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Classroom Strategies for Inclusion and Accomodation of Students with Communications and Learning Disorders
7. Classroom Strategies for Inclusion and Accomodation of Students with Communications and Learning Disorders Tools for Getting Parents Involved in the Exceptional Education Process By James J. Messina, Ph.D. & Constance M. Messina, Ph.D.
Classroom Strategies and Accomodations for Inclusion of Children with Communications and Learning Disorders Introduction
Teachers in typical classrooms who are faced with students in their classroom who have ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), SLD (Specific Learning Disability) and/or High Functioning Autistic Spectrum often experience the following feelings.
at a loss for what to do
wanting to pull hair out
befuddled, confused and dismayed.
Every trick of the academic trade teacher have used in the past to contain and direct typical students seem not to work with these students with Communications and Learning Disorders.
What to do?
What is wrong with their teaching style?
What is wrong with the school administration which says: "Hang in there. Summer is coming."
There must be some answer out to help them include these students in their classrooms.
About Communications & Learning Disorders
What we know about Communications and Learning Disorders is that:
they are neurological conditions which keep people off track
either from having no self control (ADHD) of attention and/or impulsivity
or impairs their perceptions and processing of information (SLD) either visual, auditory or kinesthetic.
or impairs their social relatedness (Autistic Spectrum)
these conditions often prevent students from being organized, on target, attentive or focused on school work
We know that there has been a great deal of coverage on ADHD, Learning Disabilities and Autistic Spectrum on TV, in newspapers, in professional journals and elsewhere in the public eye. Yet there does not seem to be a simple answer to help deal with these students with Communications and Learning Disorders in the classroom.
Students with Communications and Learning Disorders often look to their teachers as being :
These students are frequently
with short attention spans
suffering from low self-esteem.
Students with Communications and Learning Disorders may display one or all of the following behaviors which tend to drive teachers crazy:
fidget with hands and feet
have difficulty remaining seated
are easily distracted by visual or auditory stimuli in and outside of classroom
have difficulty waiting for turns in classroom situations
blurt out answers to questions before being called on
have difficulty following directions and instructions
have difficulty in sustaining attention on class work or lecture
have difficulty in doing class work quietly
talk excessively to fellow classmates
interrupt or intrude when others are speaking
do not seem to be listening when being spoken to
cannot stay focused on a single task and shift from one task to another
lose things like homework assignments or completed homework
disrupt classroom environment
disorganized and lack focused concentration to get a task completed.
Students with Communications and Learning Disorders are frequently under the care of their pediatricians and/or pediatric neurologists. If they have ADHD they are often on medications such as Ritalin, Cylert, Dexadrine or Adderol. But use of medication alone to treat ADHD is insufficient as you can witness in your classroom. There is a need for consistent behavioral programming in the classroom and at home to assist these children to get better organized and to cope with their neurological condition. As the person on the front lines working with children with Communications and Learning Disorders, the teacher is in an important pivotal position to assist children to control their targeted Communications and Learning Disorders behaviors which are disruptive to the classroom and to their personal learning. The teacher is able to marshal and monitor resources to address the needs of the children with Communications and Learning Disorders in ways no one else in these children's lives can.
Parental Suggestions to Give to Teachers
What follows are some suggestions to help parents to help teachers cope more effectively with and to help students with Communications and Learning Disorders.
1. Get teachers and parents involved on the team to help these students
First : Teachers need to form a team with the parents of students with Communications and Learning Disorders. Teachers and parents need to engage one anther by using the IEP format of the Individuals with Education Act, for students with SLD. Or engage the parents by using the IEPformat of the Section 504 of the Anti-discrimination against the HandicappedAct, for the students with ADHD to have "504 plans" in school.
Second: Create open lines of communication between these students' parents and teachers, by having frequent telephone or face to face conferences so as to help accomplish the following tasks concerning students with Communications and Learning Disorders:
keep the line communication open as a collaborative effort
share information about the children with one anther
identify strengths of children which can be rewarded or reinforced in the classroom and at home
monitor medication management and identify when changes occur
mutual problem solving about Communications and Learning Disorders issues impacting the school performance of the students
develop a self-esteem enhancing model of managing the behavioral concerns related to Communications and Learning Disorders
develop means for daily or weekly monitoring of target Communications and Learning Disorders related behaviors.
2. Accept personal limitations in addressing students with Communications and Learning Disorders
Once teachers have accepted that they need to involve the parents of students with Communications and Learning Disorders in the academic process, they are then ready to address the classroom behaviors which are disruptive and disconcerting. What is presented here are only suggestions which will help teachers to feel like they have done all that they can do to create an environment in which students with Communications and Learning Disorders can learn at an optimal level.
teachers need to accept that even after they attempt all of the following steps they still might not be able to help some students with Communications and Learning Disorders to settle down and learn because these neurological problems are out of control in some students.
teachers need to accept their limitations in dealing with Communications and Learning Disorders. They are neurological problems with multiple social and emotional components which cannot be completely eradicated so that students are magically transformed into "normal compliant students."
3. Accept the students with Communications and Learning Disorders as people and not as a diagnosis
After being assigned students with Communications and Learning Disorders teachers need to refer to them as people and not as: "that hyper kid, the slow student, that SLD student, the impulsive one." The preferable terminology is: "students with ADHD, students with Communications and Learning Disorders, or students with SLD. Teachers in the typical classrooms need to:
work hard to relate to these students and not to their set of behaviors only
remember that students have feelings and emotions and that they primarily need unconditional acceptance as people from teachers
remember that these students' behaviors are part of complex disorders which have impacted the way they define themselves and has impacted how others accept and relate to them
try hard to set aside their own personal emotional response to these students' behaviors and not take their actions personally.
4. Teachers need not hold onto the belief that medicine should cure ADHD
Putting students with ADHD on medication is only the first step to handling the problems resulting from this neurological disorder. As a teacher, professional helper and motivator of change teachers need to remember that:
social and emotional concerns have come together to make these students label and define themselves as: "losers, dumb, unacceptable, misfits, boom booms, never will amount to anything, not as good as others, and not good enough."
medication helps these students to get some of the ADHD related behaviors under control, but there is a good possibility that many of the ADHD related behaviors have become habits which need to be changed
children with negative or low self-esteem will act like the "not good enough" persons they believe themselves to be, as fulfillment of self-defeating and self-negating prophecies about their potential, worth and value as people.
5. Teachers need to monitor the effectiveness of the medication on students with ADHD
There is no real assurance that just because children with ADHD are on a medication that the dosage, timing and type of medication is adequate to help them contain their targeted behaviors related to ADHD which are disruptive to them learning. Teachers need to:
work with the parents and children's physicians to monitor the effectiveness of the medications used
develop a daily log, if they feel that the medications are not working "the way they are supposed to work"
give their daily log as proof of their observations to the parents and physicians as evidence of the effectiveness or ineffective nature of the current dosage, timing and type of medication
in their daily log teachers need to record the following information:
if children are on medications and what dosages at what times are they taken
quantitative totals for target behaviors exhibited
duration and intensity of exhibited behaviors
time of day behaviors are exhibited
what activity in classroom or the students' day preceded the exhibited behaviors
what exceptional event was happening in school or classroom when behaviors occurred.
with their daily behavioral log teachers need to watch for:
trends or patterns: e.g., do these children, on a regular basis, exhibit more of the target behaviors in the morning, before lunch, after lunch hour, just before dismissal or some other portion of the day
do these children exhibit more of the targeted behaviors on the first day of the school week or on the last day of the school week or on a specific day of the week
do these children exhibit more of these targeted behaviors on special days in the school setting or when the schedule in school has been varied
recognize that this log and description of trends or patterns will assist the parents and physicians to determine if there is a need to increase dosage or decrease dosage or change time medication is administered or change the type of medication given
remember that for pre-adolescent and adolescent students who have been on medications for a few years, that the effectiveness of these medications may wear down so it is important to monitor them more closely which could result in them being removed from these medications altogether.
at the beginning of each school year, all students on medication must be monitored closely because if there is a weight gain or increase in body size, the dosage used in the previous school year might not be sufficient to accommodate for the physiological changes in the child
teachers can never afford to assume that just because students are on medications that it is sufficient or appropriate for them
use these log as an effective tool to clarify the effectiveness of medication as just one of the components in the comprehensive service delivery to students with ADHD.
6. Organize classroom to address the auditory and visual distracting stimuli
When teachers have students with Communications and Learning Disorders in their classroom, they need to recognize that there are visual and auditory stimuli which may draw away the attention of these students. Teachers might do one or all of the following to make their classrooms less distracting:
do not have any sound producing machines in classroom
insure that no music or sounds are audible when lecturing or when students are to be working quietly
do not have large multi-colored posters with many images or small writing on them, limit decorations to single objects with large lettering and do not put many of them in the classroom
do not have animals in the classroom
seat students with Communications and Learning Disorders in front of classroom or in study carrels
try not to do any distracting behaviors like switching topics suddenly or talking too rapidly, try to slow the pace of spoken delivery to these children
when making transitions in classroom activities do them orderly and calmly, try not to alter the tempo of the environment too drastically at these transition points
use multi-sensory approach to teaching a topic by which the students can:"see it, hear about it and touch it."
control the lighting in the classroom so that it is bright enough for the students to see the graphs, charts, maps, models and other visual cues being used in teaching
insure that the volume level is appropriate for all students to hear the auditory cues being used in teaching
encourage students to take notes when listening to a lecture so that they can write down what they are hearing and get the information through their tactile senses
allow students to tape all lectures and classroom presentations so as to assist them to capture what is being presented
insure that the teacher's clothes and accessories (jewelry) worn, do not provide additional distracting stimuli for students with Communications and Learning Disorders.
7. Involve the students with Communications and Learning Disorders in steps to address the target behaviors in the classroom
It is important for teachers to engage the students as members of the team to deal and cope with their target Communications and Learning Disorders related behaviors by:
letting these children understand the nature of the problem both physiologically and educationally and how it impacts the other students in the classroom
involving students in conferences with the parents to help accomplish the task of expanding the parent-teacher team to include students themselves
making students feel important and needed in addressing their disorder, which is negatively impacting their academic future
developing a set of auditory or visual cues which the teacher can use with students to remind them when the identified target behaviors are becoming a problem in the classroom
insuring that the students do not lose eye contact with the person making a presentation in the classroom
problem solving with students to determine what learning styles they learn best with, e.g.,
make an effort to provide class work and presentations with these modalities to let the students see that their input into the learning environment is welcomed and wanted by the teacher.
help children recognize the behaviors which indicate an overcompensation for not feeling: "good enough or different or not fitting in" which causes them even greater problems in the classroom and with their fellow classmates
point out that the following compensation behaviors are unacceptable and cause greater problems for them:
acting the clown
chip on the shoulder
braggart or big man on campus
inflated sense of self
8. Involve other students in assisting student with Communications and Learning Disorders to alter the targeted behaviors in the classroom
Teachers need to give their students an informational presentation on Communications and Learning Disorders, about:
ways to address these issues
how having these conditions impacts students with these problems.
how students with these conditions benefit from the understanding and cooperation of fellow students in addressing the related issues to these disorders
Use some of the following suggestions to involve other students to address the Communications and Learning Disorders related behaviors in the classroom:
conduct weekly or monthly classroom discussions to address the success in decreasing the occurrence of Communications and Learning Disorders related behaviors in the classroom
set up peer tutoring for students with Communications and Learning Disorders with other students to insure that they are grasping the academic material being presented
conduct weekly or monthly classes on self-esteem related issues about how people need to accept the differences in others and how they can extend themselves to assist people who are different from them
identify students who have been successful in coping with their own Communications and Learning Disorders related behaviors and ask them to be a "Buddy" to a student who is still struggling to cope with such behaviors
identify what behaviors other students in the classroom do which trigger the Communications and Learning Disorders related behaviors and work at problem solving how to extinguish these "triggering" behaviors in the classroom
set up classroom rules with the students by which they can self-monitor when they are exacerbating the environment to stimulate the targeted behaviors in the students who are wanting to change
have the identified students with Communications and Learning Disorders decide if there is a desire to involve fellow classmates on the team dealing with their problems coming from their disorder and have the target students invite their fellow students to participate on the treatment team to provide assistance and motivation for change for the target child.
9. Make accommodations in the educational setting for students with Communications and Learning Disorders
There are a number of school-based interventions which have proven effectiveness in assisting students with Communications and Learning Disorders reduce their disorders' related unwanted and unacceptable behaviors. These strategies can be adjusted for both elementary and secondary education. These accommodations make it possible to include students with these disorders into the regular classroom and experience success without negatively impacting the mental and physical health of both the teachers and all of their students. The primary reason for failure in inclusion efforts aimed at students with these neurological conditions is that there has not been enough pre-planning to prepare the teacher, classroom and fellow students for their presence. Inclusion is something which does not need to be dreaded if enough time, attention, planning and structuring of the academic environment has taken place. These strategies can be included in the students' 504 plans to address the ADHD and in their IEP's to address their SLD issues. Teacher should make a copy of this list for all of their students with Communications and Learning Disorders, to assist them and their parents in planning for their educational programs in their IEP and 504 Plan Meetings:
ACCOMMODATIONS FOR STUDENTS WITHCOMMUNICATIONS AND LEARNING DISORDERS
Check those accommodations most needed for this student:
ALTERING THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT
seat near teacher
assign student to low distraction work area
seat near positive peer models
use rows instead of tables in classroom
don't assign to open classroom setting
use study carrel
stand near student when giving instructions
ALTER PRESENTATION OF LESSONS
adjust work load (reduce rote writing)
use visual aids with oral presentations
give student outline of material to be covered in the lesson prior to beginning lesson
highlight instructions by emphasizing the major points
permit student to tape record lesson
provide student with written instructions concerning the lesson
give clear behavioral objectives
clearly explain grading criteria for all assignments
break lesson into short segments
ask student to repeat instructions
use high - impact, game - like materials
modify student's schedule
call on student often
give reminders for student to stay on task
ALTER TESTING/EVALUATION PROCEDURES
permit untimed testing
arrange for oral testing
have resource teacher administer tests
use short, frequent quizzes
permit breaks during tests
permit student to type tests by use of computer in classroom
adjust grading criteria
ALTER DESIGN OF MATERIALS
use large type
keep page format simple
use dark ink
use buff-colored rather than white paper to reduce glare
divide page into clearly marked sections
remove distractions from paper
PROVIDE ORGANIZATIONAL ASSISTANCE
schedule a study hall in last period of day
provide AM check-in to organize for day
provide PM check-out to organize for homework
provide lunch-time check-in to organize for afternoon
give time to organize desk during class
provide training in time management
provide training in study skills
provide training in how to take tests
use a schedule or day timer to plan for long term assignments
provide periodic review of student's notes
provide training in how to take notes
allow student to take notes by use of PC or laptop computer in classroom
EMPLOY EFFECTIVE MOTIVATIONAL TECHNIQUES
increase frequency of feedback
provide a daily assignment sheet
send daily progress note home
send weekly progress note home
periodically review the student's progress with student and parents
encourage student to use a computer at all times to complete school work
use a "response cost" for misbehavior, student subtracts a set amount of points from points given at beginning of each day which points result in a special privilege or activity for the student to participate in at the end of each school day
use time out for misbehavior
use in-class point system for positive behaviors, with points earned for positive goal behavior with daily reward experience at end of each school day
write sentences for bad behaviors
call parents if student does ________ (fill in what you want to be called about)