When I began my special needs intensive training, the book you see in this photo is one of the main textbooks I was required to buy for my studies. I referred to it affectionately as my telephone book, as it was literally a pile of large, thin, loose leaf pages with lots of print. However, I have come to greatly value it as it has become a great resource, one I can refer to again and again in the days to come.
It is this text that I am referring to in this post: Teaching Students with Special Needs in Inclusive Settings, 5th Canadian Edition (2015) by Smith, Polloway, Patton, Dowdy and McIntyre.
According to the authors, not many people are aware that prior to the 1970’s large numbers of individuals with physical and mental disabilities were taught very basic life skills in what was termed relative isolation. This was essentially quite a dehumanising experience and pressure to overthrow this system grew. The normalisation movement emerged, spearheaded by Wolfensberger in 1972, and this led first of all to integration or mainstreaming, which meant that students with exceptionalities who were considered ready for general education were integrated into regular classrooms. Inclusion came after this in the 1980’s, and this meant that these students were fully included in the instruction and activities of regular classrooms.
Inclusion is based on the assumption that students with exceptionalities belong in the regular classrooms and are not just there for part of their school day. The move towards inclusion has brought a new focus on “empowerment and self-determination for students with exceptionalities …in order to better prepare them for the highest degree of independence possible” (Smith et al., p. 4).
I have come to see how these changes are bringing great challenges for regular classroom teachers in Canada, as they are now being expected to teach highly diverse students with a wide variety of needs. This is where the special needs educational assistants come in, as they are able to fully support the teacher by offering a wealth of strategies and other supports to students who need them. Ultimately, although the assistant works under the guidance of the classroom teacher, both work together as an effective team, providing supports for all the children in the classroom, so that each student has the opportunity to access the curriculum being provided.
Our training also included looking at how to offer strategies at the post-secondary level, assisting adults with exceptionalities in honing their skills in important areas such as finding meaningful employment, managing finances, building valuable relationships, and much more. I look forward to sharing further posts with you on all of these topics.
Thank you for stopping by, and please do share your thoughts and experiences of anything I have shared here.
N.B.: the term “exceptionalities” is being used here to denote special needs, either physical or intellectual, which require special services.