Part of life is fun and games, but too few children with disabilities are getting that in the classroom.
Two professors presented compelling—and sad—research during their Friday afternoon session at the CEC convention showing that children with disabilities have only the barest of interactions with their typically developing peers in many classrooms, even when they are in "inclusion" settings. The few interactions they do have are negative, or completely task-oriented. The trend persists even in elective classes, where students with disabilities are often placed on the assumption that non-academic classes promote more personal interaction.
The only way to break down barriers is if teachers take an active role in facilitating connections among students, both of the presenters said.
Tina Stanton-Chapman of the University of Virginia talked about work that she has done with preschool students, where they act out stories that allow children with disabilities an opportunity to learn such skills as taking turns, listening, and using names to get the attention of friends. After those interactions, the children tend to play together more.
Erik W. Carter, at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, talked about a “peer buddy” program that a district has started between students with severe disabilities and a few of their typically developing peers. Having peer buddies leads to far more interaction among students than using a full-time paraprofessional, he said. Carter is the co-author of a book on this program, which you can read about here.