For her doctoral study, The Attitudes of Regular Education Teachers Regarding Inclusion for Students With Autism, Dr. Kimberly Showalter-Barnes '09, Doctor of Education, explored how teachers can identify and help students who are being wrongfully excluded. Her research unearthed methods that can be useful for educators looking to improve their classrooms and cites proper teacher training as key to student success. Here, she shares three tips.
1. Identify the Problem
As a speech-language pathologist, Showalter-Barnes noticed a problem in her classrooms: Every student with autism was placed in special education, including those children who would have learned better within the mainstream educational structure. "The varied ability of students with autism was not being taken into consideration," says Showalter-Barnes, adding, "You must search out the group that is being neglected." If an aspect of your operation is being broadly categorized, consider reassessing that aspect so you can best handle the issue in question.
2. Persevere with Patience
"With inclusion, every step you take is not necessarily a forward step," says Showalter-Barnes. "Sometimes you take one step forward and two steps back." She recalls one student with autism who was placed in mainstream classes. After weeks of progress, he relapsed into tantrums and aggressive behavior. "It might not be an easy ride, but you have to be willing to work through it."
3. Possess a Willingness to Change
Whenever there is an effort to include new members in a group, current members must be flexible. Regular education teachers might tweak their lesson plans for students with autism whose learning abilities have certain needs, such as more visual learning methods. "You have to be willing to change," she says. "That will take more time and more foresight on your part to plan for problems."
Read more about Dr. Showalter-Barnes.