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Exceptional Children

Jessica J. Brauer
Doane University | Initial Certification Program | Final Reflection | 16 June 2016

When I walked into Room 303 five days ago, I did so with little expectations but eager anticipation.
I have been fortunate to have had several experiences within the world of special education in my
lifetime. I was first introduced to this world while I was in 4th grade when my little brother was
diagnosed with severe dyslexia. My experiences expanded when I was diagnosed with ADHD as an
adult, and then have expanded even more in the last few years Ive worked as a special education
paraeducator. I didnt walk into Room 303 five days ago expecting that I knew everything, but I
didnt know exactly how much I actually had to learn.

There were two things I was eager to learn more about when I began the class this week: inclusion
and accommodation. While familiar with the concept and idea of inclusion, I still had quite a bit of
confusion about it in practice, particularly regarding the students with more severe-needs.
Inclusion is a great concept, and I didnt disagree with it by any means, but the idea of getting rid
of separate spaces and classrooms for these students altogether seemed like it might not be in the
best interest of the students at least not of the students Ive come to know in my work as a para.
However, the discussions over the course of this class have helped me better understand that
Inclusion in practice is much more like the ideal vision I already had in my head. By considering
the Least Restrictive Environment for each student on a case-by-case basis, all students are
included in the classroom based on what would be best for each of them individually. With these
new understandings, I find myself much more willing and ready to explore inclusion in my own
classroom.

I was also eager to learn more about accommodations. My experiences had provided me a
familiarity with a handful of accommodations related to my brothers needs, my own, and those of
the students I worked with, but I hadnt really ever considered how I would alter lesson plans or
utilize accommodations in my own classroom. The group presentations on each of the thirteen
types of disabilities as defined by IDEA was especially helpful to me in my search for additional
ideas and information on accommodation. Not only did these presentations help me gain a slightly
better understanding on who these students may be in my class some day, they gave me some great
ideas for ways I can be sure I am best serving them in my class.
I also appreciated the slightly more in-depth look at the evaluation and verification processes for
students with special needs. I had been previously familiar with the MDT and IEP processes, but
although Id heard of SAT and RTI, I had no idea how they connected to the verification process. I
found the information presented in these units most informative for me as a general education
teacher, as my involvement in documentation of a students progress can be such a key part to

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getting a student the accommodations and/or services he/she needs. In addition, although it was
initially somewhat overwhelming, I very much appreciated the introduction to Rule 51. I think its
important to know the laws, or at least have a familiarity with them, especially in order to properly
advocate for these exceptional students.

The most surprising element of my week was the work I did for the perspective assignment. I chose
to interview my mother and brother about their experiences surrounding his initial diagnosis and
his progression through school and life with the disability. Even though we spoke very openly
about Joshs dyslexia in our home, I never realized how much more there was to everything that was
going on for my parents and my brother during that time. There was so much that I was completely
oblivious to that were important elements to Joshs success. And the amount of advocating my
parents did and my brother did for himself while he was growing up was far more than I realized. I
never knew until these interviews how hard my family fought for accommodations for Josh,
especially with those teachers who refused to believe it, since Josh was socially and intellectually
just like every other kid in the regular ed classroom. I never realized how difficult and frustrating it
could be to have to advocate for even the simplest accommodations.

Finally, I found Angies presentation today exceptionally rewarding. I mostly appreciated hearing
her perspective as the parent of a high-needs student. I am afraid to admit that I have been guilty
of negative assumptions about parents of the students with whom I work far too often. It is
something that can be easy to get caught up in when you dont have much interaction with them.
Its important to remember parents as who they are amazing, courageous people who have been
with their student since birth the students primary teachers the ones who have struggled with
them and celebrated every achievement and the ones who should always know the student best.
Angie really helped open my eyes to the realities of parents of special needs students, and I
couldnt thank her enough for that. I will certainly be taking much of what she discussed,
particularly regarding positive assumptions, back into my work as a para and into my practicum/
student teaching, and my eventual classroom.

When I walked into Room 303 five days ago and was presented with the overview of the week, it
seemed it would be a monumental task to make it through all of the information. It has certainly
been a long week, but we managed to make it, and I truly couldnt be more grateful for the
incredible wealth of knowledge Ive added to my toolbox. I look forward to meeting and working
with the exceptional children destined for my eventual classroom, now knowing just how much they
have to teach me. Im ready