My Big Surprise – An Inclusive and Transformative Story from Honduras

Transformative, Inclusive Education 

World-wide civil society campaigns ensure that inclusive education is realised and accessible. Education for children, youth and adults with disabilities is part of the Education 2030 agenda, but is often neglected by states and ministries of education. Progressive education policies regarding access, equality, equity and inclusivity should not be omitted from public policies and education sector plans.

My Story

Fabricio is a 13-year-old boy with spastic triparece cerebral palsy, lives in an institutional home, was late enrolled in the Santa Monica Education Center, is currently in the fourth grade of basic education.

I have been his teacher since first grade, as a teacher of a regular educational center, it is my first experience working with students with cerebral palsy, I had many doubts and many fears because I did not know how to approach the teaching, learning process, evaluate, and make adjustments. It is really a big challenge! In the same way I was worried about what his behaviour would be in class and with his classmates.

When I talk about Fabricio with the itinerant teacher Kemkerly Fernandez of the Inclusion Education Program of PREPACE, I explain his disability and analyse the psycho- pedagogical report as well school record that contains all the required information, including evidence of progress and difficulties.

The meeting with Fabricio in class was very pleasant and an excellent report was easily established. Fabricio faced difficulties due to his limitations in verbal expression. Since the first grade evaluation process focuses on learning to read and write, I had to find ways of how to teach him and how he would know if he was understanding. Another associated problem was the aggression and tantrums that he presented.

I was worried about how to communicate with him, I was afraid of not being able to teach him properly.

One of my first challenges was to learn to communicate, we coordinated with his “aunts” or caretakers, to know how to communicate with Fabricio using very simple with signs, gestures I learned.  I took the time to talk with him and know him more; his signs were obvious, easy to understand. This processes facilitated communication and therefore made the teaching-learning process easy and enjoyable for the both of us. Another great challenge has represented the one who learns to read and write.

Challenges and objectives set

  • Search of strategies or curricular adaptations, since he could not copy, so we worked together taking his hand and always reading what we were writing.
  • Together with the aunt we looked for ways to work differently in textbooks, we opted for the digital format, but initially he could not handle the tablet well, and we continued with the same textbooks only taking into account those exercises in which you could paste a cut that represented the word you had to write so you would achieve a learning of each topic seen in class.
  • I organised some of Fabricio’s classmates so that after completing their homework they worked with him, always taking into account those students that he understood and learned with ease.
  • For the written evaluations, the first partial exams were carried out with items, where he only enclosed a word or placed a letter. But I always questioned myself, and where is the inclusion, the equal treatment?
  • Already for the second partial I began to apply the same exams as the rest of his classmates, always adjusting the time due to the difficulty in writing, words written on slips were used and he stuck them where he thought the answer was correct, so Fabricio was demonstrating that, that he understood the explanations of the class and was reaching other levels such as comprehension, analysis, and memorisation.
  • Group work with the classmates related to him. His classmates were always willing to work with him when he needed help, respecting and taking into account his opinion, including him in each activity and supporting him to mobilize in certain activities that he requires.

Strategy and Steps taken into account for quality education

Continuous and constant coordination with the itinerant teacher and the aunts in charge of their care to learn more about Fabricio.

Identify Fabricio’s strengths and limitations and find alternatives among all those involved: To solve the verbal and writing difficulties, look for techniques to learn in a process very similar to other colleagues, progress was made on the issues with the use of textbooks for the subjects, but the most relevant topics were prioritised for him, assuring me that he understood and adapted the evaluation to this subject.

Establishment of a consensual alternative communication system, with the use of a software called “Proloquo2GO” on a tablet that uses it at all times this was used since October last year. But to understand what he wanted to communicate, we used a vocabulary with basic signs related to the classes and the school environment that we all understood, including his aunts at home. This sign vocabulary was expanded to the extent of need, are simple and compressible signs, illustrated by cards. We talked a lot and over time I have learned to understand and communicate better.     

Constant communication with the traveling (itinerant) teacher of PREPACE and with the “Aunt’s”, through accompanying visits, calls and through notes in a communication notebook that we handle from the first year; for messages, assignment of homework and behaviour in class.

Assignment of tasks according to his abilities: Where he could have difficulty I avoided assigning him tasks that he could not perform, but I emphasised where he had strengths for example: The tasks that he performed at home were based more on paper cuts, and were images or repetitive words clipping in his notebook. In the readings assigned to analyze and discuss in class, the stories were read first and then a sequence of events was given in the story through images and he had to paste them in order.

In Sport class, there was no exclusion, on the contrary, he always showed very encouraged to perform the activities with the class, either on the floor or from his chair. And with my help to walk on the court, do other exercises, his colleagues also mobilise him in his wheelchair.

Social inclusion

It is key to treat the student, just like everyone else. In the case of Fabricio he has the charisma, the joy, leadership and above all the enthusiastic; besides that, he is very sociable with everyone, he does not have complexes, on the contrary, he is always willing to carry out activities as difficult they may seem. He participates in competitions  in the school, in civic acts, and in school civic parties and is admired by all.

The results

This personal experience as an elementary teacher has helped me overcome my taboos or beliefs, the fears I had about my work with students with disabilities. Well, I always thought that they should be cared in special schools, with special teachers. It is evident that a written evaluation is not the only way to measure the knowledge of a student, in the case of Fabricio, several forms have been used that in the end demonstrate or are proof of what he knows and has learned in his classes. Fabricio has exceeded all expectation. In the first grade was 95% and so far in the second grade it was 84%, in the third grade it was 85%, which is satisfactory for everyone involved, especially for Fabricio, his aunts and the itinerant teacher. 

In Conclusion

The teachers should not be the ones who put limits to inclusion, with each case we must have motivation and expectation of achievement, because as with Fabricio many other cases exceed the expectations we have and this should make us reflect. We demonstrate that it is possible to overcome attitudinal and learning barriers. We did not get into a pattern or straitjacket for the teaching-learning process, we did not exclude it from any activity however difficult and unattainable it seemed, we only made reasonable adjustments, and through trial and error, as is the case of literacy and Physical Education. On the contrary, we adapt ourselves to the characteristics that the student presents, taking advantage of all the possibilities available in the Educational Center and in the family. So the teaching became cooperative.

 

PREPACE is a resource Center for Educational Inclusion that supports Cerebral Paralysis Rehabilitation Program 

 



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