The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 6, 2002


Inclusion and mainstreaming meet children's needs

The school community has changed dramatically in the past few years, thanks to the success of the policy of inclusion and mainstreaming in the Carlisle public school.

Approximately 24 teachers from the Carlisle School and Special Education Department (SPED) made a presentation to the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) meeting Tuesday evening, November 19.

Third-grade SPED teacher Jennifer Johnson gave the CSC a sense of the meaning of inclusion. Essentially, every Carlisle child in school is educated in the mainstream and is in regular education and classes. Additionally all students in the mainstream must be provided with appropriate educational programs that are challenging yet geared to their individual capabilities and needs.

The Carlisle Public Schools Year 2000 Handbook states that, "Special education law requires that every effort be made to accommodate a student's learning needs within the regular education classroom... ." Furthermore, "Special Education services are provided for students with identified disabilities who are not making effective progress within the regular education program. Using state and a federal guidelines, services are determined by the evaluation team, including the student's parents, classroom teacher(s), and special education personnel."

Classroom experiences

So what happens when the policy of inclusion and mainstreaming is applied to students in the actual classroom? Patricia Comeau, SPED teacher for grade 6, elaborated that in the past five years Carlisle has been faced with children who have approximately forty different categories of disabilities, including anxiety disorders, physical challenges, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, bipolar disorder, dyslexia, visual impairments, development delay, learning disabilities, hearing impairments and behavior disorders.

These children are on an IEP or an Individualized Education Program and have qualified through an extensive eligibility determination process (16 pages) by a special educator, occupational therapist, speech therapist, language therapist and a guidance counselor. A structured instructional program is developed with a follow-up to assure the student is making progress in the classroom.

Director of special support services Dr. Linda Stapp noted that 97 students in Carlisle grades preschool through eight qualify for the IEP. Since the special education teachers are integrated throughout the school system one hundred per cent of the school children (850 children) benefit from the added attention and expertise.

Grade 8 SPED teacher Skip Avery commented that he is "proud to be part of the collaborative team to ensure that each student has as successful a day as possible." In each IEP there are sections noting student strengths, student concerns and a vision statement. Thus the teachers are able to determine what services are needed for the student to reach full potential.

Variety of interventions

Fifth-grade SPED teacher Ann James commented that intervention can be made many ways. The student can be placed in small groups or paired with an adult. If comprehension skills are weak, the student can be encouraged to visualize material, summarize, connect it, or use multi sensory methods.

Occupational therapist Alicia Funaro helps the student with weak fine-motor skills or spatial difficulties to modify or organize schoolwork. Speech and language specialist Elizabeth Hamlet works with the student on ways to repeat and rephrase directions, strategies to help the student focus, to verbally rehearse ideas before writing them down, and to proofread content by reading aloud for grammar and structure.

Speech and language specialist Heather White commented that the specialists work with individual students, in small groups or float around the classroom offering help. Sixth-grade SPED teacher Patricia Comeau added that since there are a range of learners in each classroom, the SPED educator's techniques can be inserted in the normal education program.

The special education teachers become part of the regular teaching program. Sixth-grade science teacher Wendy Stack commented that this system is good for all students because it helps address the multiple needs within a class. Carolyn Platt, grade six language arts teacher, agreed that the children's needs are really being met. "It is good to have two people in the classroom," she added.

At the end of the presentation Carlisle Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson acknowledged, "It is impressive when you put it all together. I am proud of what you are doing to meet the needs of every child."

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito