Our minds split this week but we couldn’t let go the memory of this week. But we had to spend some time plotting out the blog this week. And what we ended up with resembled a lot of dots. So we chose to connect them. Even if they didn’t really want to go together.
Life and Memories
In 1989, Renay will tell you it was her first earthquake she could remember, and she was still in elementary school. And it wasn’t a small thing considering the fact that over one hundred miles from the epicenter she rolled along with the waves of the earthquake in the middle of dinner. But when Mother Nature strikes, there is very little any one of us can do but appreciate that we were hopefully minimally prepared in some way.
A constant reminder for everyone: drills happen, as today is the Great American Shake Out in regions that have earthquakes. Make sure there is a plan to help a student get under a desk. Know where the exits are. Be prepared to help move debris out of the way. Use the school approved systems to communicate during a disaster. Emergencies are just about the only time we might suggest that absolute following of procedure is critical to helping all students in the event when it happens during school hours.
We started this part a couple of different ways. When trying to pitch this idea previously we found we’d get off topic, because peer interactions are really core at inclusive education. When going out to watch students and their social interactions with peers, it’s a little foreign but so very familiar. Connecting dots with some students with how to connect to their peers is sometimes a lot more difficult than it seems. Add in the awareness to desire to be nothing more than like peers who most likely have no disability or a disability that is much more hidden than the one of a student with a significant disability and sometimes peer interactions can turn down right messy. Most students are honestly not unkind to students with significant disabilities. However, students with disabilities can be unusually unkind to other peers with disabilities. Sometimes it’s because some students with disabilities do not have a lot of contact with other students with similar disabilities. Occasionally, students feel they are ‘above’ another student because of grade, age, or they don’t understand that a disability can look very different from person to person.
- Facilitate kindness. Everyone is a member of the school community. Some folks just need a little more time to do some things than others. Encourage kindness between peers when praising students doing the right things.
- Teach that not every disability presents the same, there are items that help a student who has a disability communicate and that sometimes frustration is normal for anyone with and without a disability and in those moments of frustration, we all forget how to communicate the way we would when we aren’t frustrated.
- Remind students that they stand up for each other or they can be lost without everyone. Take advantage of school programs that help connect students like Mix it up days to introduce peers to each other and just be kids.
- Be honest about limits though. Peers who have difficulties speaking even if they use AAC may also naturally fatigue. Meeting new people and learning to navigate those social interactions takes time.
- Teach students with disabilities: friendship, true friendship, does scientifically take over 300 hours. (If you want the study, google it, quite interesting). Friendship isn’t just that two people like being around each other, though that is at the core of being friends, but it’s about exchanging ideas and sharing interests. Friendship involves giving and taking from both (or more) people. And best friends, those are people who spend the most time over the longest time. For the youngest students, this is probably the hardest to understand, with or without disabilities—time is very different to the very young.
With peers life is better. At least if you’re lumped in being miserable, you can at least smile across the room and be miserable together. Or share a giggle on the playground about the time someone sneezed with a gummy worm in their mouth.
True friends are gifts. And no one should ever be denied that chance.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.