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Exceptional Children

Jessica J. Brauer

Doane University | Initial Certification Program | Final Reflection | 16 June 2016

When I walked into Room 303 five days ago, I did so with little expectations but eager anticipation. I have been fortunate to have had several experiences within the world of special education in my lifetime. I was first introduced to this world while I was in 4th grade when my little brother was diagnosed with severe dyslexia. My experiences expanded when I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, and then have expanded even more in the last few years I’ve worked as a special education paraeducator. I didn’t walk into Room 303 five days ago expecting that I knew everything, but I didn’t know exactly how much I actually had to learn.

There were two things I was eager to learn more about when I began the class this week: inclusion and accommodation. While familiar with the concept and idea of inclusion, I still had quite a bit of confusion about it in practice, particularly regarding the students with more severe-needs. Inclusion is a great concept, and I didn’t disagree with it by any means, but the idea of getting rid of separate spaces and classrooms for these students altogether seemed like it might not be in the best interest of the students — at least not of the students I’ve come to know in my work as a para. However, the discussions over the course of this class have helped me better understand that Inclusion in practice is much more like the ideal vision I already had in my head. By considering the Least Restrictive Environment for each student on a case-by-case basis, all students are included in the classroom based on what would be best for each of them individually. With these new understandings, I find myself much more willing and ready to explore inclusion in my own classroom.

I was also eager to learn more about accommodations. My experiences had provided me a

familiarity with a handful of accommodations related to my brother’s needs, my own, and those of the students I worked with, but I hadn’t really ever considered how I would alter lesson plans or utilize accommodations in my own classroom. The group presentations on each of the thirteen types of disabilities as defined by IDEA was especially helpful to me in my search for additional ideas and information on accommodation. Not only did these presentations help me gain a slightly better understanding on who these students may be in my class some day, they gave me some great ideas for ways I can be sure I am best serving them in my class.

I also appreciated the slightly more “in-depth” look at the evaluation and verification processes for students with special needs. I had been previously familiar with the MDT and IEP processes, but although I’d heard of SAT and RTI, I had no idea how they connected to the verification process. I found the information presented in these units most informative for me as a general education teacher, as my involvement in documentation of a student’s progress can be such a key part to


getting a student the accommodations and/or services he/she needs. In addition, although it was initially somewhat overwhelming, I very much appreciated the introduction to Rule 51. I think it’s important to know the laws, or at least have a familiarity with them, especially in order to properly advocate for these exceptional students.

The most surprising element of my week was the work I did for the perspective assignment. I chose to interview my mother and brother about their experiences surrounding his initial diagnosis and his progression through school and life with the disability. Even though we spoke very openly about Josh’s dyslexia in our home, I never realized how much more there was to everything that was going on for my parents and my brother during that time. There was so much that I was completely oblivious to that were important elements to Josh’s success. And the amount of advocating my parents did and my brother did for himself while he was growing up was far more than I realized. I never knew until these interviews how hard my family fought for accommodations for Josh, especially with those teachers who refused to believe it, since Josh was socially and intellectually just like every other kid in the regular ed classroom. I never realized how difficult and frustrating it could be to have to advocate for even the simplest accommodations.

Finally, I found Angie’s presentation today exceptionally rewarding. I mostly appreciated hearing her perspective as the parent of a high-needs student. I am afraid to admit that I have been guilty of negative assumptions about parents of the students with whom I work far too often. It is something that can be easy to get caught up in when you don’t have much interaction with them. It’s important to remember parents as who they are — amazing, courageous people who have been with their student since birth — the student’s primary teachers — the ones who have struggled with them and celebrated every achievement — and the ones who should always know the student best. Angie really helped open my eyes to the realities of parents of special needs students, and I couldn’t thank her enough for that. I will certainly be taking much of what she discussed, particularly regarding positive assumptions, back into my work as a para and into my practicum/ student teaching, and my eventual classroom.

When I walked into Room 303 five days ago and was presented with the overview of the week, it seemed it would be a monumental task to make it through all of the information. It has certainly been a long week, but we managed to make it, and I truly couldn’t be more grateful for the incredible wealth of knowledge I’ve added to my toolbox. I look forward to meeting and working with the exceptional children destined for my eventual classroom, now knowing just how much they have to teach me. I’m ready