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Educating and Including Classmates in a Mainstream Classroom Setting

Tips for successful inclusion of a young child who is deafblind, blind, visually impaired or with multiple disabilities in a mainstream general education classroom

liam walking with cane next to girlLast year my son started all-day Kindergarten  in a public mainstream classroom. I was (and still am) a huge advocate for inclusion for my son Liam who is deafblind.   One of my biggest hopes and goals for inclusion was all about the “social”.  I wanted Liam to feel like he belonged and for him to make friends, for him to be a “kindergartner” and to be included. Of course I wanted this to be done in a way that makes sense for him and is appropriate, while supporting his unique educational and communication needs.  Last year went very well for our first year and this year is even more amazing.
 
I wanted Liam to have friends. I realized that, even though kids may want to play with Liam, they wouldn’t necessarily know how. I knew his classmates would have questions; I wanted to encourage them to ask those questions.  I created a book called the “Meet Liam Book”.  It is a book that includes real-life pictures of Liam.  It answered “real-life” questions kids had asked me about him before.  Prior to the school year starting, I talked with Liam’s teacher to see if I could come in to read the “Liam Book” sometime during the first week of school.  She was very accommodating and invited me to come read the book with to the class.  (I also read to other classrooms in the school that requested it).  It was great!  I was able to read the book, answer any further questions, talk about ways the students can approach Liam, talk to Liam, be his friend, support him, etc.  The students were so excited and sweet.  Liam is a well-loved little boy. He has many friends at school that he loves to be with.  Liam is learning to be a friend right along with them.  
 
I feel that it is important to educate children and allow them to ask questions about students who may be different than what they are used to.  The whole theme of the Liam Book is “using questions to help us be a friend”. I discovered that once his peers learned why he uses a cane, or why he makes those noises, or how he talks with his hands they accepted those things and most importantly accepted my Liam for who he is.  
 

How to Create Your Own “All About _________ Book”

First, you need to come up with your own questions you feel kids may have about your child.  It is also important to mention things that are important to and for your child, things that would help support your child, and ways to communicate with your child.  I originally got the idea for this book from Person Centered Thinking-The ONE PAGE.  I wanted to create a ONE PAGE that Liam’s peers would understand and enjoy.  That inspired the idea of  a children’s book.  smiley
 
I created my book using Shutterfly.  Most photo places online have options to make books fairly inexpensively (if you watch for coupons:).  My state’s Family Support program helped fund my books.  I made a large one to keep at home; I used that one for when I read to classrooms. I made a couple of smaller versions for the classroom teacher to keep in the class so students could read it and I also made one for church.

Page titles:

  1. This is Liam
  2. Why can’t Liam see?  Why doesn’t he wear glasses to help him?
  3. Liam enjoys…
  4. Why does he touch everything?
  5. Why does he walk with that stick?
  6. Why does he make those noises?
  7. How does Liam talk?
  8. How does Liam read?
  9. How can I be Liam’s friend?
  10. Liam’s family
meet liam

Meet Liam

Questions: Using Questions
to help us be a friend.

Why does he walk with that stick?

When Liam is at home he does not need anyone to help him walk around. He knows his way around the house, it is familiar to him. He can even run around the house but we just need to make sure that we keep toys off of the floor so he doesn’t trip on them!
 
When Liam is at a new place that he doesn’t know, he needs to walk very carefully so he doesn’t bump into anything. Liam’s stick is called a CANE. It helps him walk my himself. He holds the cane out in front of him so that the cane will help him feel what’s ahead of him so he won’t bump into it. It would be helpful to Liam to help keep things picked up where he walks so he doesn’t trip. It’s important to Liam not to move furniture so he can learn to move around without running into things.
why does he walk with that stick
this is liam
This is Liam. Liam loves going to school. He loves to read books. He loves to play in PE class and recess. Liam likes his teachers and he really likes to meet new friends. He likes puzzles and to jump and play with toys. Liam is deaf and blind , which means he can’t see and he can’t hear.
 
This is a book that answers QUESTIONS that other kids have asked about Liam. QUESTIONS are good! QUESTIONS help us learn more about people and teach us to be their friends!

How does Liam talk?

Liams talks by using his hands instead of his voice. Liam uses American Sign Language. Liam has a cool way to FEEL what the other person is signing since he can’t see what they are signing.  Liam puts his hands on top of the persons hands he is talking with; that way he knows what they are signing! This is called TACTILE SIGNING.
how does liam talk?
why can't liam see? why doesn't he wear glasses to help him see?

Why can’t Liam see? Why doesn’t he wear glasses to help him see?

When Liam was born he could hear and see. When Liam was little he got really sick with Meningitis and had to stay in the hospital a long time. He is healthy now but he can’t see or hear anything anymore. Even if his eyes are open, he can’t see what things look like – like you and I can. He can see if it is light or dark out. And he can sometimes see if people move in front of him. Liam does not wear glasses because they will not help him to see.

How does Liam read?

Liam is learning how to read. He is learning something called braille. Braille uses dots that he can feel. The dots make different patterns that represent each letter of the alphabet. Liam feels the pictures in his books. They aren’t like pictures we have in our books that we see with our eyes; they are the kind he can feel!

For example: If the story was talking about a penny, it would have a real penny on the page he can feel. If the story talked about a rock, it would have a rock he could feel on the page.

Liam's name in braille - how does liam read?
liam enjoys
Shut your eyes. That’s what it is like to be blind. Now try plugging your ears too. You can still hear some things but Liam can’t hear any sound. You can open your eyes now and unplug your ears.
 
Think about what it would be like to do your favoirte things with your eyes shut and ears plugged. Liam doesn’t watch TV – he can’t see it or hear it. He doesn’t talk on the phone; he can’t hear the person calling him. Even though there are some of things he can’t do, there are LOTS of things he can do!!

How can I be Liam’s friend?

Let Liam know you want to talk to him by touching his arm gently. He might put his hand out to you to let you know he is ready to talk with you!
Let Liam feel your identifier whenever you greet him. That could be your ring, or bracelet, or watch! This is how he will know it is you!
Liam would love it if you learned a new sign to sign with him! That would be a nice friend!
You can be Liam’s friend by asking him to play with you.
Liam loves to meet new friends. He likes to give hugs to his friends. Sometimes he also would like you to give him a “high five”. You could help take Liam’s hand and guide him around the room so he doesn’t bump into things.

Liam loves to read books and play puzzles with his friends.

how can i be liam's friend?
why does he touch everything?

Why does he touch everything?

Liam feels everything with his hands because that is the way he sees things and knows where things are. He SEES with his HANDS. One way for Liam to know you are near him is to gently tap his arm. He may put his hands out to you… that means he wants to talk with you! He may feel your hands or your wrists to see if you are wearing a ring or bracelet or a watch; those things are called identifiers. Your identifier is how Liam will know who you are.

 

For more ideas about inclusion, see also Supporting and Encouraging Friendships

 

mainstream classroom collage

 

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