Monday, June 23, 2014

Primary School Inclusion: The Nuts and Bolts #5

# 5 The Classroom

This is what I see when I walk into Matt's classroom...

There are the things you would expect to see: lockers for school bags, chairs and desks organised in small groups, colourful pictures on the walls with inspiring messages or illustrations of the work they are doing in class.

Then there are these things that make Matt's experience of the classroom positive and rewarding...

There are some budgies in a cage...Matt is drawn to greet them every morning. Something about animals is very calming for him.

A bookshelf strategically positioned to create a slightly separate space, with a foam-letter carpet on the floor and lots of textured pillows...a place that Matt likes to go and rest; and stroke the pillows for the joy of the sensory experience.

In the front of the class there is an open space where the children gather to sit and listen to Robyn Fleming, the grade 1 teacher. She has a basket of bright coloured, textured toys - some with soft spikes, some soothing to squeeze, some squishy, some firm. Matt, as well as some other children, get to hold one of these to satisfy their sensory appetite whilst listening. Robyn also has a giant ball of "prestick" which is also calming for sensory seeking hands.

Matt's desk is alongside one of the small groups of desks. Sheila, his facilitator, sits alongside him. On his desk is a little box of spinning tops which helps strengthen Matt's fine muscles in his hands. There is a small laminated poster of feeling faces so that he can communicate his mood to Sheila. In his desk is a sand tray that he uses to trace his letters, giving him an alternative to having to use pen and paper. On his pencils and crayons are supports so he can grip them with greater ease.

And if this classroom space becomes too loud for Matt or the work that is being covered is not at his level, then his facilitator can take him for a walk to other parts of the school.
To the quiet library where two cheeky rats live.
Or to the audio-visual room where he can do interactive learning with a huge screen or do his work in a less sensory rich space.
Or to the school entrance where there are engaging activities for all the children who need some alone time away from the hustle and bustle of their classmates, as well as a big fish tank which is sensory soothing.
Or outside to the animal quad where he can engage with the healing world of animals: the rabbits, ducks and birds.
Or to the Learning Support Co-ordinator's office which is like a toy store filled with loads of Occupational Therapy inspired activities.
Or outside in the playground where there he can draw with chalk on the pavement or do other movement related learning.

In fact, for Matt, the whole school is his classroom.

Blog posts in this series:
Introduction - for more on why I am doing this series on how inclusion can work in real life
# 1 Leadership with Vision
# 2 A Flexible System with Creative Solutions
# 3 Learning Support Co-ordinator
# 4 The Facilitator

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