Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tools for the Journey Conference

I would like to thank Club 21 for putting on such a wonderful conference "Behavior and Social Skills for an Inclusive Life"!  The speaker was Rick Clemens who is the Director/Founder of Inclusive Education and Community Partership (IECP).  The main purpose was to train parents and educators on how to not only ensure that our kids are fully included in schools, but how to make that inclusion successful.

There was so much covered, but I will give you just a few key take aways that I learned.  Some are relevant now (IFSP) and some will be relevant when Sweet Pea is in school.
  • The more inclusion the better when the child is properly supported and positive.
  • Properly supported does not always mean a one-to-one aid as that is actually often not the best path since that can mean the kid is in the back of the room with his aid and not really being included.  The better option would be to have the other students helping when necessary and setting up the environment so that an aid isn't necessary.  This is obviously not always an option and I don't have a clue how to implement it, but it is good to have that as a goal so that we can be thinking about it when the time gets closer.
  • Don't speak about the specific disability label (ie Down syndrome), instead speak about needs and challenges.  Some regional centers or schools will say for example, "behavioral services are only for kids with Autism", but if our kids require the services, they should get them too.  There isn't anything in the laws that limit any services only to specific disabilities, they talk about when the services are required for a child.
  • After the budget cuts in CA they stopped funding camps and some other services.  That is fine because families without disabilities have to pay for their child to attend camp.  The key is that although the RC doesn't have to pay for the camp any more, they should still be providing the behavioral supports to allow our kids to participate in those activities.
  • Always put a behavior goal in your IFSP to help cover you in a variety of situations.  
  • Inclusion is not about changing the child completely to fit into the environment, nor about changing the environment completely to fit the child.  Inclusion is where the child and environment fit together naturally (think of a blue circle and a yellow circle and overlap them together and the green area that is created is the match area.  The goal is to have both adapt some to increase the size of the overlap between the two.  Match area must grow over time or something is wrong and not working properly.  When the matched area isn't growing, look at the environment first before trying to modify the child. 
  • Planning ahead is imperative as it is easier to learn appropriate behavior initially instead of trying to erase inappropriate behavior.
  • Planning ahead involves planning for the adults, child, peer & the environment.
  • During the assessment, look at the environment, needs, etc and maybe an aid is needed at certain times, but not 100% of the time.
  • Keep in mind what you are trying to accomplish, just being there isn't enough of a goal.  Having fun, academics, etc are ok goals and we just need to know what the goal is before we can modify an environment to help achieve it.
  • Priming is preparing a child for a situation or experience.  It can be just talking to them before you go somewhere to let them know what to expect or it can be more elaborate and include showing them pictures from the internet of the museum that you are going to and talking about what is appropriate behavior and inappropriate.  So many situations can be helped by priming the child before hand.
  • Try to participate in community programs that others in the child's class are participating in because kids play more together and are better friends when they are in multiple activities together.
  • "The mere diagnosis of a disability does not warrant more rigorous expectations of behavior for the child."  This really made sense, but it is sometimes hard for us since we don't necessarily know what is age appropriate behavior.  They recommended looking at an activity and seeing what other kids are doing and then looking at what your child is doing.  Ask other moms of typical kids if their child ever does x.  This doesn't mean that if your child is 5 that it's ok if they are acting like a 2 year old if when another child was 2 they acted that way.  It's at the same approximate age.  A 12 month old would not be expected to be quiet in their babbling in a public place.  That's not a free pass for inappropriate behaviors, but it is something to keep in mind as we run into those issues.
  • Goal is to have peers support child because friends teach friends.  Make peers aware of the strengths and weaknesses of child and what support they can give to help.  Be specific with how peers can assist child. Tell teacher that it is ok to discuss child's disability.  You have to waive your confidentiality otherwise teachers can't discuss.  Waive in either a letter or in IEP.
  • Ability Awareness: All students have their own strengths and weaknesses.  Teach about strengths and weaknesses of child with disability.  Elicit support and educate the students on how to help the child the best.
  • Create environments that facilitate natural social interactions.  If child sits by herself at recess, try to get a social club (drama, etc) created that child and others would want to participate in.  
  • Try natural friendships before peer buddy models
  • There is less downtime in schools so we need to adapt schedule so child gets the breaks she needs.  Setup smaller sections for child and allow them to have a break between activities instead of moving from one to another.
  • If you want to be kept up to date on how your child is doing in their class create a checklist with yes/no and fill in the blank questions.  Keeps it more objective.
  • Cole & Meyers did research on inclusive education results: 75% meet goals in inclusive settings vs 50% in special ed classes.
  • When learning a new skill mix in a challenging new task with a mastered one.  If addition problems are mastered and subtraction is new, do addition problem, addition problem, addition problem, subtraction problem, addition problem, addition problem, addition problem, subtraction problem.
  • If dealing with teasing: 1) Ability awareness 2) elicit support of cooler kids 3) turn to the no tolerance policy
Turns out there were more key points than I thought.  I hope this helps someone else as it was very informative for me.

Thank you Auntie and Cousins for watching Sweet Pea so Mommy and Daddy could attend the conference!

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