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Aiming for Access

June Behrmann

June Behrmann is a longtime special education teacher (pre-K to grade 6) who retired for about two seconds, and is now prospecting for accessible instructional resources. Follow June on Twitter @aimnoncat. Thank you to AIM-VA: Accessible Instructional Materials for sharing this blog with us.

Effective Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in the Classroom

March 31, 2016

When is inclusion done right? Sessions at education conferences where Lynn Fuchs is speaking on this topic (and others related to accessing the curriculum) are always packed.

In the video clip below, Fuchs — the Nicholas Hobbs Professor of Special Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University — has sage advice about effective inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms.

Make it meaningful

Inclusion is successful when progress is measured objectively, she says in an "Ask The Expert" session for the National Center on Intensive Intervention.

The access mandate in special education law should not jeopardize learning, she advises. "If meeting a student’s needs means teaching below grade-level content, be prepared to defend that decision," she says in the video. "Schools often misinterpret the access mandate as requiring students with disabilities to receive grade-level content instruction in an inclusive setting." But, she adds, access is more than being present in a given location or assuming a child learns there because information was offered.

Teachers should consider the following points:

  • Research illustrates that neither location nor exposure is synonymous with access
  • Access cannot be assumed even when inclusive instruction reflects state of the art accommodations or support
  • Only evidence of adequate student outcomes demonstrates that access to the curriculum has been accomplished
  • Achieving meaningful access for very low-performing students, such as students with learning disabilities, often requires a combination of instruction on grade-level curriculum and below grade-level foundational skills

Gather empirical evidence

"All this argues for a definition of access to the general education curriculum based on empirical evidence of adequate learning regardless of the setting in which or the instructional methods by which that learning is achieved. And progress monitoring data can help you provide such evidence."

Intensive intervention

Fuchs is also a senior advisor to the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII), a federally funded project at American Institutes for Research. The NCII offers many resources to support students who require data-based individualization in reading, mathematics, and behavior for students with severe and persistent learning and behavioral needs.

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"I used to walk to school with my nose buried in a book." — Coolio