“Worst practices in inclusion” include:
• Insisting on inclusion at all costs.
• Settling for a mere physical presence in the classroom.
• Giving priority to the inclusive education model over the individual needs of children.
• Providing little or no training to staff.
• Keeping the paraprofessional out of the loop.
• Teaching rote information so that the student can pass mandated tests instead of teaching needed skills.
• Watering down curriculum.
• Failing to teach peers about the nature of disabilities and how to interact with peers who have a disability.
Daniel walks into his kindergarten classroom and drops his outerwear, backpack, and bus harness in a tangled heap in the middle of the floor. Daniel has a singular focus this morning: building a bridge and a house out of Lincoln Logs.
He does not notice as classmates step around or over him as he plays on the hard floor. If other children move into his space, he pushes them away. One or two children greet him, but he does not answer. Daniel keeps up a running dialogue as he plays, in jargon rarely understandable to anyone but himself.
Daniel’s educational aide approaches him and, using a handmade schedule book with symbolic pictures, shows Daniel that this is not the time for playing. The first picture on the schedule is a locker, indicating that Daniel is to hang up his coat and backpack. Transitions to new activities are very difficult for Daniel, and he begins to scream and kick. Other children watch quietly or walk away.
Daniel is autistic. He is charming, intelligent, creative, and full of energy, just like his 18 classmates. However, he is unable to use language to interact with others. His rare attempts at communication are through imitation and usually in only one or two words. Teachers and aides communicate with Daniel using a combination of picture symbols and words, since children with autism learn best visually. Like other children with autism, Daniel would not understand the activities of the day without his schedule book. When events change and the day does not correspond to his schedule, Daniel may lose control and throw a tantrum. He requires the support of an educational assistant every minute of the school day. Continue reading