Inclusion and what that means.

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Rice Elementary School

As inclusion week wraps up its good to think through what inclusion means to you. Inclusion is not limited to schools, but it is generally where we devote the most time and energy. By definition, inclusion is the act of including or the state of being included. That’s a pretty subjective standard. Poudre School District staff and students were asked what inclusion means to them. Here are some of their answers:

  • To me, inclusion means that every student is thoughtfully planned for, purposeful in their environments, and valued as a part of the community. I also believe that inclusion can be felt, like a warm fuzzy hug – you know when you walk into an environment where ALL students are active and meaningful in what they are doing.
  • Giving each student what they need so that they can learn together.
  • Teaching students that it is okay to be different and to be themselves.
  • Truly supporting students in the least restrictive environment.
  • Helping to develop self-advocacy and disability advocacy skills.
  • Making friends.
  • Being exposed to lots of things I can be good at.
  • Not judging people based on what they can or can’t do.
  • Working with everyone no matter their abilities and forming friendships with all groups.
  • I love to be with my friends and to communicate with each other.
  • Coexisting in an environment where everyone is considered equally.
  • Connecting with others seeing their strengths not their challenges.
  • Being included and accepted, treated no different than everyone else.
  • It is an everyday practice. It is truly nothing special at Preston. Inclusion means collaboration. To do it well we have to work closely with peers and staff.
  • Preston does a good job with inclusion. There are not any classes where students are not included. There is not a stigmatism or labeling as different. I don’t even think the kids realize it is happening.

So, what does inclusion look like in a school environment? Laura Osborn

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Preston Middle School

from Rice Elementary School explained, “At Rice, students in the ILS program are included in their general education setting as much as possible. While they are not in there the entire day, we make the times that they are in there meaningful. I conference with their general education teachers in order to provide modifications of curriculum when needed, and to provide materials that are appropriate for that student. We send students to class with support so that they can have more direction in the classroom. Our grade level teachers are amazing about setting the tone and culture of their classrooms. They teach their students that everyone is valued, and everyone can contribute. That sets the basis for our students coming in, who may do things a bit differently. Their peers view them as equals, and love to share their successes with us.”

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Preston Middle School

Preston Middle School has multi categorical programming, supporting a wide variety of student needs, which allows for a good amount of support from within a general education classroom. “Our goal is to making sure students are viewed by peers positively and that they are able to work to their best ability in class,” shared multi-categorical, Integrated Services teacher, Amy Cesar.

Inclusion is the product of collaboration and hard work on the part of all educators who are involved. Inclusion is made successful by modifications, adaptation and acceptance.

Check out this great read from Renee Ostergren on inclusive competence.

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Preston Middle School

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

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Mental Health Night at Poudre High School.

In recent days, Poudre School District has suffered unimaginable tragedies when two students took their own lives. An unfortunate fact regarding events like these is the frequency at which stories like this are told. Families and communities are left behind to pick up the pieces and make sense of the heartbreak.

DSC_0089Integrated Services’ social worker Derrick Searle and Poudre High School’s counselor Cassie Poncelow sought to offer support to the whole Fort Collins community. Together their dream came to fruition with The Poudre High School Mental Health Matters Event. Professional presenters from around the community volunteered their time and expertise for the open event. Topics such as “How to Help a Grieving Teen”, “What to Say, When to Say It, How to Say It, and What Not to Say”, “Hurt! How to Identify and Help Those Who Self-Harm”, “Recognizing Signs of Stress and Ways to Help” and “Ask a Therapist” are a few of the workshops that were offered. These workshops offered a unique space for the community to find information and support for a variety of topics.

“Cass took it to a level that I never could have imagined,” Derrick Searle shared about organizing the event with Cassie Poncelow. The event was the combined effort of 2 programs, Counseling and Social Work, that don’t often intersect. The event was made possible by Poudre High School staff and students who volunteered, as well as the numerous mental health professionals who selflessly offered their time. “Mental health is a huge concern for the adolescents in the community and there are a lot of adults that want to contribute,” Poncelow says.

Student Ambassador, Ayushi, chose to participate in the event because DSC_0093she understands the stress and pressure of being a teenager. The student leaders that make up PHS Ambassadors are a trained group who provide underclassman resources and support with whatever they are going through. The group tackles hard topics such as managing stress, sexual assault prevention and teen dating violence. “I love that instead of it just being a conversation for my age group, it is open to the community to help and hopefully alleviate some of the stigma that goes with mental illness,” says Ayushi regarding the event.

The Poudre High School Mental Health Matters event created a platform to start conversations that will hopefully produce a healthier community. It was a place where a father from the same neighborhood that lost a child to tragedy, was able to come and find words to share with his own children struggling to make sense of something that doesn’t make sense.

 

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

What I Wish You Knew: Libby’s Story.

 

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“It’s just the way I was born,” she said so matter of fact.  Making it through the world as a 14 year old young lady is a challenge in itself.  When obstacles that come along with cerebral palsy are added to the teen years, you see true strength and resilience emerge. Libby’s confidence comes shining through when asked what she would like strangers to know above all else. “If you push yourself far enough you can do anything” she responded.

Libby and her twin brother James were born 11 weeks prematurely. Right away doctors knew that Libby had cerebral palsy. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes, “The term cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination but don’t worsen over time. Even though cerebral palsy affects muscle movement, it isn’t caused by problems in the muscles or nerves.  It is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements.”

DSC_0015At birth, Libby’s complications were more significant than her brother’s. However, at 5 weeks of age, James suffered a stroke which left him with extremely high muscle tone and the inability to communicate verbally,  among other complications. Libby and James share a unique and special bond as twins. She understands James and what his needs are, enabling her to help when there is a necessity. “I feel like he’s my age but I still watch over him more,” she shared. Twin life for Libby isn’t all unity all of the time. Like many siblings close in age, they argue and have a little sibling rivalry. Over the years, Libby’s parents have instituted different “birthdays” so that each has the opportunity to be celebrated as an individual.

Libby’s wisdom and confidence are far beyond her years. She has learned to overcome things that may have taken a lifetime for others.  After a tough 6th grade year with typical “girl drama”, as she referred to it, Libby learned the importance of keeping her head in her school work, refusing to get caught up in gossip and hurt feelings. She now has straight A’s in her classes at Poudre High School.DSC_0038

Along with maintaining her grade point average, Libby has participated in
activities like wheelchair basketball, swimming and equine therapy. The challenges of cerebral palsy are real and a part of Libby’s everyday life. Things most take for granted require more time and a lot of energy for Libby to accomplish. Her day is full of transfers (moving in and out of her wheelchair) which can be very tiring. Writing with a pen or pencil takes Libby extra time and attention. Libby doesn’t let it get her down. She uses all that life has set in her lap to inspire others. She hopes to inspire younger children who are in a wheelchair by teaching them not to limit themselves based on their circumstance.

Through life’s ups and downs, Libby has upheld her amazing perspective.  DSC_0043She refuses to view things that do not work out as failures but instead as a learning opportunity. For example, after a season of basketball she found that she just didn’t have the speed required to keep up with her peers. Instead of being discouraged by that, she smiled and chose to look forward to her next possible adventure. There is no doubt that she is already achieving her goal of inspiring both young and old alike.

 

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                               Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                               2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521