Handling Inclusion Students

A good inclusion teacher will do his/her best to motivate his or her students, especially the ones who are struggling or who refuse to do the work regularly. Sometimes, a non-disabled teen will reject the help, it has happened to me, believing erroneously that I am not their teacher or that it would place them in the same category as the special education classmates. Yes, there is a certain stigma attached to the label “inclusion student”; the perception is probably due to the lack of comprehension by both regular students and classroom teachers. The question I am asked most often is “What exactly does Learning Disability mean?” I try to clarify the best way possible to my teaching colleagues that these students do not perceive stimuli normally, even though their intelligence level is average-normal. It would take a trained psychologist to give all the details, I am not, but the tool we use to detect such learning disability (LD) is a series of tests which show severe discrepancies between the potential and the actual academic performance. For example, if a child’s verbal ability is calculated at 100 and he/she performs at 85, we call that a learning disability in Reading Comprehension.

It is true however that a good proportion of students labeled special education suffer from a lower I.Q. than other children; they may be ranked as average intelligence, but there is a big difference between an IQ of 80, low average, and one of 120, high average. The performance of the high average student, while still inadequate as expected by his level of intelligence, is still much better than the other student’s. I know that some colleagues refuse to accept the IQ scale as a reliable indicator of learning capability. They are right inasmuch many factors intervene in the human brain that may affect performance such as emotional aspects. But if we assume that the two types of students, one with a low average and the other with a high average, are equal in effort and motivation, it will become clear in the classroom that one will do much better than the other other.As a teacher, I must be aware of these multiple factors in each of my special education students who participate in inclusion classes; the classroom teacher does not have access or time to check their individual folders where their detailed academic history is filed. He/she will rely on my analysis to apply the required accommodations and modifications as established in the IEP (Individual Education Plan). Even so, the suffocating amount of paperwork demanded by states and school districts prevents the inclusion teacher from doing his/her job as thoroughly as required. Yes, we come early in the morning and/or stay late after school to finish typing on the multiple forms bureaucracy has invented. But my attention to the students has to be while they are in school, so I can sit and observe them in different classrooms, or talk to them between classes, or consult with regular teachers as to their progress or lack thereof. We simply do not have the time necessary to do what should be done with each child.

By the way, we are much more than the academic supervisor; we are also, if we really love our job, the surrogate parent, the counselor (if they trust us), the older friend who they can go to for a temporary loan, the shoulder they can cry on, their resource for pencils, erasers, pens, paper, and occasionally Kleenex to wipe their tears.