What Is Stepping Stones’ Inclusion Program?
Children who learn together, learn to live together.
This statement has had no relevance in the past, because back then, special education often involved the segregation of students with special needs for the purpose of specialized instruction. This model of ‘special’ education (in a separate environmental setting) not only deprives students with special needs of full access to the curriculum but also interaction with same-aged peers.
With the advent of inclusive education, a school’s resources can be used more efficiently by maximizing the availability of staff and materials for all students, equally. Inclusion programs provide a stimulating environment, as well as assessment and observation tools.
What is inclusion?
Inclusion is a philosophy and an educational approach that offers all students equal opportunities for academic and social accomplishments. Inclusive education highlights the importance of educational practices based on the philosophical belief that all learners (those with special needs and those without) have a right to be educated together. This setting can be done in age appropriate class groups, where everyone will benefit from education in mainstream schools. This environment allows parents, teachers, and others to work collaboratively using appropriate resources to understand and interpret the needs and abilities of all students.
The inclusion program at Stepping Stones Center offers a multidisciplinary treatment approach delivered by experts in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis, Special Education, Inclusion Specialists, Speech & Language Pathology & Occupational Therapy. The team works on implementing behavioral strategies, adapting and implementing curricula, differentiating instruction, and targeting individual needs based on IEP goals. All team members have received an ABA training.
Features of an Inclusion Program
To ensure that every student receives access to education based on his/her current skill level. The curriculum is differentiated for the different needs within the classroom. Within the curriculum, several evidence-based programs are incorporated, so as to target all areas. This also helps target all the deficits in the developmental areas of children. Each curriculum is tailored based on the skill level, age, and ability.
Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy
The Speech & Language Therapist (SLT) and the Occupational Therapist work closely with the Inclusion classroom teacher to ensure progress levels for students working in pairs or individually. Speech and language therapy sessions and Occupational therapy sessions are incorporated within the school hours, and students receive sessions in pairs or 1:1. During therapy sessions, the therapist works on the child’s current goals as per the IEP. Progress is monitored and documented through regular meetings with the child, parents, and the Inclusion Teacher.
Individualized Educational Plan(IEP)
An IEP is written after 45 days from the of the student’s enrollment date in the school. After observing the students across all areas and subjects, the annual goals are set. IEP meetings are conducted once/term. In this meeting, academic goals and baselines (in addition to sections that focus on developmental areas of need which overlap with educational goals) are thoroughly reviewed. The meeting is based on the results and conclusions determined by the various assessment methods.
Depending upon the goals and objectives set for each student, parent feedback, and classroom observation, a behavior plan is designed for each student with behavioral problems and difficulties. The behavior plan is shared with the mainstream teacher, who will also follow the same behavioral methodologies to ensure consistency and generalization in behavior modification. Behavior plans are also shared with parents during IEP meetings and monthly consultation meetings. A copy of the plan is given to parents so that they also follow through with the techniques to make sure that their child has no complications in becoming familiar with certain environments.
Providing quiet, non-visually stimulating areas allow children with special needs to concentrate better. Visual instructions featuring images, drawings, scientific objects, etc. are employed, particularly with younger children. Special care is taken to address the child’s sensitivity to light and noise in order to enhance their interactivity in the classroom.
Students with special needs are taught in a regular education school alongside “neurotypical” developing peers, to learn and develop social skills. Children with special needs are included in activities such as field trips, games, etc. with typically developing peers, and are educated in regular school programs. Continuous support and attention is given to each child keeping their specific needs in mind. Different strategies and methods of communication are combined, for all the children to have common and understanding.
Advantages of inclusion programs for students
Helps build meaningful friendships
Increases social initiations, networks, and relationships
Helps in building social and behavioral skills, along with building peer role models for learning enhancement and academic skill acquisition
Increases access to general curriculum
Enhances skill acquisition and generalization along with curriculum adaptations
Creates opportunities for interaction and social skill developments
Increases acceptance and appreciation of individual differences
Prepares all students for adult life in an inclusive society
Opportunities to master activities by practicing and teaching others
Each child has a right to be educated equally. "Inclusion" does not simply mean the placement of students with special needs in general education classes. This process brings about a fundamental change in the way a school community supports and addresses individual requirements. Inclusion programs provide educational services that offer least restrictive environment for students to learn and grow. This program educates each child in the same school he/she would attend if no disability existed.
Would you like to learn more about the Inclusion Program and how your child can benefit from it? Please contact us.