How to teach students with disabilities
There are 2 student discussion boards. Please respond to each discussion individually. I also have attached a copy of the article, so you will know what the student is talking about.
The strategy I will discuss is facilitating inclusion with paraprofessionals. This strategy is used for Instructional Aids who are assigned to work with students included in the general education classroom. Barriers to this strategy according to Giangreco (2010) are:
- a constant one-to-one paraprofessional-student relationship that may result in separation from classmates,
- unnecessary dependence,
- interference with peer interaction,
- feelings of stigmatization,
- limited access to competent instruction,
- interference with teacher engagement,
- loss of personal control,
- and risk of being bullied.
I can relate to some of these barriers because I’m a co-teacher in the general education classroom. I try my best to help the special education students and the general education students. I do this because I don’t want the special education student singled out as a student with special needs which can lead to bullying. Giangreco (2010) proposes solutions to overcoming these barriers. He suggests:
- Reallocating resources-that is, reducing paraprofessional positions and increasing the number of special education positions
• Increasing co-teaching by general and special education teachers
• Improving the capacity of general educators to include students with disabilities
- Using transitional paraprofessional pools-that is, using short-term, targeted assignments for a roving staff of paraprofessionals
• Changing paraprofessional roles from one-to-one assignments to working with the entire classroom
• Reducing special educators’ caseloads to increase their opportunity to provide support in the classroom
• Using peer supports instead of paraprofessionals
I think the first suggestion is not an easy task due to the high number of vacancies that exist among special education teachers. At my school, we do our best to include our special education students as much as possible in the general education setting, or the least restrictive environment which is the law. When we schedule our special education teachers with general education teachers, we try to find the ones who are tolerant, patient, and who really care about the students. It is a shame that all teachers aren’t involved in the teaching of these students because of their unwillingness to do what is necessary to ensure these children get educated in the least restrictive environment. Our paraprofessionals are crucial in their role. They need to know that their presence does not mean give answers but rather give the student the tools they need to be successful. I’ve seen paraprofessionals read tests out loud, then point out the correct answer on a test. I’m a firm believer in the gradual release of responsibility, instead of the teacher or paraprofessional doing all the work, put the responsibility on the student. Not only is this effective instruction, but it is also best practice.
2. I will be discussing the roles and duties of a paraprofessional.
First, as a convenient refresher and reference, here is the table from the reading on collaboration with paraprofessionals (Westling, Fox, & Carter, p. 56):
TABLE 3-4 Activities Carried Out by Paraprofessionals under Teacher Supervision
• Supervise individuals and small groups in classrooms, other school settings, and community settings
• Position, lift, and carry students with physical disabilities
• Carry out self-care, feeding, dressing, and toileting programs
• Help to prepare materials and arrange the classroom for learning activities
• Be responsible for keeping the classroom neat and orderly and clean material and equipment when necessary
• Assist in preparing materials, bulletin boards, adaptive equipment, classroom furniture, and the like
• Collect student performance data
• Help to implement positive behavioral support plans and respond to inappropriate behavior appropriately
• Intervene in medical emergencies and contact an appropriate individual for emergency medical services
• Communicate positively with students with and without disabilities and with professional and paraprofessional personnel
• Assist students with mobility needs and transportation
• Provide instruction and assistance to individuals or groups
• Engage in clerical tasks to free teachers to spend more instructional time with students
The specific strategy is using empathy and compassion in getting to know your SPTA (Specialized Programs Teaching Assistant) to “make use of their unique paraprofessional strengths.” I have had several SPTA’s in my 14 years as a special education teacher, in two different self-contained classifications/programs — SLD (Specialized Learning Disability) and POST (Post-secondary Opportunities for Students in Transition). Both environments were similar in the expectation of duties above, with the exception of “Carry out self-care, feeding, dressing, and toileting programs” which was not part of my SLD classroom. In my current position in POST, both myself and my SPTA have had occasion to perform that duty, although it is not commonplace to POST.
There are many benefits to better understanding your SPTA, chief among them is the aspect that your improved relationship together will enhance the atmosphere of familiarity and unity in the classroom which in turn will increase the students involvement and participation. Everyone wants to be in a place where they are welcome and feel “at home.” And…it’s always best to make your work place a happy, fun place. The biggest benefit is learning about your SPTA’s strengths and incorporating them into the classroom. For example, I had a SPTA who was studying to be a graphic designer–she was a great artist (drawings, charcoal, colors) as well as quite proficient in graphic design programs (Illustrator, Photoshop, desktop publishers, etc.). It was her pleasure as well as work. We incorporated her interest into the classroom by having her create a wall mural, produce a cookbook from our weekly cooking activities (pictures of the students learning cooking skills along with the recipes of the meals we made that school year), and making a class website. In addition, she was Latino and spoke Spanish, which was a huge help as 80% of my student’s parents over the years only speak Spanish (and I do not!).
Some barriers to using this strategy is finding the time to sit down and have a good conversation–the school day is always busy! Additionally, for most people, it takes time to open up with others. You have to establish a level of trust before having a true ‘heart-to-heart’ or even a ‘friend-to-friend’ or ‘colleague’ to ‘colleague.’ Some ways to overcome these barriers are by just the passing of time…time to learn about each other, get comfortable with each other, seeing each other in stressful & relaxing situations, etc. There is no single magic bullet “answer” to employing this strategy and getting to know your SPTA better. You have to be willing to open yourself up, share feelings and emotions, and know how to ‘agree to disagree’ yet chart a united front in lessons and communication with the students.
In summary, the table referenced above from the reading is a good list of things for SPTAs to be able to do, however, to maximize the potential of what a SPTA can offer it is preferable to have them share their strengths/abilities of interest within the classroom studies and activities.
Thanks everyone, in advance, for participating in my sharing of this.
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