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ATEACHABOUT: Teaching Tools For Inclusion
By Anthon McLaws MS,OTR/L
Staff occupational therapist
Isaac School District
Phoenix, Arizona
January 2000

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that students with special needs be educated in environments that are the least restrictive. For many students, this means participating in a general education classroom for part or all of the school day. But when inclusion is mandated by the least restrictive environment principle, how do individual teachers and support staff gain the necessary skills to practice inclusion? One common solution is to send staff members to local or out-of-state workshops. However, this often does not solve the problem of how to educate entire staffs. Due to limited funding, it is often only a few teachers that attend these inclusion workshops. Diana Henry, president of Henry O.T. Services, Inc. solves this problem by bringing the message of inclusion to individual schools and districts throughout North America. Ms. Henry, an occupational therapist and educator of inclusion techniques, has developed various programs, including the ATEACHABOUT, where she travels the country in her fifth wheel and brings her programs directly to teachers, administrators, therapists, psychologists, teaching assistants, and parents.

During the 1990s, inclusion of students with special needs into general education settings made significant advances. Although inclusion continues to be controversial among some school administrators, teachers, and support staff, recent research reveals that the trend to educate students with learning disabilities in the least restrictive environment is increasing throughout the U.S. (McLeskey, Henry, & Axelrod, 1999). This trend is supported nationwide by educators and parents as well as by the IDEA. The authors of the above research state, "…there seems to be an emerging consensus that students with learning disabilities should spend most of the school day in general education classrooms, and that most of the services that are needed by these students may be delivered in these settings" .

Educating students with special needs in a general education setting is not a barrier-free pursuit. Patty Guard, the director of the Education Department’s Office of Special Education Programs, states that some geographic areas are further behind when it comes to inclusion because of "individual funding formulas and local policies" ("Report: IDEA Students," 1999). Another common barrier is the lack of staff training. McLeskey, Henry, and Axelrod recommend that "professional development be provided so that teachers can attain the new skills required to meet student needs" in an inclusive classroom (1999).

The Isaac School District, a preschool through eighth-grade district in Phoenix, Arizona, has embraced the concept of inclusion and has experienced tremendous success in educating students with special needs. With the help of Ms. Henry, the special education department at this inner-city district has expanded inclusive services to encompass all aspects of education. Ms. Henry and Dr. Marcia Smith, director of Special Services, have promoted the concept of least restrictive environment by providing the Tools for Teachers in-services, where entire education staffs are trained in inclusion techniques and strategies. The themes of these in-services range from sensory integration and designing sensory-safe classrooms to general systems-change topics. Dr. Smith states that, "When whole staffs are trained together, they are more apt to solve the problems that are keeping them from using inclusion. This type of training provides the support for change."

Additionally, Henry O.T. Services Inc. has trained all related service staff, including speech and language pathologists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists in inclusion principles and strategies. This training has consisted of ongoing in-services on how to incorporate proven inclusion techniques into the general education curriculum and how to arrange for adequate planning time to make these changes successful. Sandie Scott, a speech language pathologist at the Isaac School District, feels that the training of the entire speech therapy department was important because, "It let everyone brain storm and problem solve with each other. And because everyone had a different area and level of expertise and skill, we got a lot accomplished."

Most recently, Tammy Wheeler,MS,OTR/L of Henry O.T. Services Inc. has helped to implement two additional programs at Isaac School District: an adaptive physical education program, Tools for PE, and a parent in-service program, Tools for Parents. First, Ms. Wheeler has assisted the P.E. teachers of the Isaac School District in developing an inclusive and adaptive physical education program where all students, both special and general education, can participate together in physical activity. Secondly, Ms. Wheeler and the district’s parent coordinators have developed a monthly parent workshop where occupational therapy and sensory integration strategies for the home are shared with the families of Isaac School District students. The topics at these meetings include themes such as after-school homework strategies, calming strategies, neighborhood playground safety, and handwriting improvement techniques. Charlotte Price, a Tools for Parents participant and the caregiver for her grandson, feels that the workshops have supported her in her parenting role. "Every time I attend, I leave with a greater respect for my grandson. The classes renew and energize me. Now I’m listening to my grandson’s needs better." She feels that the training she receives at Tools for Parents supports her grandson’s inclusion program at school. Mrs. Price also states that sharing with other parents is an important part of the program.

Because of its staff development programs, the Isaac School District has experienced success in providing inclusion services to students with special needs. The ‘Tools’ programs developed by Henry OT Services have advanced the education of entire departments and staffs. These programs also support the IDEA, which mandates "quality professional development for all personnel who are involved in educating children with disabilities" and "increasing parental involvement in the education of their children" (IDEA website, 1999).

Continuing education workshops that offer on-site training of entire staffs, like the programs developed by Ms. Henry’s ATEACHABOUT provide educators throughout the U.S. and Canada with the tools to make inclusion work. Dr. Smith feels that the benefits of training entire staffs are many. "First, it benefits teachers by allowing entire staffs to support each other through change. Second, it benefits students as they progress to higher grades or change schools because the same inclusion techniques are being used by all teachers throughout the district."

Ms. Henry has been involved in school-based occupational therapy practice for 25 years. She has developed various products such as the Tools for Teachers and the Tools for Students videos as well as the Tool Chest Handbook: For Teachers, Parents, and Students, which is now available in English, Spanish, French, and German. These products are user friendly and provide clear explanations on how to develop sensory-safe environments in classrooms, around school campuses, and at home.
More information on Henry O.T. Services and the ATEACHABOUT is available online at http://www.henryot.com


Individual with Disabilities Education Act website, 1999. www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/IDEA/index.html).

McLeskey, J., Henry, D., & Axelrod, M. I. (1999). Inclusion of students with learning disabilities: An examination of data from reports to congress. Exceptional Children, 66 (1), 55-66.

Report: IDEA students increasingly included in classrooms. (1999, Winter). Counterpoint, ( ), 8.

Reprint of article in Counterpoint, Spring 2000 issue, vol. 20, issue 3, courtesy of NASDSE (National Association of State Directors of Special Education) and LRP Publications.

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