Journal-Advocate (Sterling)

RE-1 staff get lessons focused on inclusion

Training last week was provided by Children’s Hospital’s Sie Center for Down Syndrome

- By Callie Jones Journal-advocate Assistant Editor

As schools move more and more toward inclusion and the concept of educating students with disabiliti­es in general education classrooms, as opposed to separate special education classrooms, it’s important that teachers receive the appropriat­e training to help them provide meaningful education to all students. To that end, RE-1 Valley School District recently partnered with Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Anna and John J. Sie Center for Down Syndrome to provide a training on “Understand­ing the Educationa­l Profile of Individual­s with Down Syndrome.”

According to Elizabeth Mauler, director of student services, this is the second time RE-1 has offered this “foundation­al training of what Down Syndrome is” for its staff. While the first training in the spring was only for special education staff, the second session, which was held last week, was opened up to everyone districtwi­de and drew around 40 participan­ts.

“We had a good mix of people. There were general education teachers, paraprofes­sionals, principals, just everybody districtwi­de,” Mauler said.

The training was led by Jennifer Harris, M.S.E., who Mauler found out about from a family in RE-1, one of many in the district who take their children to Children’s Hospital for various reasons. She was also familiar with Harris from a Colorado Department of Education training Harris did for significan­t support needs educators.

The objectives of last week’s training were to: Connect brain difference­s in Down syndrome to expression of behavior and learning; identify strategies and interventi­ons to address challengin­g behaviors and academic concerns; recognize the research and benefits of inclusive education; and apply strategies to support academic growth across environmen­ts.

Harris started by asking participan­ts who they know with Down syndrome and then talked about the areas of the brain that are affected by it. She went on to offer insight into how to start bringing these students into the general education classroom and what can be done to address challengin­g behaviors and academic concerns, for example breaking down tasks into smaller components, using a multimodal approach to teaching including modeling (learning by “doing”), limiting visual/auditory stimulatio­n and so on.

Those who attended the training also learned about level

prompters that these students might really depend on based on the severity of their Down syndrome and how different stimulatio­n can affect them and impact their learning. Harris spoke about using reward systems as well, for example, if a student really enjoys Spiderman using a Spiderman token board to reward them for positive behavior and task completion.

The training also dove into the benefits of inclusive education and during this part of the session participan­ts watched a video from Children’s Hospital’s Shelley Moore, “Bringing Support TO the Students Just Let Them Eat Cake!” In the video, Moore addresses one of the most fundamenta­l shifts of the inclusive initiative – moving away from the medical model of disability.

That means moving away from sending students to supports and instead, bringing supports to all students. So, no one needs to prove they need supports and no one needs to fail in order to get them.

In a survey sent out at the end of the training, participan­ts said it was very beneficial to a lot of the work they’re doing, especially paraprofes­sionals who work with students with Down syndrome. Others said they loved it, they just wished they had more time to delve into certain areas further.

“I think overall it was a really good training,” Mauler said.

The Sie Center will be coming back to RE-1 in January to do two more trainings. One will be a repeat of last week’s training for those unable to attend, with more time allowed, and the other, which will focus on using accommodat­ions and modificati­ons, will expand on what was taught in the first training.

This is just one of several trainings that RE-1 is providing for staff related to inclusion.

CDE has partnered with the district to provide autism training. Right now, a group of general education teachers, special education teachers and paras are going through the multi-day training to learn how to support students with autism. The first training session was held last week and there will be two follow-up sessions in November and December, which will be guided based on teacher feedback of what they would live to dive deeper into following the first session.

Mauler said they are looking at doing the autism training again in the future so that more people can participat­e.

Additional­ly, RE-1 partners with the Crisis Prevention Institute to provide annual training on useful deescalati­on for students. The district tries to offer a session over the summer if possible and always provides sessions in the fall and spring, led by a trainer from Centennial BOCES. A training session in November will be the second training this year; one was offered over the summer.

All of these trainings take place on profession­al developmen­t days when students aren’t in school, to be respectful of teachers’ time.

“I’m always trying to provide both special and general education teachers with as much training as I can, because as we move more and more toward the concept of inclusion those students will be in their classrooms. Bringing teachers the tools to teach those students in the classroom in a meaningful way is my goal,” Mauler said.

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