Learning Disabilities and the Classroom
With every classroom you are able to see a dynamic between students and their teacher. It takes a strong teacher to really make everything accessible to all students including student with learning disabilities. The class that I watched was Christina Hilliker’s second grade. The disabilities that were part of this great dynamic were Downs, Autism, ADHD, auditory processing and behavior issues that cause learning difficulties. Within the classroom I was able to see many ways that Ms. Hilliker was maintaining her classroom. For general classroom behavior she used a stop light method (red, green yellow). Each student had a Popsicle stick with their name for individual reprimands.
For the students that have ADHD or behavior issues there is a behavior chart with daily goals, these goals last the week but are checked daily for each subject. The student with Downs has a paraprofessional that keeps track of her daily behavior goals to connect with her IEP. The student with Autism also has a paraprofessional that maintains the guidelines for behaviors for this student. He is also on a behavior intervention plan that allows for him to maintain control of his by allowing him to pick three activities to complete before his break. During my visit I noticed that table grouping was strategically placed to help lower level students engage with peers that are at a higher learning level. This works with shoulder partners, face to face and there were no more than four in a ground so it is not overwhelming for students with the learning disability.
I also noticed that she placed the more encouraging and higher level students with O.D. the student with Downs and C.S. the student with Autism. M.M and B.S. both were split between the tables that did not have Para’s so Ms. Hilliker was able to monitor their needs as she taught. They were both placed facing the board and away from the door and window to reduce distraction. Ms .Hilliker planned her lesson around the student with the disabilities, during reading the teacher made it a point to meet with the red group (below readers) and explain to them what was expected during this time.
This meeting allowed for the students and the paraprofessionals to hear exspectations and allow for the Para have to review the directions for the red group students. C.S. and O.D. both had Ipads that allowed them to work independently on Prologo allowing the Para’s to work with the other students. Math time was planned around the special education teacher, this was to allow for the students who were in need of flex grouping to work on the activity to have this and she was then able to monitor the correct use of the math titles. In science there was little planning needed because C.S. and B.S. (B.S. has ADHD as well as behavior problems) were always read a social story to prepare them for the openness of science class and the expectations that they were to follow.
For purpose of inclusion I did not like the stop light discipline, I felt that it held the students who were already on plans for behavior to too many behavior expectations. This seemed overwhelming for me as a visitor to comprehend so I am sure it was for the students with learning difficulties. I think that the behavior plans that were for the individual students worked well to meet their academic abilities and behavior goals. I would use the stop light for the students that were not on BIP’s. During reading I thought that meeting with the red group was great idea because it allows the students to get that one on one time with the teacher in flex group setting and allows for the other students to show independence in the classroom. While meeting I thought that the Para’s should have been introduced to the directions earlier so they could have in the IPad’s and written down for a check list for B.S and M.M. It was nice to see that Ms. Hilliker and Mrs.
Mester worked together during math because it seemed that the students really struggled in math and reading and the flex grouping seemed to help. I found it very strange to find out that the student with Downs was not labeled as a learning disability but was put into this category to access what she needed academically. I did not like the fact that due to funding most of the students like this were not on an alternative curriculum in all cases. I would however use Ms. Hilliker’s seating ideas because it seemed to help B.S. maintain his behavior and compete is work with minimal distractions and M.M. was close to the teacher at all times to ask for clarification. I did notice that M.M. was labeled as auditory processing disorder and there were few accommodations to help this student as an individual. While watching B.S. it was clear that there was the need to have some type of social skills expectations that should be worked with, this student was very immature and inappropriate at times. M.M. on the other hand had no social interaction with his classmates unless the teacher essential made him do it.
I also saw that students that were higher sometimes made B.S. and C.S. get off task when they thought it would be funny for them to get negative attention from the teacher, this was normally right after the Para or teacher paid one on one attention to these two particular students. It was clear that Ms. Hilliker was familiar with this behavior as well because she was able to stop most of this behavior before it got out of hand and was actually able to address the students that where essentially picking on B.S. and C.S. and explain the bully type behavior that they were displaying towards their classmates. In this one classroom there were many things that jumped out at me maybe because they looked overwhelming or maybe because they really worked but one thing is for sure and that is it takes everything a teacher has to keep students learning and without the support from her students and Para’s Ms. Hillikers class would not run like it does. They are a class community working together to create lifelong learners.