by Dave Melanson
Sight Impaired Child Benefiting From Change in Modern Schools
As many of you know, I have just started writing my second resource manual for the classroom teacher on mainstreaming and integrating sight impaired and blind children into the regular classroom environment. This book will consist of interviews from classroom teachers who have actually had sight impaired and blind children mainstreamed in their classrooms. In effect, this book will be what teachers themselves are actually saying about "inclusion today" with both the positives and negatives, as well as where there needs to be improvement in support services for these students.
During my second interview, conducted with a first grade teacher at Our Lady of Pompei Elementary School in North End Montreal, I learned some interesting things about how their school operates today. One of the major changes which surprised me greatly was that the children at this school do not have to line up when going into school in the mornings, following recess, and at lunch...they simply file into the school when they hear the bell ring. This made me think of several things which I shared with Stephanie, the first grade teacher I was interviewing that day.
First, lining up in the schoolyard brought back memories of when I was in elementary school and the problems and challenges I faced at that time. At Riverview Elementary School where I attended, we all had to line up 2 by 2 before going into school. This always involved finding a partner to walk with. Since I am visually impaired, I could never see who was without a partner and no one would come and ask me to be their partner. Therefore, I would stand off to the side and just wait for the line to file in. I would fall in at the very back of the line without a partner. This was very embarrassing and I felt that I was not really obeying the rules or following the norm since I never had a partner.
Today, the policy of Our Lady Of Pompei School would eliminate this problem for the site impaired or blind child. They would simply file into the school either on their own or with a friend but the tension and pressure would no longer be there for them to feel "left out."
Stephanie also explained that the school tries to pair physically challenged children with a "responsible student" who in effect would be their buddy to look after them or otherwise be there for them.
This program has worked very well and has allowed the children to understand from an early age that a child who may appear different from the others still belongs in the regular classroom environment and should be treated with the same respect and dignity as everyone else.
Another positive change I've learned about from teachers in various schools is that they no longer punish the entire group collectively if 1 or 2 students misbehave. This tends to reward those children who do behave well and might not even understand what happened, while punishing only the offenders.
In conclusion I would like to emphasize the importance of "the school community" which seems to be working very effectively these days to support every child regardless of his or her special needs. More than ever schools make it their goal that very child who attends their local school feels a part of the "community," and all students can feel that they are able to contribute something to their school in their unique ways. In this way there is less stress and pressure on certain students who otherwise might feel "left out" or rejected.
I would like to invite any teachers who have had a sight impaired or blind child mainstreamed in their classroom to please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be interviewed for my second book. The interviews can be done by email. I am also trying to connect with teachers here in the Montreal area who have taught sight impaired and blind children. So, if you are a teacher in the Montreal area who reads this, please email me.
David Melanson, frequent contributor to the Teachers.Net Gazette,
has just self-published Integration: A Rewarding Experience, a manual for educators on the topic of working with sight-impaired students. As a sight-impaired person whose parents persisted in having their son placed in "regular" (public school) classrooms, David's experiences, perspective, and advice are particularly interesting and helpful. The manual is interesting and worthy of reading even if one does not currently have a sight-impaired student in class.
The cost in the U.S. is $10 plus $2 .45 for postage. In Canada: $15 Canadian plus $1 .45 postage. Money orders are preferred. To order the manual, contact Mr. Melanson by e-mail: email@example.com. Should you have difficulty reaching Dave directly, contact Kathleen Carpenter firstname.lastname@example.org with "Melanson Manual" in the subject line.
To access monthly chats on the topic of working with sight-impaired students, moderated by David Melanson, visit the Teachers.Net Archives.
Working With Sight Impaired Students, April 24, 2002
Sight Impaired Students , January 17, 2002
Sight Impaired Students, December 12, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, October 23, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, August 6, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, July 19, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, May 7, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, February 15, 2001
Sight Impaired Students, January 17, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, December 6, 2000
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, Sept. 21, 2000
Accommodating the Visually Impaired Child, May 2, 2000
Integration Of Visually Impaired And Blind Students Into The Regular Schools, December 8, 1999
I have developed several audio tapes from previous seminars I have given on the topic of mainstreaming and integrating sight impaired children. I am willing to sell these tapes for $10 U.S. each. If there is any school district that is interested in purchasing a tape, please contact me:
702 Riverview Ave
Verdun Quebec Canada H4H 2C1