Friday, February 5, 2010

Special Education Students

An email from one of the WVU M382 lab students got me thinking about special ed students, so I'm going to post my reply with the specifics edited out.

Special ed includes: gifted, behavioral disorders, learning disabilites, as well as physical disabilities/handicaps.

Email reply:

How neat that you are able to take a special ed class. I did not have any special ed classes when i went through WVU, so I had to learn by trial and error, ugh.... Like i said, i did not had a special ed class in college, so i feel a little insecure about my special ed knowledge, because i learned it through experience (ie. mistakes!) and by asking our
special ed teachers lots of questions.

I will tell you that I am CPI trained which is Nonviolent Crisis Prevention Intervention. That is an 8 hour course that teaches one how to intervene and prevent a student from going into crisis (an out of control state usually including physical violence), and how to hold/remove a student who is in danger of harming him/herself and/or others. To remain certified, we
have to go to a 4 hour refresher course every two years.

I have all of the special ed students that are enrolled at my school, gifted, BD and LD. as a general rule, they are included in all of the related arts classes even if they are pulled from their general classes to go to special ed.

Without breaking student confidentiality, most of the modifications that apply to music include: preferential seating (either for hearing or vision problems, or for behavior problems), frequent checks for understanding, tests/assignments read aloud, repeat/rephrase directions, subject materials presented in more than one mode (ex. Verbal and visual
prompts), and extra prompts to follow directions before a consequence is given
(usually BD).

There are many more specific modifications that need to be made in a general ed setting where there is more pencil and paper work going on.

I tend to apply my modifications to the whole class, since most of our work is done as an ensemble/group, although there is some individual performance going on (hello song, playing on instruments, etc...). I use a seating chart to make sure i give preferential seating to those who need it. My classes include a lot of social interaction and self control, which can
be very challenging for students with behavior disorders, so I feel proud when
they are able to make their hands be in control, and when they are able to
participate successfully in a group.

I read everyone's files (there are a lot of files, because I see every student in the school) toward the beginning of the year when i have more time available. I do this to make myself familiar with each student's IEP. I am responsible for those modifications. I may keep a copy of the IEP sheet in my room as long as it is locked up. Some of the special ed teachers are good about
providing me with a copy of an IEP, but that does not always happen.

I think the most important thing, for me anyway, is to always keep my cool. So many times, things are not as they appear. A student may not be following directions, not because of refusal, but because they really don't understand what i want them to do. It's not always obvious when a student doesn't understand my words, and it's easy to jump to conclusions and get annoyed. I try to step back, take a deep breath, and reassess what's going on. That's not easy when I'm in a "get it done" mode but necessary if I want to prevent a situation from escalating.

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