On February 26th, our class was able to host a local special education teacher. She spoke to us about ways in which we could work with students with special needs, their aids and other special education personnel. She also gave us insights on modifying art lessons for students who happen to have special needs.
She was a great representative for students who just happen to have a disability or handicap. She mentioned how no student ever chose to be the way they are, but they are people all the same. Using people first language was a way that she made sure we respected the children we were speaking about. A child with a handicap is not a "handicapped child" and a child with autism should not be called "autistic". By stating that they are a person, a student first, then it doesn't label them in a way that could be disrespectful. She had a great perspective as a special educator. She called all of the students she works with "our" students, not just "my" students. Essentially, the students she works with are every teacher's student because everyone in the school works with them.
We learned more about IEP's or Individual Education Plans and how as art teachers we should go to every IEP meeting that we can. In order to understand the students (which is key to helping them learn) we need to know how to best reach them, which is discussed in IEP meetings. At these meetings and IEP is created as a documents to inform the student's teachers of their strengths and weaknesses in the classroom, as well as the goals for each class setting.
My favorite part of the presentation was her advice on reaching students in the art classroom. Modifications, or differentiations that are made to each lesson in order to accommodate a student with special needs is key in lesson planning and ordering supplies. She mentioned how we should look into purchasing large handled brushes, lower tables, different chairs and other materials that help students with special needs. Inclusion of students with special needs means that the student deserves to be in the general education classroom with his or her peers. If there is a reason for the student to be separated from the class to have an adaptive art class, or to work with an aid, that will also be arranged through their IEP, or on a daily basis. In some instances, our visiting teacher told us that some children just cannot be in that class for the day depending on their mood etc.
It was a great presentation that really got our class thinking about how to better reach students who happen to have special needs. I love advocating for these students, as I think that many of them excel in art class, in a more tactile, hands on environment that it provides. One day, I hope to be a great teacher who really gets to know all of my students,