In the coming months as we at Handicap This Productions prepare to release the innovative Making Minds Handicap Accessible: The Classroom Experience we will bring you guest bloggers who echo the new product’s message. That message promotes an inclusive, accepting, bully free environment.
Today we welcome Boardman Local Schools (Boardman, OH) special education teacher Megan Key. Megan spearheaded an effort for more inclusiveness. Additionally Megan recently started up
When thinking of the “perfect” classroom, I would think of an environment that allows for a safe, comfortable, stable learning environment for all learners. Upon completion of 17 years of education and currently enrolled in two more years of graduate studies, I have observed my fair share of classrooms. I, myself, am also an educator.
Therefore, I get to “see” education firsthand on a daily basis. I also get to work with students whom have been diagnosed with severe learning disabilities. I instruct my students daily in all academic areas along with art and health instruction. This past year, the most recent endeavor within our school community came about when I approached my administration about taking my students into a general education setting and allowing them the opportunity to experience an inclusion-based classroom model.
Due to the fact that my students are normally at least two to three years behind grade level, I knew that this transition would be a challenge for not only the students, but the general education teacher and I as well. Although I was fearful as to what the year might disclose, I wanted to remain as optimistic as possible. As of April of this year, my students have almost concluded their first year in an inclusion-based model.
What have they learned academically? They have learned the “big picture” of the presented curriculum. What did they learn socially, mentally and emotionally? They have learned that they are successful, strong, smart individuals. They have strengths, they have weaknesses and they have the skills that they need to earn, maintain and achieve success. They have learned to look people in the eye, ask for a phone number, laugh at something that is funny, and invite a friend to a Friday night football game.
Most of all they have learned that they too, along with their same age peers, are “normal.” They are just like the students who sit “out there” and complete academic material. They have questions, comments and concerns. As a teacher, the importance of recognizing an opportunity to teach kids life lessons that cannot be found inside of the pages of a textbook is imperative.
There is no class that teaches the fundamentals of acceptance. The best way for a child to learn acceptance is when it is modeled. Accepting students within a school community and inside of the walls of a classroom who have a disability or handicap is modeling a skill in life that cannot be taught.
Children and adults need to understand that behind the IEP (Individualized Education Program), the ETR (Evaluation Team Report) results, the accommodations, modifications, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy, there is a PERSON. There is a person with a heart that aspires to be loved and cared for, a PERSON with a heart that longs to be an active, successful member of society. This person, just like all of us deserves the chance to be accepted. Including our students into every situation that we can afford to incorporate them into will provide the confidence, dignity and love that these individuals need just as badly as us.
Megan Key is an intervention specialist at Boardman Center Middle School. She recently founded a summer camp program for young adults with autism called, ProjectAbility, LLC. She is passionate about working with students whom have learning disabilities and loves watching them utilize their gifts to reach their ultimate levels of success!