Just The Way You Are, Part 2

Once again, we loved the support we got from Nicole Eredics of The Inclusive Class last week. We have more guest blogs lined up for this academic year.

A couple of weeks back, we started to look at accepting students the way they are but understanding that behaviors were limiting their access to the curriculum. So, what can we do when behaviors or other things stand in the way of the student’s ability to be a part of an inclusive classroom?

Re-adjust your thinking about classroom.

Make the goal to be in the classroom. Make the goal to participate in a few activities in the classroom. Make the goal to meet one classmate once a week.

Be finite in the expectations of the student’s role in class.

Start with a goal of a month of two things for the student to complete for each academic subject. The gear switch from “let’s get this done” to “Let’s try this for now” can be hard especially at secondary. At times, it can make even the biggest advocate for inclusion feel that sometimes some ground can be gained by an SDC setting. But that’s not what this is about, it’s about meeting and accepting the student where they are.

For reading, ELA, even history try

  • Read story
  • Break
  • Answer three questions
  • Break

Start with only expecting math and reading, as basic academic demands to require of the student. In two months, let them know that History or science will be added. Add the other as that transition continues to make sense. During the other times of the day, try and work on issues like socialization, realizing that transitions to other locations like the library, the computer lab, lunch, or even at recess could be harder.

Wait to add more expectations.

Don’t ask student to go back and correct their work in the first month. Eventually add corrections or a third activity with another break. Slowly build that student up until they are able to attend class. This process can take all year. It can take many years. On really bad days, sometimes all you can do is maybe get the student to write their name on the paper. Even when the directions involve a preferred activity. It is so tempting to keep adding, but we’re just looking to gain by in skills.

Do not expect there to be nothing but smooth sailing.

You will be tested. You will feel like there may have been failures along the road. But notice that yesterday, you forgot to set the timer and the student returned to work without prompting.

Why not keep raising the bar in the moment?

The desire to cultivate trust with the student is more important. You touched the door of the room we’re going to next, so I promised you that break. You wrote your name, here is your break/preferred activity. You told me you needed to use the bathroom, here have a break. Force yourself to learn to reward frequently.

Nothing is more important than getting the student to buy into being able to do their work. You may have to adjust scheduling if the student has a special schedule or starts to demonstrate stress.

As an aside: avoid talking with the student during their break unless the student chooses to speak to you during the break. Make it a point that the break is their time and while you may supervise their activities, they have that time without your input. Warnings before the end of the break are acceptable, but respect that time the student has to be in their moment. For example, preparing for the transition off the break, “In two minutes we will go to recess.” Or, “In two minutes, we will go to the library and look for a book to read in science class.”

What about that student for whom academics is not a priority? The actual class doesn’t matter as much as following directions, learning to make choices, trying to stay at one task and not quit through that task, and meeting new people and learning about that peer.

It will fall together. I assure you. Take the time. Even if you are sprinting down the street after the student who decided they can’t do school at all. It will work out. Take a deep breath. You will reach the student.

Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and here. ParaEducate is 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.


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ParaEducate is a company run to help reach out to paraeducators or paraprofessionals in public K-12 schools, giving advice, talking about publications that ParaEducate produces, and other useful information regarding working in public school settings.
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