Dr. Paula Kluth - Supporting Inclusion in Challenging Times & Creating Schools for All
Below is a summary of my notes and thoughts based on Dr. Kluth's keynote message on inclusion.
First of all, I immediately liked the live speech-to-text (real-time captions) on the screen. It was a perfect example of inclusion, as well as UDL (universal design learning), as all people could partake in the presentation despite any sound issues.
Right away, Dr. Kluth showed us a video of a younger musician, Feng E, and told us to remember this one thing if nothing else: remember the chorus (of teaching); after all, kids will remember the human interaction, not necessarily the technology and all the little details. Belonging and inclusion are the key. Connection and community--that’s what kids will remember in these challenging times.
In fact, we did a brief but insightful activity where the teacher participants wrote what they remembered most from their high school days. Invariably it wasn't primarily academics, like math and chemistry; instead it was the good times together with friends, lunchtimes, PE, band, clubs, and the like. (Right now I'm listening to Feng E on YouTube and he's older and even more talented. Amazing!)
Five Big Ideas:
1. Keep “doing inclusion” - We are all doing it already, so keep it up. For example, a teacher named Sarah Brady started a virtual lunch table with a few of her students twice a week on Zoom, a form of AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication). Communication devices, systems, strategies and tools that replace or support natural speech are known as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).
2. Focus on inclusion as a process
Figure out how to include all students: Over, under, around or through. Find a way, make a way.
Essentially, what the speaker was saying was do not quit until you've tried every possible avenue, and then try something else. It may take a long time to figure out the specific needs because every child is unique and different. I love when she said that often teachers will say that "it" didn't work. Dr. Kluth would reply, "What is your 'it'?" In other words, you need to keep going until you find that "it" for that particular learner.
She also gave an example of a student who she thought was her match. But then she realized that maybe we can't solve the problem, but we can get to a better problem. In other words, something closer to the finish line, an incremental improvement. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day, and some of your most challenging students are like gladiators, battling with you day in and day out. But eventually, there will be cracks in the armor and you will find a way to work alongside instead of head-to-head.
Keep in mind some of these ideas:
Learners need need supports, not just a space (like the classroom). Teachers and support staff need to try all supports, not just some, including ones that don't even exist! Technology, peer support are some ideas. Also, keep in mind that inclusion means different things for different learners, so keeping that student in the classroom but not being an active participant might be defeating the purpose. If you're stuck, brainstorm with other educators a 20 ways list. Remember, kids aren't elastic so structures need to be.
3. Provide access to academics
Dr. Kluth showed a poignant example of a student as an adult and asked how we would have done things differently had we known her future. A woman named Kailey with Down's syndrome was currently working in the government. We need to presume confidence in learners and then help find it. Kids are very complex or competent, so they deserve rich and meaningful learning opportunities. Let's encourage joyful learning and give lots of entry points for our learners, making adaptations where and when necessary. What's really fascinating is that inclusion seems to improve overall class results.
“Sometimes being realistic isn’t being realistic.” Norman Kunc
WHAT IS POSSIBLE? Don't limit yourself.
4. Focus on all
UDL helps one student but also all. Currently social-emotional learning is bieng used for all students, though previously it was for students with autism. UDL helps bring success on multiple pathways for learners.
5. Let them lead
A rising tide lifts all ships. When we give learners agency, self-determination, self-direction, and self-advocacy, choices, then that is when we will truly see success. Let kids lead!
Examples of Working Memories Difficulties
Reduce Memory Load
Source: CanLearn Society - www.canlearnsociety.ca ©2013
This book, written by Howard Eaton, caught my attention because of my recent interest in learning disabilities.
The basis of the Brain School is neuroplasticity, or basically the ability of the brain to adapt. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, neuroplasticity is the “capacity of neurons and neural networks in the brain to change their connections and behaviour in response to new information, sensory stimulation, development, damage, or dysfunction.” This is good news when you consider the people suffering from serious disorders and illnesses related to the brain, such as stroke, injury, autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, brain deficits, depression and addiction.
A psycho-educational assessment measures a variety of areas with a percentile rating (25% - 75% is average range, while 50% is age-level ability) :
ARROWSMITH PROGRAM (19 cognitive dysfunctions and common features)
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE PSYCHO-EDUCATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND THE ARROWHEAD ASSESSMENT
The purposes of the two assessments are very different. The psycho-educational assessment seeks to diagnose a learning disability, assist in skill remediation, in-class adaptations, and assistive technology. The Arrowhead assessment is used solely to design the cognitive capacity training intervention for achievement acquisition. Psycho-ed assessments take about three to four hours, while the Arrowhead assessment can take several hours more. The psycho-ed assessments finds percentile scores on measures of intelligence, cognitive ability, and achievement in reading, writing and math. The Arrowhead assessment does not measure reading, spelling, or mathematical abilities but rather cognitive areas, and results falls on a spectrum from very severe to moderate to mild to above average.
It is unique in some ways. It goes from 8:30 to 3:00 pm, and has eight periods; six of those are cognitive classes, each 40 minutes long, and the other two are English and math. The focus of the school is cognitive remediation. There are two teachers per classroom, so the teacher-student ratio is around one-to-nine. When a student masters a cognitive exercise, a new one is started. Students keep track of their achievements and set new daily goals. In one word, students are focussed--on cognitive exercises, active engagement, and repetition. Despite the intensity of the cognitive classes, students engage in other activities, as well. Daily physical education is 40 minutes a day, and students can participate in extracurricular activities, such as field trips, plays, guest artists, track and field and a talent show.
Source: Eaton, Howard, 2011. Brain School. Vancouver, Glia Press.
Language-processing problems constitute the largest proportion of learning disabilities. These include hearing sounds and words, understanding meaning, remembering verbal content, and communicating clearly.
The following are just a few examples:
Speech and Language Comprehension
Students tend to process information more slowly than usual. Sometimes teachers move on when they feel a response is not forthcoming. Often these students may be considered unmotivated or lazy. Also, language-processing disabilities affect their thinking. Language (words) are necessary to name people, places and things. Social development is influenced with this disability as they struggle with speaking, so they become fearful, shy and withdrawn; some deal in the opposite manner and become bullies. Others prefer to spend time with younger kids, using simpler language.
Word usage and comprehension is found in the left cerebral cortex. Inefficient neural "networking" can also result in processing issues. Some areas are underworked while others are handling too much. There also appears to be a genetic or heredity link with family members, as well.
The best way to intervene is with early recognition and appropriate and intense instruction. Special education is essential. They can use audio materials or simplified texts to handle the information overload. Extra time is often needed for tests and assignments. Test questions may need to be read to them. Teachers may need to speak slower and with simpler one-step instructions. Technology can assist in many ways with reading texts aloud, dictation, voice-to-text recognition, along with spelling and grammar checking.
Despite reading, writing or verbal problems, students with this language-processing disability can end up achieving amazing things, especially in professions that do not rely on advanced language skills: medical technology, architecture, finance, photography, engineering, mechanics, TV production, fine arts and computer programming, to name a few. The key thing is to maintain understanding and encouragement in order to maintain their self-confidence and enthusiasm for learning.
Source: Learning Disabilities: A to Z; Corinne Smith and Lisa Strick, 2010
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Children with ADHD make up 3 to 5 percent of the school population. There are three forms: predominately inattentive; predominantly hyperactive/impulsive; and the combined type. Inattention includes the inability to sustain attention in tasks or play, great difficulty getting organized or does not follow through on instructions or finish schoolwork or chores. Hyperactivity includes fidgeting and squirming, leaving one's seat in the classroom or talking excessively. Impulsivity includes blurting out answers, trouble taking turns or intruding on others.
Boys and girls are both equally likely to be affected, but girls tend to be less aggressive and disruptive, so are often less diagnosed than boys. Students struggle with attention and disruptive behavior, which leads to academic struggles. When they can't manage their emotions with peers, their social lives begin to suffer, often being left out of playdates and parties. Even at home, children with ADHD can strain the relationship between parent and child, because of their stubbornness or embarrassing behavior. If left unaddressed, these children often end up becoming teens that indulge in more thrill-seeking behavior, more drug and alcohol abuse, and are at risk for mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Ultimately, unchecked, their chances for completing school, pursuing higher education and finding satisfying jobs are reduced.
First, determine whether it is indeed ADHD and other factors, such as allergies, hearing or vision problems, stress, diet, inappropriate placement, and maturity level. Generally, students with ADHD require more time and guidance to master information. They may need reinforcing lessons and methods to monitor their own attention, to bring them back on task. Assistive technology can also be a benefit. Parent support and education, as well as family counselling, may be helpful. By their teens, many children show improvement though they remain energetic. Medication may be necessary for some with an extreme condition of ADHD.
Source: Learning Disabilities: A to Z; Corinne Smith and Lisa Strick, 2010
People with ADHD suffer from impulsivity, which means acting without thinking beforehand.
Generally, until people are in their early twenties, their decision making and responses take place in the limbic area--the "emotional brain." There is less inhibition and evaluation of consequences, but as they mature, they begin to respond with the frontal cortex--the "rational brain."
However, individuals with ADHD respond primarily with their limbic area instead of their frontal cortex. So they act or react immediately, without thinking of the potential consequences.
People with ADHD can work on skills and strategies of delaying gratification and evaluating consequences, as well as medication if necessary.
Source: The Disorganized Mind, Nancy A. Ratey, 2008
Erratic working memory and a faulty attention system (impaired executive functions) leads to procrastination. Think of working memory like RAM in a computer; without enough RAM, the brain forgets what it was working on, and moves onto the next task at hand.
People with ADHD also have the uncanny propensity to forget or suppress their goals or important activities they need to complete and instead spend time on trivial tasks, even when they know the consequences of failure in these more critical tasks.
Yet, people with ADHD also "benefit" from procrastination, though probably in somewhat unhealthy ways. When they reach a point of "do-or-die," then a couple of things happen: cortisol (stress response and stress hormone) and dopamine (neurotransmitter of attention system) activate in the body. Suddenly, the frontal cortex is "turned on" and RAM and executive functions begin to work normally. Then these individuals are able to focus their effort and attention on the task at hand.
Therefore, as painful as procrastination can be, people with ADHD still feel they are able to pull a rabbit out of the hat at the last minute, which continues this cycle of procrastination.
Source: The Disorganized Mind, Nancy A. Ratey, 2008
Executive functioning is defined as the "administrator and manager of a complex an busy system"--the brain. It helps students manage all types of tasks, such as organizing a trip, doing a project, or writing a report. It covers neurologically-based skills dealing with mental control and self-regulation.
It is a symptom of many larger issues: attention-deficit/hyperactivity (AD/HD), learning disability (LD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), neurodevelopmental, psychiatric and medical disorders.
Here are different types of executive function:
Source: Late, Lost, and Unprepared, Joyce Cooper-Kahn (Ph.D) & Laurie Dietzel (Ph.D), 2008
Daniel H. Lee
This blog will be dedicated to sharing in three areas: happenings in my classroom and school; analysis and distillation of other educators' wealth of knowledge in various texts; insights from other disciplines and areas of expertise that relate and connect with educational practices.