Wednesday, June 6, 2012


 Welcome to the final day of my Disability Awareness Unit! On Day 3, the students learned about IEP’s and were given a chance to view a mock IEP as well as preview and discuss the content of their very own paperwork.  

So now that the students are beginning to understand their needs and their programs, this final day is designed to teach students how to make sure they are asking for and receiving their services appropriately.

Day 4: Advocacy

Objectives: (Students will be able to):
·      Understand the meaning of advocacy and what it means to be a self-advocate
·      Role play being a self-advocate using various scenarios and prompts
·      Identify and understand their disability and what it means

Anticipatory Set:
For today’s Quick Work, students are given this simple WordSplash Sheet for the word advocate. Students are instructed to brainstorm what this word means. When students discuss and share their notes, I ensure that the students have an understanding that advocating means making sure you ask for what you need. This includes speaking up for yourself, asking for help, or telling a teaching when you are having a problem.

1.     I begin by explaining to students that part of the reason it’s important to know what your IEP says is so you can advocate for yourself.

2.     Paired Role Play
Students are placed in pairs and given an index card with a scenario on it to role-play how to self-advocate. One person pretends to be the teacher, and the other, the student.

These scenarios include:
·      I need to have the directions repeated
·      I need to leave the room to take my test
·      The pace of the class is too fast
·      I’m supposed to be sitting near the teacher
·      I need more time to take a test
·      I do not understand the assignment

Students are instructed to read the card and discuss what they would say before recording their skit. Students will then practice before performing in front of the class. 

To model this activity for the students first, I role play a scenario with my classroom aide, using the example, “I need to have the directions repeated.” At first I ask the students, if this were on your IEP, how could you “advocate" for yourself in class? What could you say to ask for help and make sure you understand the directions? After students offer some ideas, my aide and I role-play the teacher/student conversation.

3.     I always like to ensure that when students are instructed a new skill, particularly a behavior skill, that they are also given a tool to assist them in implementing this skill. At the closing of the student performances, I hand out these Advocacy Cards to help students remember key points of advocacy. Using the A D V in the word Advocacy, the card reminds students to:

A – Ask for help
D – Don’t be afraid
V – Use your voice

This handy tool can be placed on the kid’s desks or tucked away in their folder for an easy reference and reminder when necessary.

4.     Next, I address the confidential questions students wrote on index cards in the previous lesson. While the questions every year are different, students will often ask something in regards to why they have an IEP, so I decided to always address this as a holistic review and closing activity to the unit.

I address this question by reviewing that everyone learns in a different way and that sometimes learning can be challenging.  I explain that the specific challenge that each student has that makes learning hard has a name. I then confidentially pass out to students an index card that has their actual classification written on it. Students read what their disability is classified as, and then I discuss what these mean in front of the class.

5.     You can imagine that at the close of the unit the students are eager to view their own IEP’s. I will take time out of my class in the coming days to privately show students their paperwork, highlighting only the sections crucial to their understanding of their disability and program:

·      Special Alerts
·      Related Services
·      Program
·      Modifications
·      Testing Accommodations
·      Goals

Depending on the school year and how hectic our schedule can be, sometimes I will even share this responsibility with the other paraprofessionals working with my students; for example, I’ll ask a counselor to review the IEP during their next session. This frees up my time if needed, while allowing the students the opportunity to discuss the paperwork with another adult who is active in their education program.

So this concludes my Disability Awareness Unit! While this can be an incredibly difficult topic to discuss, I encourage you to have this conversation with your students. If we want our students to become independent self-advocates who take control of their own learning, then they must understand themselves and their needs in order to grow and find success beyond the walls of our classrooms. So please, share in this unit with them, and Prepare Them to Fly.

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