoring programs can range from an informal helping or "buddy" arrangement to a more structured and closely monitored system. It is important that the non-disabled student be trained to be an effective tutor. Peer tutors may do anything from teaching academic skills to providing assistance in activities of daily living (such as getting around at school).

In addition to tutoring, students in the school may function in the role of helper, or they may become involved in co-operative learning activities (see p. 17). Both of these activities generally allow students to interact in a small group, often under the direction of the special-class teacher.

Team Teaching

Where special classes are located in a regular school, the teachers of those classes often work co-operatively with their colleagues in the same division. In some instances this may involve team teaching. For example, regularclass and special-class teachers may bring their students together to participate in a joint activity (e.g., a class in physical education, art, or music). In this way teachers not only share their respective strengths and expertise but also promote interaction among their students.

Co-operative Learning

Co-operative learning is an excellent way of including students with developmental disabilities in group activities. Co-operative learning is an instructional or play situation in which students perceive that they can achieve their desired goal only if they work together and co-operate as a group. Each individual in the group is seen as contributing to achievement of the desired goal. Occasions occur naturally in which students can help each other to accomplish a task. For example, Grade 1 children are involved in co-operative learning when they work together to create a collage, entitled "Our Pets", out of photographs contributed by all of the pupils in the group. Similarly, secondary school students are involved in a co-operative learning experience when they sell cassette tapes to raise money to take a four-day trip; in this case all of the students in the group contribute to the success of the trip by selling as many tapes as possible.

Other Helpful Practices

In addition to the teaching strategies, the following practices will help students integrate into regular school programs.

Positioning of Classrooms and Individuals

Learning environments for students with special needs should be located in settings that are age-appropriate and that allow these students to be visible, to interact with others, and to participate as part of the school community. Where students are placed in special classes, these classes should be situated within their appropriate divisions; for example, Primary classes should be situated within the Primary Division. At the secondary level, it is suggested that special classes be situated close to other "homeroom" programs. Where students are integrated into regular classes, their placement should be with children as close to their chronological ages as possible.

The location of individuals in the classroom should reflect the important goal of providing for their maximum interaction and involvement with their peers and should allow them to move from one area or activity to another. At times it may be necessary to consider special positioning within the class to accommodate special learning needs (e.g., a vision or hearing impairment).

Co-operative Planning

Open communication should exist between regular and special educators. It is hoped that teachers will pool their expertise, time, and resources in an effort to meet the needs of exceptional students. The joint planning of learning objectives, activities, and strategies will allow for consistency in program implementation.

Support for Regular Teachers

Support should be provided to regular classroom teachers to assist them in modifying their programs to meet the individual needs of integrated students. This support should include guidance from consulting staff, as well as classroom support (e.g., teaching assistant, parent volunteer, peer tutor) if necessary. Arrangements should be made to provide special materials and resources as required.

Education of Staff and Students

In-service training should be provided to both staff and students to develop an understanding of the special needs of these students.

Clarification of Expectations

A clear system of evaluation should be in place whenever students are integrated into regular subject areas and the curriculum is modified to meet their needs. Students should always have a good understanding of what is expected of them and how they will be evaluated, so that there is no ambiguity about where they stand.

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