Helping Students with Disabilities Participate in the General Classroom

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  • 0:04 Inclusion Defined
  • 0:45 Learn About the Students
  • 1:56 Universal Design
  • 3:11 Collaboration
  • 4:40 Have High Expectations
  • 5:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Derek Hughes
With the proven effectiveness of inclusion practices, more and more general education teachers are finding themselves needing to include students with disabilities in the classroom. This lesson provides some tips and strategies for those teachers.

Inclusion Defined

The practice of inclusion, or teaching and including students with and without disabilities in the general education classroom, has introduced a new challenge for classroom teachers. While students still receive special education services, they are also included in the general education classroom as much as reasonably possible. Therefore, general education teachers must have strategies for including these students.

This lesson peeks into a general education classroom where the teacher has had many years of practice including students with disabilities. The strategies Mrs. Smith uses can be applied in your own classroom to help you include students with disabilities in your instruction.

Learn About the Students

When Mrs. Smith learned which students entering her classroom for the new year are receiving special education services, she immediately begins to learn as much as she can about those students. First, she gets a copy of their individualized education program (IEP), which is a document created by a team of people to ensure that the student's needs are being met in school.

Consulting a student's IEP is how Mrs. Smith learns about the student's disability, how that disability affects their learning, and what services and strategies are used to meet that student's needs. With this information, Mrs. Smith can begin planning lessons and activities with every student's needs in mind, especially those with disabilities.

For example, if Mrs. Smith knows that a student is coming into her classroom that has dyslexia, she can plan activities that help her support that student's reading development. While that student is also receiving services outside of the general education classroom, Mrs. Smith needs to ensure that the student can access materials in her classroom. This might mean presenting information in a variety of ways or allowing the student to demonstrate knowledge through alternative assessments.

Universal Design

Mrs. Smith also educates herself about universal design in order to better serve her students with disabilities. Through universal design, lessons and activities are planned so that they are universally accessible to every student in the classroom. This means Mrs. Smith uses a variety of learning styles and instructional strategies in everything she teaches.

Day to day, universal design can manifest in a variety of ways. For example, if Mrs. Smith planned to have her students draw a picture about something they read in a story, she would have to include an alternate task for students with motor difficulties. This might mean that those students would use different tools designed for their disability or complete a different activity that targets the same skills.

Through universal design, Mrs. Smith accounts for various students' disabilities in her lesson plans. She might plan to use a variety of sources for her information (text, video, images), a variety of activities for her students to engage in (writing, drawing, discussing), and a variety of assessments to gauge student learning (written tests, oral reports, works of art). What is most important is that all of these are planned around the students' needs and abilities.

Collaboration

When Mrs. Smith first learned that she would need to teach students with disabilities in her classroom, she was very overwhelmed. After all, she was only educated and trained to teach students without disabilities. Getting certified in special education would have required a whole new college degree. However, she soon realized that she was not alone and not expected to work on her own.

As mentioned, in terms of a student's IEP, a team of professionals often works to ensure a student's needs are met. These professionals are not just there for the student, they are also there to support one another in order to provide the best service to the student. Mrs. Smith learned to make use of these professionals and to consult with them often.

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