Lessons About Inclusion from Nest (Part 2)
by Lauren Hough Williams
In Part 1 of this series, you learned that:
- Inclusion works.
- The classroom is the therapeutic environment.
- School. is. school.
To read about each of these in depth, read the “Lessons About Inclusion from Nest (Part 1)” post. Read about Lessons #4-6 below:
4. Training is essential.
Inquiries come into the ASD Nest Support Project website everyday from teachers saying, “I have a student with ASD in my classroom. What do I do?” Although autism is more present in mainstream culture, many educators still do not feel qualified to adequately support their students with autism. New York State has taken steps to address this professional development gap, requiring that all candidates for a classroom teaching certificate in all areas of special education complete coursework or training on the “needs of children with autism.”. However, a three-hour training is not sufficient for educators looking to understand, support, and challenge their autistic students. Also, what about training for the paraprofessionals supporting students with ASD? What about the special area teachers in music and art? What about the school aides, security guards, and administrators who also interact with these students every day?
ASD Nest professionals receive graduate-level preservice training in the basics of ASD as well as understanding behavior challenges. Too, they participate in on-going professional development on topics such as executive functioning, social development, child development, neurodiversity, and understanding context. Students with ASD have unique social, behavioral, academic, and sensory needs, and professionals supporting them should always be learning and refining their practice.
Are you a NYC DOE teacher looking for training on ASD? Sign up for one of our Autism Institutes HERE. Workshop A explores the basics of ASD and Workshop B delves more deeply into strategies. Each workshop is 2 days.
5. The expert is the team.
We have learned that there is no “i” in team. There is no one professional or discipline that has all of the answers. We need teachers, therapists, administrators, parents, and the students themselves thinking and working together to create comprehensive supports for our autistic students. In Nest, this collaboration comes in the form of weekly, inter-professional team meetings where all members of a students’ team meets to discuss how the student is doing, what needs to be changed, and how supports can be provided consistently across individuals and environments. We also encourage push-in by providers into the classroom whenever possible. When occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and social workers push into classrooms, students receive supports in their therapeutic classroom environment, and teachers get the added benefit of “live PD” as they can observe the therapists supporting their students therapeutically.
6. It takes a village.
Inclusion is is not a program or a classroom or a specific service or support. It is a mindset, belief, and practice that can lead to a sense of true belonging in our schools. It takes a whole-school approach which includes a committed and active administration, a sharing of best-practices between professionals, and a generalization of supports to avoid the “silo problem”
of academics happening only in the classroom, sensory supports happening only in OT, and language and communication supports only happening during speech. Schools need to work at all levels to create a sense of acceptance and belonging for all of it’s learners. Consider whole-school initiatives that support inclusion, such as “celebrating neurodiversity” or “everyone belongs.”
The ASD Nest Program and it’s model is growing and changing every day, and we do not have it all figured out. We will continue to challenge ourselves to think of new structures, supports, and approaches to help out schools and their students succeed. We will continue to focus on how to create the most inclusive, supporting environments we can in our schools, to help our students feel understood, supported, and, above all, happy.
To learn more about the ASD Nest Support Project, check out our website here.