School Inclusion Program
JARC's School Inclusion Program helps students with disabilities attending Jewish Day schools in southeast Oakland County experience academic and social success. Social workers, classroom assistants, tutors, teacher consultants, behavior specialists, and occupational therapists team up so that Jewish children can learn in an environment that respects cultural values and traditions.
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes your program innovative, effective or remarkable?
JARC School Inclusion Program Coordinator Chaya Leah Tinman:
I believe there are two main reasons JARC’s School Inclusion Program has the ability to cater to the specific needs of the individual student and school: thinking outside the box and being willing to be flexible, when necessary. While the goal is full inclusion, the reality is that not every student can be in the classroom all day. We look at the needs of each student and build a program accordingly. It might mean one student needs frequent breaks, while another student might only need one. Either way, we are prepared to meet the individual need of each student.
To our knowledge, JARC's School Inclusion Program is the only one of its type with comprehensive supports in the non-public school system.
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
Sometimes a different approach is the best approach!
Every new school year brings amazing lessons to learn from. This past year, we had the privilege of working with a third I often listen to teachers who complain about a student being socially different than his or her peers.
grade student who, due to the nature of her disability, had a difficult time grasping and holding onto information. When asked what she wanted most in the world, she said she wanted to learn how to read. However, because she could not remember the letters of the alphabet, this goal seemed out of reach.
Before classes even began, I met with school administrators who felt the student should continue working with the same school-appointed staff person as the previous year because that person was “the only one that knows how to work with her when she has a meltdown, which could last for hours.” After listening to all the reports, I decided to try a different approach. Instead of keeping the student in a self-contained classroom 70-80% of the school day, we were going to include her in the classroom with her peers. Instead of teaching the same way she had always been taught, we would try new strategies, including a multi-sensory approach.
Using this new approach, by the end of that first school year, the student was able to spend the majority of her day in the classroom and fully participating when appropriate. With the support of our comprehensive consultative team, our assistants learned how best to work with the student and together were able to teach her to identify all of her alphabet in two different languages, begin to read at a mid-first grade level in two different languages, and begin to develop real friendships for the first time in her life. The greatest lesson of all, the meltdowns that lasted hours last year were non-existent this year.
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
I think the hardest lesson this year was realizing – again – that not everyone “gets it.” I often listen to teachers who complain about a student being socially different than his or her peers. I will explain to them that, by definition, is what an Autism I believe when children see their peers, no matter their ability, being treated with respect and dignity, they learn to do the same.
Spectrum disorder is. So, while learning social skills is crucial for the individual with the disorder, it is equally important for teachers to understand the ramifications so they know how to interact, when to say "no", and when to say "OK." Often schools chose not to pursue this methodology, and the year proves to be quite challenging for everyone involved.
What really differentiates this program?
The two most prominent components that differentiate the School Inclusion Program are communication and ongoing staff training and support. Our program is organized as follows: classroom assistants
provide direct support in the classroom; consultants
, who are up to date on the latest theory, technology and research in various disciplines, provide support to the assistants; the teachers
are in charge of the classroom; parents
are always fully involved; and the School Inclusion Coordinator
supports parents, students, teachers and consultants. The strength that this carefully coordinated infrastructure provides makes JARC's School Inclusion Program both very unique and highly successful.
What are the keys to success for your program?
There are four keys to the success of the JARC's School Inclusion Program: keeping an open mind, thinking outside the box, good communication, and being a strong advocate for the students who receive services.
The School Inclusion Program is based on the premise of full inclusion. Many years ago, I worked with a fourth grade teacher who simply could not understand why I wanted a particular young man to be fully included in his classroom since the student could not read or write. The teacher continued to berate the student, and at every meeting would focus on what the student could not do, rather that what he could do. I finally explained to him, inclusion was not for the student, it was really for the teacher!
I believe when children see their peers, no matter their ability, being treated with respect and dignity, they learn to do the same. As I explained to the teacher, his students will someday go on to become teachers, doctors and leaders in our communities. Some of the most valuable lessons they will learn in the classroom are not reading and writing, but how to respect individuality and treat themselves and others with respect and dignity.