Monthly Archives: June, 2014

Social Inclusion of Students with Autism

Working with students with special needs can be one of the greatest challenges for a teacher. These students are wonderful individuals, but many teacher preparation programs fall short of helping teachers be fully equipped to provide all of the resources necessary for students with special needs. As inclusion models become more common in public and private schools, general education teachers are not always prepared for the accommodations and modifications that must be made to help these students succeed academically as well as socially. In my Educating Exceptional Students course, we were asked to do a peer review article on a topic of our choosing. I felt that, since I find autism to be a fascinating disorder and a majority of the focus of inclusion models for students with autism is social inclusion, it would be interesting to look into an article that investigates how students viewed their peers with autism.

Peer Review Paper: Social Inclusion of Students with Autism

The article by Boutot and Bryant (2005) was, essentially, a survey to determine which students belonged to social groups, which students were well-known, and which students other students wanted to spend time. According to their very limited findings, “Students with autism in inclusive classrooms are as likely as their peers to be chosen for an activity…have the same amount of visibility…[and] be members of a very definite group” (Boutot and Bryant, 2005, p. 20). The most interesting part of the article I found, though, was in the Observational Findings section. The authors stated that two students who had been particularly successful were in general education classrooms that had underwent a training session for the addition of a student with autism. As a teacher, this helps me understand the critical role I play in that I can help my students be better prepared for what to expect when there are students with special needs in the classroom and know how to include them socially. As opposed to continue focusing on simply how peers view with students with autism, I will be writing my next paper for this course on the steps I can take as a teacher that can help students appreciate and accept the differences that make them unique.

Boutot, E. A. & Bryant, D. P. (2005). Social integration of students with autism in inclusive settings. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 40(1) 14-23.

Professional Growth Plan

As I help my students reflect on their year of learning, I remind them that everyone still has things on which they need to work – even teachers. As I reflect on my year of learning and teaching, it is critical to identify the areas of weakness and how I will work to better myself in those areas in the future. The Professional Growth Plan (PGP, see Image 1) has helped me reflect on my teaching in a meaningful way and exemplify professionally-informed, growth-centered practice (HOPE principle E1). While this is required for my program, I felt it truly helped me lay out measurable plans for my future in teaching, as well as a baseline from which I can grow in my own classroom next year.

Image 1 - An excerpt from my Professional Growth Plan addressing improving Academic Vocabulary use in my classroom.

Image 1 – An excerpt from my Professional Growth Plan addressing improving Academic Vocabulary use in my classroom.

In going through the Washington State rubrics, I found a few areas in which I would like to grow in my next few years of teaching. While they had not been my focus as I was gaining footing in the classroom, it will be important that I implement these into my teaching in order to be a more effective teacher for all of my students’ needs. As opposed to other reflections I have done, the PGP requires the teacher to plan action steps that will begin progress toward the new goals set. For example, in order to better teach academic vocabulary (Criteria 2.7), my goal is to identify key vocabulary while planning the lesson, creating a word bank, and assessing students on key academic vocabulary. My action step that will set me in motion to reach this goal will be to specifically identify they key vocabulary in my plan book. In addition to writing the learning target in my plan book and on the board, I will leave space for vocabulary in both of those spaces as well. While the plans for the rest of this school year have been written and it would be difficult to begin a new activity with students so late in the year, I can begin the next school year with these goals in mind in order to make vocabulary a central focus in my classroom.