Learning From An Inclusive Communication Community

Unlike many other learning exceptionalities, students with communication disorders are often in mainstream classrooms. This can pose extreme challenges for teachers who may not know exactly what to do to accommodate those students. Likewise, many school leaders may not know the best ways to make their communication challenged students feel best integrated into the school culture. Indeed, administrators may just meet the minimum legal requirements for accommodating such students. This article, http://www.edutopia.org/brave-new-school portrays a school unlike any other school I've read about. They have set out with a mission to create a school that integrates students with and without disabilities into the same classroom. While of course an individual teacher might have extreme difficulty turning their school into this one, the accommodations described are useful for teacher and administrators alike:

1. Autistic students are often bothered by the hum of florescent bulbs. To remove this common problem, skylights were placed in the school to take advantage of natural light.
2. Another difficulty for autistic students is the level of noise in the hallways. This can be very distracting and bothersome to an autistic student. To reduce this, wall panels contain grooves which help buffer the noise in the hallways.
3. Class size is limited to 15. While this is an endless battle in most public schools, this school just makes it happen.
4. Classrooms all contain regular ed, special ed, and teacher aid professionals. Just as all shapes and sizes of students are learning together in one classroom, so are the learning professionals. Each lesson plan includes the input from regular and special education teachers to ensure differentiation to all learners.
5. The simple act of putting all types of learners in the same room, in one school, helps to break down stereotypes that mainstream learners harbor and significantly reduces the forming of low-self esteem, often developed by students with communication and other disorders in regular schools.

Submitted by Jeffrey Tomlinson