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Integrating Students with Severe Disabilities (page 2)

— Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Jul 26, 2007

Where can Extra Help Best be Used?

Areas in which additional support might be needed could include getting on and off the bus; using correct entrances and exits; locating classrooms, bathrooms, offices, and other school facilities; using lockers and locks; following lunchroom procedures; and using recess time in appropriate ways. 

This extra support can be of great assistance to regular education teachers and to students with severe disabilities, as well as other school staff and building principals, all of whom might feel overwhelmed by the typical beginning-of-the-school-year hassles. It is important to plan to gradually fade out the additional support as students begin to acquire necessary skills and learn new school routines. 

How can an "Open Door" Policy Help Break Down Barriers?

Teachers can make other staff members feel welcome in their classrooms by announcing an "open door policy," a willingness to have visitors. Parents might be curious about what happens in the classroom and could spend time there. Whenever appropriate, visitors could observe ongoing instruction, look at the room and its materials, and interact with the students with disabilities. This willingness to be observed and have visitors might serve to remove some of the mystery that often surrounds a classroom that includes students with severe disabilities. Eventually, this could lead to having observers, either nondisabled students or staff members, become more involved with students with disabilities. 

How can Students Learn More About Handicapping Conditions and the Problems Faced by People With Disabilities?

Information about people with disabilities can be incorporated into the regular education curriculum. If students with severe disabilities are to become truly integrated into regular schools and classrooms, sensitization to individual differences among peers should become an established part of ongoing curricula for all students. For example, sensitization/information sessions might be presented to social studies classes in a middle school during an ongoing unit on similarities and differences among people. 

How can Nondisabled Students Help Support Integration Efforts?

Initially, interested students could be given a general orientation to individual differences among students, as well as specific information about the new students with severe disabilities attending their school. These students could then assist in both planning and conducting sensitization and information sessions. They could also provide input about activities they believe their peers might find interesting. 

The use of nondisabled student tutors or partners to work with students who have disabilities is an effective technique (Almond, Rodgers, & Krug, 1979; Donder & Nietupski, 1981; Kohl, Moses, & Stettner-Eaton, 1984; Poorman, 1980; Stainback, Stainback, & Jaben, 1981). More recently, enlisting the assistance of students with disabilities to tutor or help other students has also been found to be useful (Gartner & Lipsky, 1990). Once students are given accurate information about the individual differences among their peers and taught to interact with them appropriately, they can serve as tutors or partners for a variety of tasks both in the classroom (e.g., teaching individualized programs) and outside the classroom (e.g., using lockers, navigating hallways, eating in the lunchroom, and using recess time appropriately). Tutors might work with students on self-care, communication, or functional academic tasks. They could also assist new students and/or students with severe disabilities by being friends and helping out when they experience difficulties. 

However, it should be noted that students with disabilities should not always be targeted as only recipients of assistance from others. All students, including students with severe disabilities, should be given opportunities to be providers as well as recipients of assistance (Stainback & Stainback, 1988). 

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