Carly Fleischman’s recommendations

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A young Canadian girl with autism has found her voice through the computer and assistive technology, once again illustrating the axiom that when you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism.  Her story provides support as we continue to expand our understanding and look for ways to work with the students and parents in Westwind diagnosed as on the autistic spectrum to achieve their potential in an inclusive education environment. Below is one sample story from the media section of Carly’s blog.

Carly maintains, with the assistance of her family an online blog. Her recommends page provides links and information on a number of apps that have provided some support on computer and IPad in her quest to communicate.

Working together

Dr. Ross Greene has published a couple of books, “The Explosive Child” and more recently “Lost at School” suggesting to educators, parents, and those who work with children that there is a “better” way to approach students who have struggled. the-explosive-childlost-in-school

Dr. Greene suggests a collaborative model that involves the student in both the identification of the challenges and the development of the solutions. Reducing frustration and the associated outbursts associated with a wide range of behavioral challenges is in the best interests of everyone in a family or school setting. Dr. Greene suggests it is not about motivation but about addressing what he refers to in his books, videos, workshops are “lagging skills”. Addressing those skills provides the student with the ability to do what they previously struggled to do when they lacked those skills.

Dr. Greene and his associates have created a website

And Dr. Greene’s Youtube channel provides a series of video’s from one of his training sessions which introduces the viewer to the concepts covered in the book.  Lost at School provides the reader with the details around the program and concepts of working with youth and a narrative story that provides an example of the principles being applied in the life of a couple of students at a school over the course of the year.

As we strive to develop an inclusive school setting finding ways to support our classroom teachers and parents in helping develop the skill sets for students who have previously struggled with their behavior is a vital piece of the puzzle as we move forward.

“Students do well if they can” it’s our goal to help them remove the barriers and support their efforts to develop the skills to succeed.

Anxiety and Stress for students and….

Anxious. We most often associate being anxious with negative connotations in the family of conversation around worried, stressed, uneasy, apprehensive and fearful.  In fact a quick check of the synonyms provides a list of 10 words and only one, eager, might be considered as a positive emotional response. We know that students, teachers, and parents can all experience the emotional spectrum associated with anxiety to some degree but for some of our students anxiety and stress “attacks” are debilitating and play a significant role in their efforts to get to school and learn.

Anxiety BC Youth has created a fairly comprehensive website with videos, links, and suggestions for students who are stressing out, experiencing panic attacks, and generally struggling to experience the positive aspects of being anxiously engaged. Students, teachers, parents, and counselors can find interesting stories and support strategies on the site.


If you’ve met one…

I’d like to take a minute to consider autism and our students in Westwind.  If this is the first mention of autism, it most assuredly won’t be the last as we work toward an inclusive model throughout the Westwind division.

Toward the conclusion of the book, “Love Anthony” by Lisa Genova the author shares a comment uttered by countless others in conversations around autism, “If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism.”

The thought is simple and concise, there is not one story, practice, treatment, cure, or accommodation that will work for all individuals, students or adult diagnosed with autism. Teachers, educational assistants, behavioral consultants, psychologists can provide a range of activities and accommodations to support the educational experience of a student diagnosed as autistic yet it seems critical that the exploration for what will work best for any one autistic student never cease.

In contemplating a fully inclusive system the same thought; that we should continue to explore better ways to reach all our students, holds true for all students. If we can find something that would be particularly helpful for an autistic student we have in mind chances are that there are elements of that adjustment or accommodation which will help others in the class we hadn’t previously recognized as needing assistance.

As the book draws to a close Genova writes, “The spectrum is long and wide, and we’re all on it. Once you believe this, it becomes easy to see how we are all connected.”  We are well aware that our students with severe autism present a different set of challenges however together we can work toward better meeting their needs in an inclusive environment and in so doing improve the collective learning experience of all students.

In the end as we ponder an inclusive education system all our of our students and their parents would like us to think of each individual, how they belong and how their needs are best met. The strength of our division comes from the collective INDIVIDUAL experiences not the average experience of the collective.

For information on the book Love Anthony click here
Check out this blog that provides some helpful information and thoughts focused on Autism

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Inclusive Education defined…or defining

Defining and operationalizing an inclusive education model in Westwind school division will require everyone, parents, students, staff, and administration to work together over time to expand our understanding.  Over the next few posts I’d like to offer a couple of thoughts and documents from Alberta and the literature that might help us moving forward.

Alberta Education provides the following as a partial definition of an inclusive education system:

An Inclusive Education System
The goal of an inclusive education system is to provide all students with the most appropriate learning environments and opportunities for them to best achieve their potential. Some have said, this is what should already be happening in education, and they’re right. However, some children, youth and their families do not feel that they have the same opportunities as their peers.

In Alberta, inclusion in the education system is about ensuring that each student belongs and receives a quality education no matter their ability, disability, language, cultural background, gender, or age. For some, a provincial move to inclusive education will mean very little change, but for others the change will be more significant. 

An inclusive education system is best realized when leadership is shared between school, home and family.  Schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs and health of the communities they serve and must be equipped to reflect inclusive practice. 

In developing an inclusive education system in Westwind this information serves as part of the discussion as we work toward meeting the needs of each student.  An inclusive system doesn’t mean one size fits all, or all students are in the same class receiving the same instruction, the same readings, the same assignment or even the same assessment. It does mean that there is a culture of belonging, that all students feel safe and supported in our schools and classrooms regardless of their differences emotionally, culturally, and intellectually. In fact I think it’s important to note that students, parents, and families feel safe and supported, they have a sound understanding and shared responsibility in developing the appropriate individual education plan for each of our 4079 students.

Professional Learning Communities are Key!
Our work to develop a truly inclusive education system in Westwind began a few years ago with a renewed commitment to professional learning communities. In a PLC setting we work together with each other to review the data that informs us about each of our students. We work to understand the educational strategies that will build upon the strengths of our students and staff to help them master the objectives and meet the goals of each student’s individual learning plan.

Our efforts to develop sound assessment strategies, lessons designed to meet the layers of abilities in an inclusive classroom, and instruction that engages and includes all students to the best of their ability is part of operationalizing an inclusive education model.

There will be times when individuals and groups with similar needs or interests will be engaged in different activities as we work to differentiate or practice supporting the strengths of our students. Inclusion most definitely does not mean all students doing all things at the same time, place, or pace.

More to come next post…thanks for your thoughts and questions.