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ART EDUCATION: PRESERVICE TEACHER INCLUSION PREPARATION

Art Education: Preservice Teacher Inclusion Preparation


Emily Brewer
University of Missouri

ART EDUCATION: PRESERVICE TEACHER INCLUSION PREPARATION


Art Education Preservice Teacher Inclusion Preparation
In a study done by Mary and Kenneth Smith in 2000, six randomly chosen K-3 teachers
shared their perceptions of successful inclusion. All six participants stated emphatically that
their undergraduate training did nothing to prepare them for inclusion. These teachers'
experience with the district ranges from 1 to 40 years; regardless of when they had undergone
their initial teacher training, they all felt unprepared for inclusion (Smith & Smith, 2000). Art
Education preservice teachers should be required to have hands on training for inclusion of
students with special education needs and students in self-contained classrooms. Since art
educators earn a k-12 certification and work with all students in their school, they need practical
preparation for the accommodations required for students with Individualized Education Plans
and 504 plans.
What is inclusion? According to City University of New York, NY (1994), Inclusion is
the provision of services to students with disabilities, including those with severe handicaps, in
their neighborhood school, in age-appropriate general education classes, with the necessary
support services and supplementary aidsto assure the child's success -- academic, behavioral,
and social -- and to prepare the child to participate as a full and contributing member of the
society (p. 1-2).
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires special education
students to have access to art, music, industrial education, consumer and homemaking
education, and vocational education (Peterson, 1995, p. 3). Art teachers not only participate in
inclusion, but may also teach a full class of students with special needs, depending on their
school and school district. These classes are also known as self-contained and/or life skills
classrooms. Self-contained classrooms are usually indicated for children with more serious

ART EDUCATION: PRESERVICE TEACHER INCLUSION PREPARATION

disabilities who may not be able to participate in general education programs at all. These
disabilities include autism, emotional disturbances, severe intellectual disabilities, multiple
handicaps and children with serious or fragile medical conditions (Webster, 2015). The
Columbia Public School District in Columbia, MO has a K-12 school called CORE (Center of
Responsive Education) where every classroom is self-contained. The art teacher goes from
classroom to classroom working with students with a wide range of abilities. There are also selfcontained classrooms in the regular elementary, middle, and high schools. Some of these classes
are referred to as functional or life skill classes. These classes help prepare students for life
outside of school and after graduation. These students may either come into the art room or the
teacher may go into their classroom to teach.
The special education course required by all general education preservice teachers at the
University of Missouri-Columbia is Inquiry into Learning II SPC_ED 7020. Course objectives
from the 2014 summer semester class included:
(1) Demonstrate foundational knowledge of special education law and procedures; (2)
Demonstrate foundational knowledge of collaborative processes and multi-tiered support
systems; (3) Engage in critical evaluation of multimedia technologies for students with
disabilities; (4) Engage in professional development activities, including accessing and
evaluating research to inform future practice; (5) Respond to case studies of students with
disabilities by adapting an existing lesson plan, employing principles of differentiated
instruction, and integrating evidence-based practices for students with disabilities; and (6)
Communicate effectively to convey pedagogical knowledge about students with
disabilities and the responsibilities of the general educator with respect to special
education (Thomas, 2014, p. 2).

ART EDUCATION: PRESERVICE TEACHER INCLUSION PREPARATION

Although the information in the course is crucial, it is not enough for preservice teachers to feel
prepared to work with students with special needs. Given the complexities teachers face in an
inclusive classroom, they can benefit from an understanding of both the theoretical basis for the
inclusion of students with differing abilities as well as some practical ideas for ways to make art
possible for students of varying competencies (Zederayko & Ward, 1999). The theoretical
course above should be followed up with a practical training course which would include: role
play scenarios, mock IEP meetings and collaboration, specialty tool and Assistive Technology
(AT) training, visual support system application, opportunity for play and innovation of new
adaptive tool ideas, basic American Sign Language, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) lesson
plan design and supervised implementation, disability studies, and field experience working with
students with special needs followed by reflective dialogue. Allison (2008) talked about teachers
who participated in a inclusion studies lacking empathy towards people with disabilities. Many
times, teachers feel bound by convention or political correctness to the extent that they cannot
express what they are really feelingCritical theory asks teachers to explore their beliefs
through reflection with self and others because their beliefs ultimately affect their actions
(Allison, 2008 p. 23). Having preservice students interact with children with special needs and
then reflecting on their experiences may help them be more empathetic to their future students
which, in turn, would benefit, not only themselves and their students with special needs, but also
the other students in the classroom. I realize that my behaviors influenced the way that students
without disabilities viewed and treated their peers with disabilities (Allison, 2008).
An Individual Education Plan or IEP, is a legally binding document that public schools
are required to create for every student receiving special education services under IDEA. The
IEP is meant to address each childs unique learning issues and include specific educational

ART EDUCATION: PRESERVICE TEACHER INCLUSION PREPARATION

goalsThe school must provide everything it promises in the IEP (Stanberry, 2014). IDEA
requires at least one general education teacher on an IEP team (see figure 1 on page 10) and
present at the meetings along with the student (if appropriate), the students parents/guardians, at
least one special education teacher, a school system representative, Transition Services Agency
representative(s), a person who can interpret evaluation results and any other people with special
expertise or knowledge about the student (Stanberry, 2014).
The general education teacher may talk about what students in their class are expected
to do and help plan how the IEP student could accomplish those goals. This information can
contribute directly to making decisions about what types of supplementary aids and services the
child may need to be successful in that setting (Stanberry, 2014). A practical training course
would include mock IEP meetings to help preservice teachers familiarize themselves with the
process and give them the opportunity to collaborate with a special education teacher.
Some students who do not qualify for an IEP may have a 504 plan. These students are
protected under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. To be protected a student must:
(1) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life
activities; or (2) have a record of such an impairment; or (3) be regarded as having such
an impairment. Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free appropriate public
education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdictions who have a physical or
mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (Protecting
Students With Disabilities).
Such impairments may include, but are not limited to: severe allergies, arthritis or asthma;
ADD/ADHD, Bipolar disorder, cancer, Cerebral Palsy, AIDS, Cystic Fibrosis, Diabetes, eating
disorders, emotional disturbance, Encopresis/Enuresis, Epilepsy, hearing impairment, Leukemia,

ART EDUCATION: PRESERVICE TEACHER INCLUSION PREPARATION

orthopedic impairment, Tourette's Syndrome, Tuberculosis or visual impairment


(slane.k12.or.us).
Preservice teachers need to be prepared for incidences involving students with 504 plans
in the classroom. Role play scenarios through a practical training course will help them to
understand what is appropriate to do in situations, for example, a student with epilepsy having a
seizure. Instructors and students in this course would act out the proper procedure. Having
practiced hands-on with other students will help the preservice teachers be more prepared to
handle a situation in their future classrooms.
Not only should preservice teachers know what is in a students IEP or 504 plan, they
will also need to know how to help their students succeed through special tools. Training in
assistive technology, adaptive tools, basic sign language and visual supports will be very
beneficial in helping students fulfil their goals. Though assistive technology can help students
with disabilities participate in and complete tasks they would not otherwise be able to complete,
everyone involved in the AT process needs to have the benefit of training (Simpson; et al, 2009,
p. 173). Whether a student has an IEP or 504 plan, some will need Assistive Technology (AT) to
succeed. AT is any item, piece of equipment, software or product system that is used to
increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities
(Assistive Technology Industry Association). AT ranges from a simple calculator to computers
with communication software.
Not all students will need such technology, but some may need simple adaptive tools,
especially in the art room. Some examples would be: specialty scissors or cutting tools, adaptive
paint brushes or painting mittens, visual or auditory timers, pencil grips, and table top easels or
incline boards. For students who cannot grasp tools such as pencils, markers or paint brushes,

ART EDUCATION: PRESERVICE TEACHER INCLUSION PREPARATION

adaptive gloves with Velcro or elastic may help them hold a tool and participate in the activity.
Zederayko and Ward, (1999) talk about an experience in one of their classrooms regarding two
students with physical disabilities:
Craig, the student in the wheelchair in my art class, and Lisa, a student with motor and
cognitive difficulties, still sat on the sidelines while their classmates got involved in
making art. The challenges presented by Craig and Lisa haunted me because I felt that
something could be done to help them. Neither student was experiencing artmaking as
fully as possible because they could not maneuver a pen or any other writing instrument
no matter how the handles were adapted. Craig's palsied hands simply could not grasp
anything, and when Lisa did manage to hold a writing implement for brief periods she
tired easily and used all of her energy on the act of grasping the utensil so that she had
little stamina left to consider the art she was supposed to be creating. The wistful
eagerness to be actively engaged in the art activities of their classmates, plus what I knew
about the needs of physically challenged students, goaded me into developing creative
solutions for Craig and Lisa and other students like them (p. 20).
Novice teachers without training may not know what to do with students with special needs. I
remember feeling that I was an ineffective teacher each time I began a new art project such as
linoleum printing, still life drawing, or papier-mch sculpture, but handed the students with
severe disabilities crayons and paper. I knew this was not an appropriate modification; however,
I did not know what else to do (Allison, 2008, p. 3). Creating adaptive tools can significantly
improve a students performance. The training course for preservice teachers would give them
the opportunity to research and/or create adaptive tools for different scenarios. All students
should be able to participate in the scheduled art activity regardless of their physical or mental

ART EDUCATION: PRESERVICE TEACHER INCLUSION PREPARATION

disability. Teachers need to consider the skills needed for an activity rather than focusing on
finding the appropriate activity (Zederayko & Ward, 1999).
Some students may also need assistance with communication using basic sign language.
Through a practical training course, preservice teachers would learn some basic ASL words and
phrases to assist students with hearing impairments and students with trouble communicating
like those on the autism spectrum. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(2014), it was estimated that 1 in 70 children in Missouri had been identified with having ASD.
This would not be used to have teachers teach sign language to students with disabilities, but to
better communicate with those who use it already.
Visual support systems are also used to help students with disabilities to know what is
expected of them, and what is going to happen next. They also provide choices and
independence. Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a visual communication
tool for students with autism (Fittipaldi-Wert, & Mowling, 2009) and other disabilities. PECS
are cards that have a photo or drawing of an object or activity that is accompanied by text that
describes it. For example, a drawing of a paint brush may have the word(s) paint or paint brush
above or below it (see figure 2 on page 10). An art teacher may have a lanyard with PECS cards
in their room to help students know what is expected of them. These would include directives
such as raise hand, quiet, line up and so on (see figure 3 on page 10). Some students may bring
with them their own PECS book. This would contain more options for the students to choose
from that the art teacher may not have. It may also contain a choice board which the student can
use to make choices about materials, activities, or colors they would like to use. Most special
education classrooms use image software called Boardmaker. These images are well known to
special educators, students and parents who already use them. Boardmaker icons are also used on

ART EDUCATION: PRESERVICE TEACHER INCLUSION PREPARATION

electronic devices like iPads for auditory communication for students who are nonverbal or have
trouble vocalizing their needs. These icons can also be used for instruction sequencing and visual
schedules. Most students with autism have a visual schedule so they know what to expect
throughout the day (see figure 4 on page 10). Changes in routine can be very hard on them.
Visual reminders can also help students be more independent. For example, placing a visual
sequence of steps at the sink can remind students what they need to do to wash their hands or
rinse a paint brush (see figure 5 on page 10). Images can also be used around the room as labels
for materials, objects or stations.
Art education preservice teachers should have the opportunity to acquire the knowledge
and skills it takes to help all students thrive in their classroom. The best way to obtain this is
through real life experience. Hands on training through a practical preparation course will not
only benefit the teacher, but the students with special needs and the other students as well. They
will have the opportunity to learn and grow to the same potential as their classmates. All students
have the right to be educated by teachers who have the knowledge and skills to help them
succeed; to give them wings and the opportunity to, not only fly, but to soar.

ART EDUCATION: PRESERVICE TEACHER INCLUSION PREPARATION

Figure 1

Figure 3

Figure 5

Figure 2

Figure 4

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References

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