I say it over and over again. One of the main reasons we wanted Sabrina in a general education environment was so that she could learn how to live in the community, and her community could learn to live with her. How to live in the community is very important to us. That’s our main goal. Our goals for Sabrina’s learning are different from most of the kids in her class. Different, but not less important.
Last week Ken and I sat down with Sabrina’s team. One of the topics was how Sabrina could spend more meaningful time in the classroom. Her teacher brought up reading time as a potential area of growth for Sabrina. She spoke about Sabrina’s lack of interest in coming to the floor with the rest of the class for reading time- she prefers to sit at her desk and isn’t engaging with the story. She mentioned this as an area where she felt Sabrina could participate and suggested that we pre-read the Reading textbook to Sabrina with the goal that perhaps by Friday she would be ready to join the other children during that reading time. We took the book home and over the weekend we read it to Sabrina a few times.
Here are excerpts from the email communication that happened between me and her teacher that following week:
From me that Sunday: “Thank you for loaning me the Houghton Mifflin Reading book and for sending home the “pig book” for Sabrina… We have been reading her this week’s story “Mrs. Brown Went to Town” over the weekend. She was not interested in it the first time or two, but now sits through the whole story.”
From her teacher on Monday: “Sabrina came to sit on the floor with the early readers this morning. She’s never done that before. ….I thought I would read Mrs. Brown…Sabrina sat through 2 pages and looked at the book the whole time. This was a great step for her!”
From me on Tuesday: “Just a side note that Sabrina is now carrying that Houghton Mifflin reading book around with her all over the house and constantly asking us to read it to her!”
(Sabrina was home sick from school on Tuesday and Wednesday.)
From her teacher on Thursday: “Yay! Sabrina sat and listened to the entire story of Mrs. Brown. She smiled at me while I read and had eye contact with me or the book for most of the story.”
And so there it is. On her second day of being in school after first introducing it, she came to the floor with the rest of the class and was engaged with the entire story.
This little story says a lot about inclusion:
Her teacher saw an area of growth for Sabrina. Instead of taking the position of “She’s having behaviors and won’t do it”, she took a collaborative, positive, problem-solving position of “How can we help her do this?”. She used information she knew about Sabrina- that she likes familiar stories- and used it to find a simple teaching strategy to help.
Her teacher clearly understands that the goals for Sabrina may be very different from the others in her class, but that they’re not any less important. Her excitement with Sabrina’s progress clearly comes through in her emails. She cares. A lot.
Sabrina is participating on her own level with the rest of the class. She may not be able to answer the kinds of questions that the rest of the class is answering about the story. But she can work on a lot of her other speech and academic goals through this story, the same story her peers are engaged in.
Everyone talks a lot about the benefits of inclusion on the special needs child. But how about the studies that show that it benefits the other children in the class? The stuff going on here- collaboration, problem-solving, modifying the lesson for different learners- it helps all children.
Oh, I can go on and on. And I will in another post.
I’m just in love with some of the things that are going on this year.