Ask the School Psychologist...|
by Beth Bruno, Ed.M., M.A.
Making Inclusion Work
QUESTION: I am a Teacher Assistant working one-on-one with a child who has Down Syndrome. He is in 5th grade and has comprehension skills of about second or third grade level. How do I modify the 5th grade curriculum to provide parallel lessons appropriate to his skill level?
ANSWER: I'm not familiar enough with the products of text book manufacturers to know which ones publish modifications of lessons to fit different skill levels, but there are many approaches you can take on your own to make appropriate adjustments.
Discuss each subject with the special education teacher in charge of your student's academic support program. He or she probably has different grade level materials in each subject from which you can pick and choose lessons and chapters that dovetail with the topics and lessons from the 5th grade texts.
In discussion with the supervising teacher, you will need to identify priority concepts, vocabulary and skills within each lesson, since you will not be able to cover everything when you abbreviate and simplify content.
The school librarian can also steer you to parallel materials for each subject area.
Involve the student and his parents in lesson planning. The parents' knowledge of their son's academic history will be invaluable as you tackle this year's work. They'll know about academic strengths and weaknesses as well as work habits and study skills that need improvement.
Explore the possibility of peer collaboration on some projects and assignments. It will make your student feel more a part of the class if he can contribute in a substantive way to the completion of lab experiments, art projects or other group endeavors.
If your student can handle some hours in his schedule independently, such as lunch, PE, music or art, use that time to make lesson modifications. Request an hour or two of paid collaboration time, built into your schedule, so you can meet with teachers or parents before or after school each week. Inclusion programs like this can work successfully, as long as you have time to make modifications and collaborate with others.
Author's note: See the following Web sites for more information about curriculum modifications for special needs students.
Success for all learners:
Resources about inclusion:
by Beth Bruno
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