This post is authored by Francine Towbridge, Account Manager at Achievement Products® for Special Needs.
This year I had the pleasure of attending the HighScope® International Conference in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The workshops were informative and enlightening. I especially enjoyed chatting with teachers who were excited and ready to learn new teaching strategies. Today, many preschools programs include children with special needs. Therefore, some teachers were particularly concerned about how to implement the HighScope® approach in an inclusive setting.
I attended two excellent workshops that addressed this topic:
- A Preschool Class with a Special Approach: Plan-Do-Review in Inclusion Classrooms
- Making HighScope® Work for Children on the Autism Spectrum
We all know that the goal of inclusion, is to create a warm environment that encourages positive interactions, and learning for students regardless of their ability level. I learned in the workshops that accomplishing this goal need not be a “Herculean” task!
UCLA basketball coaching legend John Wooden said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” Coach Wooden won ten NCAA national championships, was named the national coach of the year six times, and his philosophy was based on teamwork. The workshops taught educators that changing a few “little details” in your HighScope® classroom and collaborating daily with your team will help you achieve the goals you have for your students.
Some of the strategies I learned in the workshops:
- Focus on what the child can do! Current teaching practices in the field of special education are often based on correcting children’s “deficits.” If we make a little adjustment in attitude, we can start focusing on the child’s strengths and interests.
- Special needs students are eager to learn. Meet them at their level. Give them opportunities to make choices by having a variety of learning materials available.
- Be consistent. A consistent but flexible daily routine gives children a sense of control and promotes independence.
- Incorporate the students’ IEP goals into your daily routine. Small group time can be used to accomplish IEP objectives.
- Use visual cues and photos for children with autism; this helps them interpret information. Some preschoolers can follow verbal requests, such as “Let’s put the blocks away.” However, children with autism may also need a visual cue for clean up time, such as a flicker of the lights or a photo of cleanup time. You can also create a visual representation of the daily routine and use pictures for planning and recall time.
- Be patient and positive. Allow extra time for the children to complete tasks and respond to a question. A warm classroom environment can lead to increased academic achievement and a sense of belonging.
After the workshops were over, many teachers lingered to ask the presenters questions, take handouts and the free visual aids. To me, this was a clear indication that the teachers were inspired to go back to their classrooms, tweak a few vital details and make big things happen with their little learners. I hope you will too!