Sunday, March 28, 2010

Teaching Differently Abled Children

We all have certain people in life that we admire and love. People that emulate the Savior to a T. This little lady is one of them! While small to the eye, she is a spiritual giant and I hope one day to even be a smidgeon as wonderful and kind as she is. A while back she gave a beautiful presentation and was thoughtful enough to let me share with you. The following is written by Sister B...
"Kathie Snow said,
But what do apples have to do with disability?

One of the five apples is green.One American in five is a person with a disability.
(Which makes people with disabilities the largest minority group in the nation—and
it's the only group that anyone can join at any time!)
A green apple is more like red apples than different.
A person with a disability is more like people without disabilities than different.
Apples are natural . . . and having a disability is a "natural part of the human experience"
(as expressed in the U.S. Developmental Disabilities Act).
The sun shines equally on all the apples in the bowl,
and it's time for the light of inclusion, opportunity, freedom, and dignity
to shine equally on all people—including people with disabilities.

I was asked to share insights this evening in regards to inclusive education for children in our primary with disabilities. I have thought long and hard about this. In our home we are truly grateful for those who have taught, nurtured and included our family. I moved into our ward when I was 9 years old. My dad had died 2 years before, my mom was remarried to an awesome guy and we had moved here from Utah. There was a lot of transition in my life at that time. I was fortunate to have a wonderful primary teacher not long after we moved here by the name of Peter. Peter was a young man preparing to go on a mission. He did not make any special accommodations to help me be a part of the class but he did walk with me down the halls of the Prater Way Chapel to our classroom and he required the same of the other members of the class. He spoke to me with respect and most importantly, he helped me to feel loved and accepted. I needed that from him and from my peers. After receiving his mission call, Peter wrote letters to me ( He was a 19 yr old boy and he took time to write letters to me-a little 9 year old girl with cp.) It meant so much to me. I still have those letters as well as his wedding announcement to sweet, Laura. I still know that I can count on Peter over 30 years later. Every child in the church deserves to have a person like Peter in their lives.

My family is unique in that we all have diagnosed disabilities and health conditions. I even have concerns for our pug, Zeus because he has behavior issues that we cannot seem to extinguish no matter what we try.
I was born over 3 months prematurely and weighed 1lb13 oz at birth. As a result, I have cerebral palsy. My husband has bipolar disorder. Our oldest son, Denver has Asperger’s Syndrome (high functioning autism) Our second son, Jordan has celiac disease and our daughters whom we adopted from foster care both have the diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other challenges related to their traumatic beginnings.

In thinking about what has worked for my children in attending church.
1. Greet the children by name
2. Establish rules for class
a. Routine (kids with autism need to know what to expect-difficult to be flexible
b. Role play
c. Responsibility
d. Revere-love
e. Room to move-just because a child is wiggling doesn’t mean they are not learning (rocking chair for Heather helped her to move without distracting others)
f. Reinforce positive behavior
3. When calling on children with disabilities, ask a typical peer the same question first-if the child with a disability repeats what is already said it is ok…always validate answers
4. Model respect

5. Sit child with disability near the teacher

6. Give positive prompts

7. Spotlight children in class-it helps them to feel important and helps the children to get to know one another, focus on commonalities

8. Get to Know you games

9. Expand a child’s social circle

10. Praise for sitting reverently even for 3 seconds
11. Focus on strengths
12. Praise improvements even if they are slight
13. Learn from children
(if a child uses sign language or a communication device, learn a song in sign language)

14. Find out what the children want

15. All kids can learn with the correct supports-have high expectations-they will rise to it
16. Teach behaviors using puppets, etc…

17. Pre-teach expectations, find out about children from their parents

My son Jordan has celiac disease. We are so grateful for our primary presidency and their efforts to ensure that he can eat what is served at activities. I appreciate the phone calls asking me to bring food items for him that are similar to what the other children are consuming.

Denver as a deacon passed the sacrament to the same rows every week. It was an accommodation made for him that no one even knew about. We did not have to draw attention to it but it was a way for him to participate without feeling uneasy. When Denver was in primary he was mortified to stand up and sing with the other kids for the primary program. It was not ideal but he would hold a picture in front of his face and sing. At least he was up there, right?
We cannot simplify children as just a boy in a wheelchair; he is a complete person with a disability. People with disabilities don’t just want to glue Popsicle sticks together, we want to learn to do math and to learn about history. We want to change history. We want to enjoy friendships, gain testimonies, serve missions, get married, have families, pets and jobs and have a sense of belonging.

Inclusion is best for every child. Inclusion is an easy thing to do poorly. When all children are included appropriately, everyone benefits. Teachers become better teachers by inclusion. We should constantly think of how each child can be included in all activities.
The Monument

Before He Sent His children to earth
Gave each of them
A very carefully selected package of problems.

He promised, smiling,
Are yours alone. No one
Else may have the blessings
These problems will bring you.

And only you
Have the special talents and abilities
That will be needed
To make these problems
Your servants.

Now go down to your birth and to your forgetfulness.
Know that I love you beyond measure.
These problems that I give you
Are a symbol of the love.

The monument you make of your life
With the help of your problems
Will be a symbol of your Love for me,
Your Father. "
Thank you so much Sister B for sharing. (I love you and your sweet mother and family forever and always!) The Church has THIS PAGE to help and guide you, entitled Teaching All Children, Including Those with Disabilities. Food for thought people. Click around, they have especially helpful suggestions for teaching children with ADD and Autism. Hope this message from this amazing sister can be of help!


6L's said...

thanks so much for posting this talk, i am going to share it with my presidency and teachers!

The Children Sing said...

Thank you for this post. It doesn't take much effort to think of ways to include children who need just a little extra effort and I'm thankful for the reminder!

Sofia's Primary Ideas said...

Sister 6L - Thank you!

Sister Children Sing- I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog!!! Keep up the wonderful posts, I'm sure they will help a lot of people!

The Fishes said...

Would it be alright if I used this post in a teacher training mtg coming up? Thanks for sharing her story!