A 2014 study showed that about 6.5 million students in the United States were receiving special education services. That’s about 13%. That means that general education teachers are likely learning to accommodate different learners far more than ever before. Integrating special education students into a mainstream classroom- whether throughout the day or for different day parts- can be overwhelming for a general education teacher. Here is a list of 5 inclusion tips for teachers.
1. Become Familiar With Your Student’s IEP
Not only are you entitled to view your student’s IEP, you should be present at the IEP meetings and truly embrace your role on the team. Study the section on your child’s strengths so you can understand better what makes her tick and how to access to those strengths.
2. Don’t Go It Alone
Confer with all members of the student’s IEP team: a special education teacher, speech, occupational, physical therapists can all help you understand which accommodations will help your student be most successful in your classroom. For example, the school’s OT can likely make suggestions as simple as let the student play with fidgets during class to increase her ability to attend to task.
3. Be Equipped With Visuals
Many students with autism and other special needs are “visual learners” and may struggle with processing auditory information. The more you can share information visually, the better. This can include posting visual schedules for the day, or providing written instructions. Often times, less is more. No need to make visuals too overwhelming with multiple colors or fonts. Keep it simple.
4. Be Clear About Expectations
Another thing to post is a list of rules and expectations. Make sure each learner in your class understands your expectations for behavior. “If-Then” statements are easily understood. Let your students know what will be celebrated and what will not be tolerated. Stick to your own rules and be consistent for best results.
5. Reinforce and Reward
Find out what makes your learners tick and reward them accordingly. Reinforcing positive behaviors can go further than most people realize. Use special interests to your advantage! If a child is particularly interested in trains, use them in teaching shapes, math problems, writing stories, and more.
Bonus: 6 Tips for My Special Education Child’s Mainstream Teacher (from a parent)