Inclusion: First Steps in Overcoming the Obstacles of
Assistive technology for communication in regular classroom settings challenges the user of AAC technology as well as his/her school personnel "to be ready to meet a fast-paced nonredundant language environment very different from past experiences in typical special education classrooms that often presented routine, predictable activity-based vocabulary demands." (McCloskey, 1995). Successful planning and implementation in an inclusive classroom is a team effort with the classroom teacher and the assistive technology team (parents, speech-language pathologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, vision specialist, school computer technology specialist) along with other support personnel involved with the student.
In order to ensure that the student has the communication tools needed in the regular classroom, several factors must be considered (Sturm 1989): 1) Assess the communication style and communication opportunities within the classroom to develop the vocabulary the child will need to participate, by considering the following types of questions: Does the child know the routine in the classroom?, Is the routine conventional or idiosyncratic?, How are transitions throughout the day handled?, What are the number and types of events within the classroom? 2) Assess the teachers and aides instructional language patterns, e.g., What types of questions are asked?, What types of directions are given?, What amount of processing and/or response time is provided?, Are opportunities for participation presented in ways that allow the student to prepare responses without causing the group to wait? 3) What are the vocabulary demands required of the student with respect to the curriculum (McCloskey, 1995): i.e., asking simple YES/NO questions, WH-questions which increase the vocabulary demand, and open-ended discussion questions with vocabulary demands high and a need by the student to generate language structure quickly and efficiently.
For students not "on grade level", the following are key points for their inclusion (McCloskey 1997): 1) Provide several opportunities throughout the day to experience successful communication interaction. 2) Include repetition of brief episodes of communication-focused interaction integrated into the daily routine. 3) Involve peer models in classroom activities, which benefits both students with and without disabilities.
Public schools are meeting the challenges of mainstreaming by partnering with rehabilitation facilities and special education programs (Scalise, 1996). Special education teachers are a valuable resource for the inclusive classroom teacher. Assistive technology resource centers such as the T-TACs statewide services to school personnel and a continuum of professional workshops and conferences may provide the starting points.
The following are suggestions from two mainstreamed high school AAC users, Kaye and Phillip, wh developed their own ideas on successful inclusion:(Van Tatenhove, 1995):
Ten Simple Suggestions: After you Find Out
You Are Getting A Student Into Your Class
Clark, Mary and Coleman, Linda (June1994). Access to Inclusion. TeamRehab, 28-33.
Association Special Interest Divisions, Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 4, 4-6.
Sturm, Janet M. (1989). Classroom communication checklist. Paper presented at the ASHA Convention, St. Louis, MO.
Scalise, Mardi (March 1996). Homework for Students and Teachers. TeamRehab., 26-27.
Van Tatenhove, Gail (1995). A Student Guide for Successful Inclusion. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Special Interest Divisions, Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 4, 12-13.