1999 Conference Proceedings

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INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY AND TEAM COLLABORATION INTO THE CLASSROOM

Lori Dahlquist
MA Speech Pathology/Audiology
Children's Care Hospital & School
2501 West 26th Street
Sioux Falls, SD 57105
Voice Message: (605) 336-1840 x4026
FAX: (605) 336-0277

Leanne Baldwin
Special Educator
Children's Care Hospital & School
2501 West 26th Street
Sioux Falls, SD 57105
Voice Message: (605) 336-1840 x3194
FAX: (605) 336-0277

It is 1:00 p.m. and time for Storybook Journey to take place in the classroom. The students are sitting in a circle ready to start. The teacher begins by reading the book The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins. In this book, Mother has made a dozen cookies. That should be enough for the family; however, the doorbell keeps ringing and new friends continue to stop by. During the story the teacher is sitting in the play kitchen center. She is telling the story using a cookie sheet, plates, a bell, real cookies and the students to help tell the story. Each child knows their part and is ready to add a line from the story at the appropriate time. As the teacher reads, it is J.R.'s turn to say his line from the story. Everyone is waiting, but J.R. is busy telling his neighbor what to do. His friend Nancy is sitting next to him and nudges him to say his line. J.R. gets back on task and adds his line. Amy repeats her line out of turn over and over and over. Jessica looks at Amy and says "Not yet Amy!"

When the story has ended every has shared equally in telling the story, become actively involved, and had a good time doing it!!

This may sound like a typical scenario which can take place in any classroom. However, this particular group was made up of students with moderate to severe mental and physical handicaps as well as peers without disabilities. The interactions described were made possible by incorporating technology with storybooks which has become a very effective and positive way to encourage interaction.

The above mentioned segregated classroom was initially identified as serving children whose needs included technology, communication (verbal/nonverbal) and reintegration into the regular classroom. As current best practice standards recommend, collaborative teaching between the educator and speech therapist was implemented for a time frame of 10 hours per week. The children served in this classroom ranged in age from 5 to 10 years old who presented a variety of disabilities. Cognitive levels ranged from age equivalent scores of 10 months to 3 years old with physical abilities ranging from independent ambulation to wheelchair dependent. Programming focused on child centered activities, social skills, play skills, communication/interaction skills and pre-academic skills. A reverse integration program was implemented in a segregated setting as a step toward promoting inclusion.

Inclusion in the regular classroom was not considered least restrictive for these children at this time due to a high frequency of maladaptive behaviors. Each child's level of distractibility, tolerance to stimulation, and ability to process information were also considered in determining least restrictive environment. We realized if successful inclusion was going to be an option in the future, the students required opportunities to interact with non-handicapped peers on a regular basis. In order to ensure positive experiences, opportunities for reverse integration were implemented on a weekly basis within their current program. For our purposes reverse integration involved having non-handicapped children ages 5-10 years spend an average of two to four hours per week in this classroom.

This allowed interactions to occur in surroundings with the setting, structure, technology and materials remaining familiar. Storybook Journey (a whole language approach) is a curriculum that facilitates natural interaction between peers and is easily adapted to meet individual needs. A theme (book) was the focus for 2-4 weeks in order for participants to utilize individualized communication systems and many other forms of technology. This allowed for ample opportunities for repetition and practice in a variety of activities and settings.

The children with disabilities demonstrated an increase in spontaneous interactions, turn-taking, initiating wants/needs and simple problem solving skills. Peers without disabilities developed an awareness of similarities and differences with peers with disabilities, and how technology can bridge the gap. This included programming devices, manipulating wheelchairs, and how to interact without dominating the activity. The benefits to the professional staff included providing a more realistic view (strengths and weaknesses) of the child which allowed us to problem solve accordingly, thereby offering more meaningful information for families and school districts. All participants required ongoing instruction in the students individual communication systems and other available technology and their role in the classroom as a result of this program some of our children are enrolled in an inclusionary setting part time. Continued communication and training between both education sites and parents is seen as an essential component for success.

Team collaboration is important for making interactions and curriculum a success. Weekly planning between all team members is essential. This includes speech, occupational and physical therapists as well as educators, parents, etc. Educator and speech therapist develop lesson plans cooperatively one hour per week. Lesson plans are routed to therapists two weeks in advance. Therapists attend planning as schedules allow. This provides cohesive planning with each professional looking at the whole child and curriculum versus each individual strand. Mandatory monthly meetings are held on each child to discuss progress on IEP goals and plan strategies for the upcoming month according to the child's needs. This process is made possible because of the support from administration making this a priority in children's programming.

In the past we attempted various forms of inclusionary experiences within our setting. These included involving disabled and non-disabled peers in swimming and recreational activities, art activities and community outings. We discovered that while the students enjoyed the experiences, it was a more social as opposed to a true "learning" experience. We realized that we needed to find a way to include both social and learning experiences. This has been our most successful experience thus far as we continue to explore the area of inclusion for students with moderate to severe disabilities.


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