Students with mild disabilities served at the regular level of service should receive their instruction with their non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible. Through close observation and data collection, Exceptional Children and General Education teachers identify accommodations and supports which allow the students to access and be successful with the grade-level curriculum. Some students may benefit from having the digital text read to them by a device. iPads can provide read aloud by going to Settings→ Accessibility → Speak Selection→ and adjusting the rate of speed. This will allow your student to be independent while interacting with the grade-level text. Students with mild disabilities also benefit from fully participating in the Balanced Literacy block. By allowing speaking and listening time during Interactive Read Alouds, your students are growing their academic vocabulary and background knowledge. Partner students of varying levels so that all students have access to role models and peers with diverse ideas. Co-teachers are encouraged to assess, plan and teach together- no longer can we think of co-teaching in isolation. Look for patterns in your instruction where two teachers can effectively lead smaller groups for more targeted instruction based on the data. As you plan together, identify barriers that students with disabilities may face during the lesson or project. Proactively build in supports and scaffolds allowing all students entry points. Plan for ways to intentionally fade these supports, as well, to develop independent learners.
The EC department is preparing a professional development (PD) training calledMaking the Common Core Concrete. This PD will offer teachers specific strategies and resources in supporting students with moderate disabilities. The PD will offer answers to the following questions: How can teachers take a lesson and make it more accessible to all students? Think about auditory, visual and kinesthetic input. What can you add in each of those categories to make the lesson more engaging and meaningful for your students? What real-life artifacts can you give them? What video clips can you watch or lyrics can you listen to? What experiences can you provide so that everyone is able to participate fully? Also, think about the technology that you have available to support students with moderate disabilities. These tools will allow the learner to be more independent and successful. How can you use peer buddies to foster an inclusive classroom environment? What accommodations have you and the IEP team identified that will level the playing field for these learners, and how will you actively monitor their progress? Can you task-analyze or break apart a larger task and provide checkpoints throughout the task? What visual supports and models can you include to foster learning?
Students with more significant disabilities follow the Extensions of the Common Core. Although the standards may be different, curriculum guides and lessons are developed so that these students are also able to experience engaging, meaningful lessons. Classrooms are designed to provide maximum visual supports and minimal distractions. How might you partner with a class serving students with significant disabilities to facilitate their learning process?
The EC department also offers two additional ways in which schools can access support in serving students with disabilities. The EC Instructional Help Desk provides virtual support to anyone calling with instructional questions relating to students with disabilities. Their hours are from 8:00am-4:00pm daily. Call 980-343-2724 (option 1) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. This service is available to any staff member supporting a student with a disability. Additionally, on the EC webpage, there is a link for Customized PD Request. Two core PDs have been developed- Students with Disabilities and the Common Core and Co-Assessment, Co-Planning, and Co-Teaching. Once requested, your school will be contacted to determine the target audience, focus and other logistics, so that the PD can be customized for your staff’s needs.
It’s an exciting time in education, with many opportunities for all of our students. Let’s be the district committed to ensuring that all of its students have access to rigorous and engaging instruction. Together...we can.
Ann Jolly is the Exceptional Children Elementary Program Specialist for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Special Education and is currently enrolled in the Department of Educational Leadership at University of North Carolina Wilmington. Ann has twenty years of teaching experience in various settings, including private separate to public resource in grades PreK to five. Follow Ann on Twitter @Annjolly2.