When the school year ends, I like to reflect on the journey from September to June from the lens of the staff and the student. When I think of success in teaching, I think, what was the most rewarding part of my year? It may not have been goals met or marks achieved, but rather, a day where we tried something new as a class and students were adaptive and flexible to it. For those students who struggle with change, it could be an unstructured field trip day where we used different washrooms, ate our lunch at a picnic table and rode on a school bus for the first time. By the way, these are real examples of huge successes we observed in our class this year!
Some teachers feel anxiety in September about new students coming in, a new schedule or new subjects to teach. When I start the school year, I am most anxious about my integration plan. With my students moving up a grade, which teachers will be available, willing and supportive to take on a student with Autism integrating into their class? Will the students in this new class be receptive to collaborating with a peer with special needs, or, are we lucky enough to have knowledgeable and mature students from last year’s integration classes growing with our students?
For me, one of my biggest successes this school year was with a particular student who started integrating into a mainstream primary class twice a week for Physical Education, and by June was integrating for 50% of every school day. Another student who had ZERO tolerance for being in any classroom but his own was able to remain in his integration class for 10 minutes doing preferred activities with another peer. I view these successes as the most liberating for students as they open up a limitless world of positive social opportunities, both for the special needs child integrating and their helpful peers. Take it from the Mom Being the Label, who writes about her worries, fears and success for her daughter navigating the social world from a parent perspective.
Last month I wrote an article for the Crisis Prevention Institute on how I set up integration opportunities for my students and the observed progress I have seen so far, particularly with my students with ASD. Check it out HERE, and please feel free to share your own experience with integration in your school.