Having your student with Down syndrome included in the general education classroom with proper supports can often seem like a pipe dream. Just look at the statistics: only 16% of our loved ones with intellectual disabilities (ID) are included in general education classrooms most of their school day.
But the research and federal law back up full inclusion with support, so how do we get there? Well, I was lucky enough to find inclusion expert, Nicole Eredics from The Inclusive Class. This amazing inclusion teacher has created a huge database of resources to support full inclusion for even students with Down syndrome.
Read Related Post Here: $10 MillIion Dollar Grant Awarded to Support Inclusion for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities
Nicole Eredics moved to California from British Columbia, where she started her career in teaching. “In British Columbia the system is set up for mandatory inclusion. That’s the norm. All teachers were trained how to include every type of learner in their classroom. We all co-taught, and inclusion never happened in isolation. I was shocked by the lack of support for inclusion when I moved to the states,” Eredics says.
From this stark difference, The Inclusive Class blog was born. Eredics uses webinars, research-based evidence, podcasts and loads of resources to teach parents and teachers how to successfully include all learners. She says students with Down syndrome can in fact be included, but that child needs a lot of support. “You can’t place a child with an intellectual disability with same age peers if you’re not getting any support,” Eredics explains.
5 Tips From the Inclusive Class To Help Support Inclusion for Students with Down Syndrome:
Show your child’s school what successful inclusion looks like.
“When inclusion isn’t the standard, the parent is going to have to be on the ground making it happen,” Eredics explains. Get to know the school climate, the principal, staff, and teachers. Share the video below with your child’s school, and watch more examples of what inclusion looks like here. Sometimes seeing is believing.
2. Demystify your child.
“You know your child best, so show the school what he’s capable of doing,” explains Eredics. This should include describing in detail your child’s strengths, weaknesses, wants and needs. Check out the one-page bio of Troy. A fellow rockin’ mom was the original creator of this idea. Go here if you want to create one.
Eredics says videos are also helpful. Show your child interacting with peers, doing a favorite activity, mastering a skill. “Many teachers are fearful of how a student with an intellectual disability will impact their classroom. It’s important to facilitate and encourage a strong relationship with the school, where they feel comfortable asking you about your child,” Eredics says.
Read Related Post Here: 3 Steps to Prepare for Your Child’s Next IEP Meeting
3. Demand that your students with Down syndrome gets the support he needs.
Eredics says students with intellectual disabilities obviously needs a well-planned IEP, but more important parents should ensure the IEP is being carried out with fidelity and that the student has one-on-one support.
“The child is either going to need a paraprofessional to help facilitate the physical participation in the classroom or the class should be co-taught. I have never seen a student with ID successfully taught without the support of one of those teaching methods,” Eredics describes.
4. Ensure your child has appropriate accommodations and modifications.
Just as important as a paraprofessional or co-teaching method, is appropriate accommodations and modifications. There is a difference, and both are needed. “Accommodations are the pathways to learning like eyeglasses to see, a special pencil grip to write, or an audio book to read along,” Eredics explains.
Modifications are an absolute MUST for students with Down syndrome, because it allows them to access grade-appropriate curriculum at their level. “They’re still learning the same content, but learning expectations are different. Content can be simplified, or the child can learn one aspect of the material. Alternative assessments and eventually alternate diplomas fall under modifications,” says Eredics. Click here to get more details about accommodations and modifications.
Eredics says it may also be helpful for parents to help create modifications. “There was never an expectation that the parent must do more at home, but we also were glad to work with parents that wanted to help. Request the textbook, curriculum, and lesson plans ahead of time,” says Eredics. Many states have actually modified the Common Core for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, and many teachers don’t even know about this resource. Click here to get the Essential Elements.
Read Related Post Here: Promoting Inclusion through Universal Design for Learning
5. Get teacher buy-in!
Eredics says the biggest barrier to inclusion for students with Down syndrome is the teacher. “If you have a teacher who’s not willing and resistant, inclusion will never work. The teacher is not only responsible for academics, but also the social aspect of the classroom. They create a community and set the tone. If the teacher is excluding the student, it doesn’t matter how much you advocate. Even though you have the law on your side, it really comes down to that teacher’s personality. Over the years, talking to people this is the #1 problem. Point blank,” she says.
Eredics encourages parents to volunteer in their child’s school and start learning who the teachers are in higher grades. Request teachers who seem to have heart and an open-mind. Start the inclusion conversation before they even begin school. And don’t be afraid to request a change of teacher if your child is being excluded.
Nicole Eredics is publishing a book this fall for parents and teachers called Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum. “The book includes specific modifications for students who have intellectual disabilities,” says Eredics. Stay tuned for more information and a book review.
Check out her website here: www.theinclusiveclass.com
Is your child with Down syndrome included in a general education classroom? What has been the biggest reward and challenge? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Comment below.