A Vision for Inclusive Practices: Start with Presuming Competence
According to Dr. Cheryl Jorgensen et al, “viewing students through the lens of a label may increase the likelihood of misjudging capabilities and barring some students from opportunities to learn what students their age are learning. “ Conversely she asserted that, “viewing students through the lens of abilities will increase the likelihood of nurturing individual talents and providing all students the opportunities to learn what other students their age are learning in the general education curriculum.” Research states that student’s must have ample opportunities to take part in a variety of rich, structured conversations—as part of a whole class, in small groups, and with a partner. Being productive members of these conversations requires that students contribute accurate, relevant information; respond to and develop what others have said; make comparisons and contrasts; and analyze and synthesize a multitude of ideas in various domains. New technologies have broadened and expanded the role that speaking and listening play in acquiring and sharing knowledge and have tightened their link to other forms of communication. Digital texts confront students with the potential for continually updated content and dynamically changing combinations of words,graphics, images, hyperlinks, and embedded video and audio.
As Program and Training Specialists (PTS’s), also known as Trainers and Consultants (TaC’s), here at the Intermediate Unit, we provide training, consultation, and guided practice to enhance school districts efforts in building local capacity to meet the needs of all students. We also support districts in their efforts for all children to access, participate and make progress in the general education curriculum.
In collaboration with PaTTAN (Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network), we are able to work with districts to establish Inclusive Practices. PaTTAN identifies that indicators of an inclusive school climate are:
· People First Language, where the child is stated first and the label does not define the child.
· Practicing Ability Awareness, which focuses on children’s strengths and interests to overcome barriers.
· School-wide promotion of a sense of responsibility and shared ownership for every student.
· First consideration with the general education classroom with Supplementary Aides and Services.
· Families are Collaborative partners in all activities
The law presently uses the term, The Least Restrictive Environment,commonly known as LRE, not Inclusion. This law states,
“To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities,including children with public or private institution or other care facilities,who are educated with children who are not disabilities and special classes,separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular education environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” IDEA sec. 612 (5)(A)
If a district initiates Inclusive Practices, a building team is enlisted including, but not limited to, educators, parents and administrators. The team completes a Needs Assessment, which is facilitated by PaTTAN and/or a Program and Training Specialist from the Intermediate Unit, and all staff responds to a Perception Survey. Based upon identified perceptions and needs, the team develops an Action Plan to guide the facilitation of Inclusive Practices. The Program and Training Specialists from the Bucks County Intermediate Unit and the Educational Consultants from PaTTAN work collaboratively with the district to effectively implement inclusive practices and to build capacity in the building to support the achievement of all students.