ATEACHABOUT: Teaching Tools For Inclusion
By Anthon McLaws MS,OTR/L
Staff occupational therapist
Isaac School District
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that students
with special needs be educated in environments that are the least restrictive.
For many students, this means participating in a general education classroom for
part or all of the school day. But when inclusion is mandated by the least restrictive
environment principle, how do individual teachers and support staff gain the necessary
skills to practice inclusion? One common solution is to send staff members to
local or out-of-state workshops. However, this often does not solve the problem
of how to educate entire staffs. Due to limited funding, it is often only a few
teachers that attend these inclusion workshops. Diana Henry, president of Henry
O.T. Services, Inc. solves this problem by bringing the message of inclusion to
individual schools and districts throughout North America. Ms. Henry, an occupational
therapist and educator of inclusion techniques, has developed various programs,
including the ATEACHABOUT, where she travels the country in her fifth wheel and
brings her programs directly to teachers, administrators, therapists, psychologists,
teaching assistants, and parents.
During the 1990s, inclusion of students with special needs into general education
settings made significant advances. Although inclusion continues to be controversial
among some school administrators, teachers, and support staff, recent research
reveals that the trend to educate students with learning disabilities in the least
restrictive environment is increasing throughout the U.S. (McLeskey, Henry, &
Axelrod, 1999). This trend is supported nationwide by educators and parents as
well as by the IDEA. The authors of the above research state, "
seems to be an emerging consensus that students with learning disabilities should
spend most of the school day in general education classrooms, and that most of
the services that are needed by these students may be delivered in these settings"
Educating students with special needs in a general education setting is not
a barrier-free pursuit. Patty Guard, the director of the Education Departments
Office of Special Education Programs, states that some geographic areas are further
behind when it comes to inclusion because of "individual funding formulas
and local policies" ("Report: IDEA Students," 1999). Another common
barrier is the lack of staff training. McLeskey, Henry, and Axelrod recommend
that "professional development be provided so that teachers can attain the
new skills required to meet student needs" in an inclusive classroom (1999).
The Isaac School District, a preschool through eighth-grade district in Phoenix,
Arizona, has embraced the concept of inclusion and has experienced tremendous
success in educating students with special needs. With the help of Ms. Henry,
the special education department at this inner-city district has expanded inclusive
services to encompass all aspects of education. Ms. Henry and Dr. Marcia Smith,
director of Special Services, have promoted the concept of least restrictive environment
by providing the Tools for Teachers in-services, where entire education staffs
are trained in inclusion techniques and strategies. The themes of these in-services
range from sensory integration and designing sensory-safe classrooms to general
systems-change topics. Dr. Smith states that, "When whole staffs are trained
together, they are more apt to solve the problems that are keeping them from using
inclusion. This type of training provides the support for change."
Additionally, Henry O.T. Services Inc. has trained all related service staff,
including speech and language pathologists, physical therapists, and occupational
therapists in inclusion principles and strategies. This training has consisted
of ongoing in-services on how to incorporate proven inclusion techniques into
the general education curriculum and how to arrange for adequate planning time
to make these changes successful. Sandie Scott, a speech language pathologist
at the Isaac School District, feels that the training of the entire speech therapy
department was important because, "It let everyone brain storm and problem
solve with each other. And because everyone had a different area and level of
expertise and skill, we got a lot accomplished."
Most recently, Tammy Wheeler,MS,OTR/L of Henry O.T. Services Inc. has helped
to implement two additional programs at Isaac School District: an adaptive physical
education program, Tools for PE, and a parent in-service program, Tools for Parents.
First, Ms. Wheeler has assisted the P.E. teachers of the Isaac School District
in developing an inclusive and adaptive physical education program where all students,
both special and general education, can participate together in physical activity.
Secondly, Ms. Wheeler and the districts parent coordinators have developed
a monthly parent workshop where occupational therapy and sensory integration strategies
for the home are shared with the families of Isaac School District students. The
topics at these meetings include themes such as after-school homework strategies,
calming strategies, neighborhood playground safety, and handwriting improvement
techniques. Charlotte Price, a Tools for Parents participant and the caregiver
for her grandson, feels that the workshops have supported her in her parenting
role. "Every time I attend, I leave with a greater respect for my grandson.
The classes renew and energize me. Now Im listening to my grandsons
needs better." She feels that the training she receives at Tools for Parents
supports her grandsons inclusion program at school. Mrs. Price also states
that sharing with other parents is an important part of the program.
Because of its staff development programs, the Isaac School District has experienced
success in providing inclusion services to students with special needs. The Tools
programs developed by Henry OT Services have advanced the education of entire
departments and staffs. These programs also support the IDEA, which mandates "quality
professional development for all personnel who are involved in educating children
with disabilities" and "increasing parental involvement in the education
of their children" (IDEA website, 1999).
Continuing education workshops that offer on-site training of entire staffs,
like the programs developed by Ms. Henrys ATEACHABOUT provide educators
throughout the U.S. and Canada with the tools to make inclusion work. Dr. Smith
feels that the benefits of training entire staffs are many. "First, it benefits
teachers by allowing entire staffs to support each other through change. Second,
it benefits students as they progress to higher grades or change schools because
the same inclusion techniques are being used by all teachers throughout the district."
Ms. Henry has been involved in school-based occupational therapy practice for
25 years. She has developed various products such as the Tools for Teachers and
the Tools for Students videos as well as the Tool Chest Handbook: For Teachers,
Parents, and Students, which is now available in English, Spanish, French, and
German. These products are user friendly and provide clear explanations on how
to develop sensory-safe environments in classrooms, around school campuses, and
More information on Henry O.T. Services and the ATEACHABOUT is available online
Individual with Disabilities Education Act website, 1999. www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/IDEA/index.html).
McLeskey, J., Henry, D., & Axelrod, M. I. (1999). Inclusion of students
with learning disabilities: An examination of data from reports to congress. Exceptional
Children, 66 (1), 55-66.
Report: IDEA students increasingly included in classrooms. (1999, Winter).
Counterpoint, ( ), 8.
Reprint of article in Counterpoint, Spring 2000 issue, vol. 20, issue 3, courtesy
of NASDSE (National Association of State Directors of Special Education) and LRP
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