The transition from pre-school to primary school is a difficult process that can be taxing on any child, not only on those with special needs. Now the situation is often such that the usual education system creates barriers for students with disabilities. For example, some school premises might not be accessible to students in wheelchairs, or students with certain developmental disabilities do not have adequate support to master the curriculum (Allen & Cowdery, 2014). Therefore, the first step toward the introduction of learning is to create a comfortable educational environment. It is important to pre-emptively address various issues that could arise during that stage and develop a more individualized and strategic approach to create a healthy learning atmosphere.
By assessing the children’s strengths and needs before the actual educational process starts, teachers can design an inclusive classroom setup an educational strategy that will benefit the whole group of students. Students gain invaluable communication and interaction skills at school, especially during the early years of their education. Inclusive practices in schools make learning and academic achievement more accessible to all (Rapp & Arndt, 2012). Moreover, inclusive education allows students with special needs to fully express the full range of their educational opportunities, including learning and practicing important social skills. In addition, inclusion promotes a variety of friendships and communication, thereby enriching the lives of all students. When all students feel included and important members of the school community and society as a whole, they are more interested in their own education (Rapp & Arndt, 2012). Finally, inclusive schools make an important contribution to the development of society by increasing the general level of tolerance and recognition of the needs of inclusion of people with special needs.
The presented case study describes five children with specific needs which require the classroom to be adjusted in order to provide an inclusive environment. Each child has their own special condition that might interfere with their learning process if not addressed properly. Seeing as the described children’s needs vary from physical disabilities to difficult house situations, a wide-range approach needs to be taken. Thus, a holistic education strategy can be suggested – it takes into account the social, academic, emotional, and other needs of the students to provide comprehensive support and help development. Basing the classroom on the holistic concept of teaching, one can ensure that it meets not only the different needs of certain children but the class as a whole. Inclusive education, while focusing on the necessity to provide educational opportunities for children with disabilities, still emphasizes the importance of not singling them out but engaging them equally with their peers.
Inclusive practice can be defined as a set of approaches and methods that ensure that all students have access to basic education. Successful inclusion of children with special needs requires working together with teaching staff, counselors, parents, and even legislators. It is imperative to ensure that all children feel welcome and valued and receive the right support to help them develop their talents and achieve their goals (Wearmouth, 2017). When education is truly inclusive, it actually brings real benefits to all students, not just ones with disabilities or special needs.
It is essential to mention that the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities 2006 is the international treaty that defines the rights of individuals with disabilities. Thus, the Convention not only specifies that states must not discriminate against individuals with disabilities. It also summarizes a number of actions that states must take to create an enabling environment in order for persons with disabilities to benefit from substantive equality in society. For example, the Convention requires states to implement measures to ensure access to the physical environment and to information and communication technologies (Petriwskyj, 2010). Therefore, this reinforces the fact that children with inclusion should receive an education on a level with their contemporaries. As a consequence, the state needs to adopt practices to support an inclusive environment for children and their successful development.
The classroom will need to cover several aspects to successfully include children with special needs in the educational process. It is difficult to imagine a teacher who knows how to teach a child with any developmental disabilities that exist in the world. Therefore, teachers need help so that they can modify educational materials and tasks for the individual characteristics of a particular child. Support service specialists who understand the needs of children with certain disabilities should help in this: educational psychologists, speech therapists, social and special teachers, and tutors (Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, 2013). For example, Tara works with a speech pathologist; thus, their input will be required to model more fitting learning activities for Tara. Overall, support service professionals’ task is not only to help teachers design inclusive classrooms but also to be part of the educational process themselves. They can assess the behavior of students with disabilities, build a training and assistance program, and explain the characteristics of a new student to both adults and children.
A classroom becomes inclusive when the teacher is able to organize joint activities of students, give tasks to everyone and observe every child. Teaching and support connectivity is the solution that provides inclusion and gives a universal design to a regular classroom. A child with a disability is an individual with their own interests and preferences. The teacher needs to shift their focus from what the child cannot do to what they can do and see student differences as a useful resource, not as a problem (Dixon & Verenikina, 2007). Moreover, even before a student with developmental disabilities comes to the class, a favorable and friendly atmosphere should be created in the classroom. To do this, the teacher should organize a separate meeting or mini-training for the parents of the children to explain what is the peculiarity of the development or behavior of the child with a disability. They could watch together videos about inclusive education or specifically about the developmental features or the psyche of this particular novice student.
Whereas by the first meeting with the teacher, parents of a student with a disability should develop a detailed questionnaire that will tell about all the important aspects of communicating with their child. This is how the teacher can learn what this child does and does not like (Dunst, 2002). For example, the child needs the teacher to sit next to him and not the opposite so as to not create an antagonistic feeling in the child – this could work in Joseph’s case. Mishka has a sensory processing disorder, and she might not like loud noises, so the teacher needs to think about how to mute the bell in class, so it does not become a negative trigger.
When a child is not in an artificially created environment but among peers who do not have any specific needs, they can adapt much faster to the level of other children. Social adjustment here is viewed as a broad concept: the ability to realize oneself with the initial data that one owns in the environment in which one lives. The sooner the child is immersed in an environment with which they will have to interact in the future in order to achieve something, the better. When the social circle of a person closes exclusively on people with the same difficulties, their life acquires artificiality (Forlin, 2006). Inclusive classes help to destroy social stereotypes and form a truly democratic atmosphere, increase the responsibility of teachers, and help improve their qualifications and competence.
Recommendations for Action, Support, and Implementation
Australia leads the way among states with better legislation to ensure the practice of inclusive education. I will use research by scientists to identify the main problems that are associated with the issue. A recent study by scholars found that the number of children with disabilities enrolled in remedial schools has increased significantly over the past 15 years. Particular difficulties with inclusion occur when a person has a behavioral deviation and when their education requires comprehensive assistance. The authors indicate that the growth in segregation is more characteristic of second-grade schools (grades 7-12), but the associations of elementary school principals in their reports often encourage the development of a new set of rules for first-grade schools (grades 1-6) (Forlin, 2006). I will continually consult with doctors who treat children, psychologists, and parents. In order to develop a holistic picture of the health and emotional state of a child with special needs, this is important. At the same time, a joint discussion with parents will ensure that one learning strategy is identified and used for kids at home and school.
Individualized learning programs combined with the participation of parents, guardians, therapists, and medical teams will help teachers and school administrators determine what models, didactic materials, devices, and software are needed to support the students. The old model of the classroom, which is familiar to domestic schools and is designed to meet the needs of the whole class, and not the individual, will have to be replaced (Parliament of Australia, 2002-2004). The new model – the inclusive classroom – will use modification and adaptation to meet the needs of each individual student. It should be realized that special kids cannot learn skills as effectively as healthy students. Therefore, the organization should be optimal to improve learning for these students without compromising other students. For example, excessive fatigue should be addressed, and the length of lessons needs to be adjusted. The position of a teacher’s assistant, which is a prerequisite for the existence of inclusive classes, is officially established (Fenton et al., 2015). The presence of an assistant enables additional attention to be devoted to all students and children with special needs.
For the inclusive classroom, custom-designed classroom furniture, seating options, and indoor and outdoor recreational equipment should be provided to meet the wide range of adaptations and accommodations needed. Moreover, assistive technology and additional communication devices for learning and development are required in order for the learning process to be most comprehensive and engaging (Tasmanian Government Department of Education, 2014). Thus, the rather complex process of teaching children with difficult social situations, problems with sensory processing, physical problems, and mobility impairments can be greatly simplified and made comfortable for all participants in the educational process.
In several cases, such as with Joseph, Fiate, and Mishka, there will be a need for tutors who will accompany the children. Joseph, perhaps, will need it only for the period of adaptation, while other children will need it for the entire time of learning. The tutor would work with the specific student in the classroom: for example, helping to cope with unwanted behavior or explaining instructions in more detail (Rouse, 2012). Moreover, during the breaks, they would support the child in the process of communicating with peers and/or accompanying them while moving around the school, if necessary. Tutors also need special training to effectively organize their work.
Children with cerebral palsy include kids who have disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Many children with cerebral palsy are characterized by increased fatigue. Thus, Lucy becomes tired when performing purposeful activities that require the involvement of thinking processes. The child’s discoordination and instability should be considered when arranging the furniture and toys. Carpets and various pads and rollers need to be provided in order for Lucy to sit less on the chair. Balls, cubes, and rollers of different sizes and weights are adapted for muscle training. Along the walls, there may be located play corners with elements in the form of handles-splits, for which a kid can stand (Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment, 2020). At the same time, the primary assignment of Lucy is to develop fine motor skills and a sense of touch. Therefore, considerable concentration should be spent on the development of movement abilities.
The learning strategy for Tara should consider that learning material needs to be presented in small doses, gradually increasing in complexity; Tara should be trained to use previously learned knowledge. In this case, it is advisable to switch them from one activity to another. In addition, it is necessary to diversify the types of lessons. The offered activities must be conducted with interest and emotional elation. Thus, Tara should have a general pedagogical approach due to language delays. The speech development work requires various techniques and tools, as learning situations and speech motivations change during the lessons. Tara will be fluent in expressing her thoughts and performing picture tasks. The child should be introduced to the role of a fascinating storyteller; then, the speech will be lively and emotional (Dunn & Andrews, 2015). It is significant to strive for a persistent, goal-oriented education of children’s desire to learn and belief in themselves.
Thus, in order to provide comfort and skill development for all students, the room will be adapted to their needs. Accordingly, the furniture will be specially designed for children. For example, special walls for the development of the movement system, mats for communication between children, and subjects for exercising fine motor skills. Naturally, new technologies will be applied to the classroom in order for the children to absorb interactive information. The main teaching methods should include a slow and gradual presentation of the material. At the same time, the kids will often change the activity, which will enable the development of different abilities. It is significant to emphasize that lessons will be shortened because children quickly tire. Teaching assistants will be involved in the lessons, whose primary responsibility will help pupils adapt and master the material.
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