“Is Inclusive Education Right for My Child with Disabilities?” by Edward Fenske, MAT, EdS

This week, we’re honored to feature an article by Edward Fenske, MAT, EdS, the former executive director of the Princeton Child Development Institute, who shares his critique on the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education’s joint statement on inclusive education for all children with disabilities. Ed’s extensive experience in delivering intervention to children with autism, support services to their families, and training and supervision to professional staff spans 39 years. His published works address home programming, language development, and early intervention.

Is Inclusive Education Right for My Child with Disabilities?
by Edward Fenske, MAT, EdS
Princeton Child Development Institute

On September 14, 2015 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education issued a joint policy statement recommending inclusive education for all children with disabilities begin during early childhood and continue into schools, places of employment, and the broader community. The policy includes numerous assertions about the educational benefits and legal foundation of inclusion and a lengthy list of supporting evidence. This paper examines some of these assertions, the supporting evidence, and comments on the departments’ recommendation.

Assertion: Children with disabilities, including those with the most significant disabilities and the highest needs, can make significant developmental and learning progress in inclusive settings.

Supporting Evidence: Green, Terry, & Gallagher (2014). This study compared the acquisition of literacy skills by 77 pre-school students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms with 77 non-disabled classmates. Skill acquisition was assessed using pre/post intervention scores on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Third Edition (Dunn & Dunn, 1997) and the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening Prekindergarten (Invernizzi, Sullivan, Meier, & Swank, 2004). The results found that children with disabilities made significant gains that mirrored the progress of their typical classmates, although the achievement gap between the two groups remained. Participants had a variety of diagnoses (e.g., developmental delays, autism, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, speech and language impairments, cognitive impairments, and Down syndrome). There were several requirements for participation in this study that would appear to severely limit conclusions. Participants with disabilities were functioning at social, cognitive, behavioral and linguistic levels to the extent that their Individual Education Program (IEP) teams recommended participation in language and literacy instruction in the general education classroom with typical peers-an indication that these skills were considered prerequisite to meaningful inclusion.

A further restriction for participation was that only data from children who were able to complete the tasks according to standardized administrative format were included in the study. It is therefore unclear whether all students with disabilities in these inclusive preschool classes made significant developmental and learning progress. The authors suggest that had the lower achieving students received explicit, small group or individual instruction, the achievement gap between typically developing students and children with disabilities may have been narrowed. We can therefore conclude that regular instruction provided in the inclusive preschool classes in this study was not sufficient for all students with disabilities. Furthermore, because the results were not separated by disability, it is not possible to determine whether there was a significant difference in learning across disabilities.

Assertion: Some studies have shown that children with disabilities who were in inclusive settings experienced greater cognitive and communication development than children with disabilities who were in separate settings, with this being particularly apparent among children with more significant disabilities.

Supporting Evidence: Rafferty, Piscitelli, & Boettcher (2003). This study described the progress in acquiring language skills and social competency of 96 preschoolers with disabilities attending a community-based program. Sixty-eight participants received instruction in inclusive classes and 28 attended segregated special education classes. Progress was assessed using pretest and posttest scores from the Preschool Language Scale-3 (Zimmerman, Steiner, & Pond, 1992) and the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS)–Teacher Version (Gresham & Elliott, 1990). Level of disability (i.e., “severely disabled” or “not severe”) was determined by scores on the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI-R), but the authors did not provide any information about the participants’ specific clinical diagnoses. Posttest scores were comparable for “not severe” students in both class types. Children with “severe” disabilities in inclusive classes had higher posttest scores in language development and social skills than their peers in segregated classes, but had higher rates of problem behavior. The extent to which problem behavior interfered with learning for both typical children and those with disabilities was not addressed. Problem behavior, such as tantrums, aggression, stereotypy, self-injury, property destruction and defiance; is displayed by some children with disabilities. These behaviors have very different implications for preschool-aged children than for older children. In this writer’s experience, severe problem behavior is extremely resistant to change when not successfully treated during preschool years and may ultimately result in more restrictive academic, vocational and residential placement during adolescence and adulthood. The significance of any academic gains by children with disabilities in inclusive settings should be carefully weighed against the long-term implications of unchecked maladaptive behavior.

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Autism Awareness Month: Free Color Sorting Jar Activity

Check out this Color Sorting Jar Activity designed by Lavinia Pop from In My World! This printable activity includes four different color jars: red, orange, yellow, and green. It also includes sixteen different corresponding images, four for each color jar.

To create the color sorting jar, you cut around the edges of each color jar. Then, you cut out all of the color pictures. Once all the pictures are cut out, you can mix and start sorting the objects into the same color jar! You can also use the jars for sorting different color objects from home or the classroom.

We recommend printing the activity on cardstock or laminating the jars and objects for longer use.

To download this free printable click here. For more fun activities and ideas, you can read the full post from In My World here!

The Essential ABA Sale! – Discounted items for your ABA program

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We’re wrapping up Autism Awareness Month by discounting collection of some of our bestselling products that are most essential to creating and running an ABA program. Use our promo code APRILABA this week to take 15%* off any of these these flashcards, token boards, Time Timers, books, and more!

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Don’t forget to mention or apply our code APRILABA when you check out! View the entire sale here.

* Promotion is valid until May 3, 2016 at 11:59pm EST. Offer cannot be applied to previous purchases, combined with anyother offers, transferred, refunded, or redeemed and/or exchanged for cash or credit. Different Roads to Learning reserves the right to change or cancel this promotion at any time. To redeem offer at differentroads.com, enter promo code APRILABA at checkout.

Autism Awareness Month: Free Cookie Number Matching Printable

Cookie-Jar-Number-MatchingIf Cookie Monster could play any math literacy game, we’re sure this free Cookie Jar Number Matching activity would be the winner! This free printable from Totschooling.net includes three representations of numbers one through ten to help build counting and number recognition skills.

To play, all you have to do is print all the pages and cut out each cookie individually. You can then have the student either match cookies to the jar containing the written names of the numbers or the jar containing the corresponding numerals.  If you want to make the activity even more challenging, you can print out an extra numeral jar or an extra number name jar page and cut out each circle to create more options to match!

cookie-matching 2You can download the free printable by clicking here and don’t forget to share with us all the other creative ways you and your students build math literacy skills!

Autism Awareness Month: Free Social Circles Program

Help teach your students on the spectrum about social distance and intimacy using this free Circles Program from the Geneva Centre for Autism! The program is based on six concentric circles that represent varying degrees of closeness, from the relationship one has with oneself to strangers.

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The program includes:

  • A reminder card that details the meaning of each concentric circle
  • Six individual circle cards that identify common behaviors, feelings and actions appropriate to each circle
  • As well as a tip sheet to help instructors use the visuals effectively

To download the reminder card, circle cards and tip sheet, click here and don’t forget to share what activities and visuals have helped your students’ social learning by leaving a comment below!

 

Tip of the Week: Maintaining Procedural Fidelity for Successful Interventions

It is not uncommon for parents or practitioners to implement a new intervention that appears to be working well, then after a few weeks or months report that the intervention has stopped working. Often, the change in behavior in feels like a mystery and leaves people scrambling for a new intervention. But before searching for a new intervention, you should consider the possibility of problems with procedural fidelity, which “refers to the accuracy with which the intervention or treatment is implemented” (Mayer, Sulzer-Azaroff, & Wallace, 2014).

Problems with procedural fidelity are common, and you will experience more success with your interventions if you take steps to address fidelity at the outset. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Post the steps in a visible spot. Clearly list the steps of the procedure and put them in a spot where you will see them often. This might be on the actual data collection sheet or on the wall. One parent I worked with had a Post-it® note with the steps for our intervention attached to her computer screen. Another parent kept the steps inside the ID part of his wallet, where they were protected and visible each time he opened his wallet.
  • Plan meetings to go over the steps. As part of your intervention, set brief monthly or quarterly meetings to go over the steps of the intervention and be sure everyone is maintaining procedural fidelity.
  • Assess for procedural fidelity. Schedule observations to ensure that each step of the intervention is implemented as described. If you do not have someone who can supervise you, take video of yourself implementing the intervention, watch it and compare your actions to the steps outlined in the intervention plan.
  • Outline steps for systematic fading of the intervention. When implementing an intervention, the goal is to have the learner eventually exhibiting the desirable behavior without prompts or planned reinforcement. Sometimes when a parent or practitioner sees the learner’s behavior improving, they begin to remove the prompts or planned reinforcement before the learner is quite ready for it. By writing a plan for fading the intervention into the plan, you make it clear to everyone involved what the requirements are for each step towards mastery.

REFERENCES

Mayer, G.R., Sulzer-Azaroff, B., & Wallace, M. (2014). Behavior analysis for lasting change (3rd ed.). Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY: Sloan Publishing.

WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3–12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.

Autism Awareness Month: Free Social Skills Fortune Teller Activity

IMG_0882-764x1024While these fortune tellers may not be able to tell your future, they are sure to help your children with autism develop their social skills!  This free printable, created by Joel Shaul from Autism Teaching Strategies, makes social learning fun by having students pair up and offer conversation starters using a Social Skills Fortune Teller.  All you have to do is print, cut, fold and play!

The activity comes with separate templates to make six different fortune tellers.  Each of the templates help students work on the following skills:

  • Asking questions
  • Giving compliments
  • Talking about emotions
  • As well as self-help strategies for teasing and bullying.

For further tips, instructions for use, and to download this free printable, click here and don’t forget to share all the other fun ways you and your students have fun developing social skills by leaving a comment below!

Product Highlight: POWER-Solving® – A new social skills curriculum

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Available in child and adolescent levels, this new social skills curriculum teaches students how to become independent problem-solvers via a hands-on and interactive approach through visual cues and supports.

We offer class kits including 5 or 10 sets of Student Workbooks and Facilitator Guides to accommodate larger groups.

This social skills curriculum teaches students to problem-solve first using their “toolbox” (i.e., the five steps of POWER-Solving®) and then to apply this “toolbox” to various social situations, allowing them to develop and enhance their social-emotional skills. Child and Adolescent Student Workbook Sets when paired with their corresponding Facilitator Guides will help students successfully solve problems in various social situations at school, home, and in the community.

Each Student Workbook Set and Facilitator’s Guide Set covers 4 areas of everyday social situations:

  1. Introduction (recommended that students complete this first)
  2. Social Conversation
  3. Developing Friendships
  4. Anger Management

Learn more about the curriculum here.

Autism Awareness Month: Free Crayon Number Sorting Activity

crayon 1Get creative with this free number sorting activity designed by Lavinia Pop from In My World! This crayon inspired printable includes five different representations of a single number.  These symbols include line segments, dots, words, finger counting, as well as numerals.

To create the crayon pouches, simply cut around the outer edges and fold along the dotted center line.  Then glue, tape or staple the remaining bottom and side edges.  Once complete, cut out all the crayons and mix to start sorting!crayon 2We recommend printing the activity on cardstock or laminating the crayons and pockets for longer use.

To download this free printable click here and for more math literacy activities and ideas, you can read the full post from In My World here!

Autism Awareness Month: Free Owl Opposites Flashcard Activity

Encourage your students’ cognitive, language and word recognition skills with this free Owl Opposites Flashcards Printable from 1+1+1=1!

owl 1The entire set features an adorable pair of owl friends who demonstrate the following sixteen different opposites:

  • Short/tall
  • Hot/cold
  • Slow/fast
  • White/blackowl 2
  • Big/small
  • Clean/dirty
  • More/less
  • Dry/wet
  • Same/different
  • Light/heavy
  • Low/high
  • Hard/soft
  • Short/long
  • Front/back
  • Empty/full
  • Weak/strong

Laminate or print on cardstock for longer use and attach on a metal ring to keep the cards all together.

To print out your free Owls Opposites Flashcards, click here. We hope you and your students have a hoot with this printable!