The Case of Vanessa: Summary (Pg. 25) Vanessa has been deemed ready by the IPRC to spend a porti...

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The Case of Vanessa: Summary (Pg. 25) Vanessa has been deemed ready by the IPRC to spend a portion of the school day in a mainstream grade 5 classroom. She has previously been placed in the "junior resource class". Vanessa has had considerable gains in regards to behaviours, toileting skills and communication. Last school year, sessions with the grade 4 mainstream class, with scaffolding from her favourite EA, showed that Vanessa could engage in age-appropriate social interactions with peers. Two assessments suggest Vanessa is of average intelligence, with no indication of any physical or learning disability. However, recently her birth father, whom she had never met until a few months ago, has obtained custody. He wants to move her to a new school in a different school board and community that has a full inclusion policy with no designated resource room or withdrawn classes. by Mind Map: The Case of Vanessa: Summary (Pg. 25)  Vanessa has been deemed ready by the IPRC to spend a portion of the school day in a mainstream grade 5 classroom. She has previously been placed in the "junior resource class". Vanessa has had considerable gains in regards to behaviours, toileting skills and communication. Last school year, sessions with the grade 4 mainstream class, with scaffolding from her favourite EA, showed that Vanessa could engage in age-appropriate social interactions with peers. Two assessments suggest Vanessa is of average intelligence, with no indication of any physical or learning disability. However, recently her birth father, whom she had never met until a few months ago, has obtained custody. He wants to move her to a new school in a different school board and community that has a full inclusion policy with no designated resource room or withdrawn classes.

1. Student's Perspective (Rachael)

1.1. (Note: Written with the help of Vanessa's Favourite EA) Everything keeps changing in my life and I don't want anymore change. I do not want to move to a different school, I have moved so many times and it is hard to make new friends and start new routines. At recess I finally have some close friends to play with and they just started to teach me their secret handshake. I have been working to make friends since grade 2 and recess just started to be fun. Thinking about starting a new school makes me remember the past when I was always the new girl and I used to get in trouble all the time. No one wants to play with the new girl, especially when everyone thinks she is bad.

1.2. Why do I have to move to a new school and listen to what my Dad says? Everything keeps changing and the only place I have started to feel comfortable and safe is at school with the people who support me. What is the difference from this Dad to all of my other Step Dad's? Is he going to one day leave me like everyone else? He says he is my real Dad but where has been for all of these years, didn't he want me before? He has two sons that he wants me to call my brothers but I don't know anything about them. I just want everyone to like me at my new home but it is hard when everything keeps changing. They want me to follow their routines but I like my routines and when things change I feel like everyone thinks I am the misbehaving Vanessa again. Dad says I will start grade 5 at the same school as my brothers and get to be in a big class all of the time. I feel like I need to know my brothers better so I have some support if I have to be a new student all over again.

1.3. When I start Grade 5 at my new school who will help me when I feel overwhelmed or need help? My favourite EA always helped me in the past but I fear I will be left alone or my new EA won't understand how to help me. I loved when I used to be in the larger class in grade 4 but I need support from my EA when I get overwhelmed. Dad says I am a smart girl and at my new school I won't have to miss out on the fun that happens in the big class. This makes me feel excited but then I remember when I was in the larger class all day in Grade 3, I did not have a good year. Grade 4 has gone so much better because when I feel overwhelmed and need to calm down I get to go to my safe space, the "junior resource class", with some of my other friends. I like my routines at my school and I know that I can work hard and be a good student and friend but I need help from people I trust and feel safe with. Just thinking about having to change everything again makes me feel uneasy and panicked. Maybe I can take some of my friends with me to my new school or maybe if I am really good and my Dad will let me stay at my old school.

1.4. I want my Dad to let me stay at my old school where I can keep my friends and routines. I want to continue to be the best Vanessa I can be and I know I can do it at this school. If Dad really wants me to be in the big class all of the time I know my favourite EA, friends, and teachers will help me get used to that change in a slow pace manner in order to help me from feeling overwhelmed. Plus I know if I stay at this school I will be able to visit my friends in the junior resource room. If I really have to move to the new school with my "brothers" I want to know I can feel safe and have support. Maybe I can visit the school and classroom with my favourite EA and she can teach them how best to help me adjust? Too much change makes it hard for me to keep calm and express myself in nice way to everyone so I hope my Dad can understand that I need to get used to my change at home before I can handle another change at school. However, if a new school is really necessary I need as much support, love and care as I can get.

2. Teacher's Perspective (Eryn Hartmier)

2.1. If Vanessa moves to a new school where she is fully immersed in the mainstream classroom before she is ready and adjusted, I am worried she may have an increase in behaviours and anxiety. I suggest that she stays at our school for now and at the end of the term we evaluate how she is doing. If she is spending most of her time in the mainstream classroom and having success, than a plan to transition her to the new school could be created. However, I am worried that some of her progress may regress due to the anxiety of a new school environment if she is thrown into it too quickly.

2.2. I believe that Vanessa will, in time, be successful full-time in a mainstream classroom environment. She has made incredible gains in regards to minimizing behaviours in the classroom, toilets independently and can have appropriate relationships with her peers. Her demonstrated ability to participate in regular recess, with supervision, without incident makes me confident in this. I fully see placement in a full-time mainstream class in Vanessa's future. I think that, with time, being placed in a mainstream class at another school could be manageable for Vanessa and the school team. However, I do believe that this must be carefully scaffolded, over time, for her. By slowly and steadily increasing her time spent in the regular classroom, it can alleviate her anxiety and increase her confidence, without making her overwhelmed and increasing undesired behaviours. This is why I think it is best Vanessa stays at our school for now, where we have the resource and withdrawal classes to accommodate this transition, instead of moving her to the new school immediately.

2.3. Vanessa's ability to create and sustain appropriate relationships with same-age peers can be used as a strategy to help transition her to the new school. By creating relationships with her siblings that go to the school, and peers that she will be attending school with in advance, this can help alleviate some anxiety for when she does start to attend. By having some familiar faces and pre-existing relationships, it will be an easier transition for Vanessa into a brand new school environment. Having a positive rapport with her future class and the school staff at the new school can help smooth out her transition. I suggest as she stays at our school to work on transitioning to full-time in the grade 5 class, she also takes time to go for short, structured, planned visits to her future school. She could go with her favourite EA or her father. This could help familiarize her with the new school, staff, students and community and could help buffer the move. A "pen pal" buddy system could be set up between Vanessa and her future class mates where the send emails back and forth to get to know each other. This would also facilitate literacy and communication skills for both Vanessa and her future peers and the teacher from the school could easily get on board.

2.4. All in all, a gradual transition into the mainstream classroom at her current school is the most ideal. However, if this is not feasible or her dad makes the decision to put her at the new school as soon as possible, there are certain things that should be considered. Will Vanessa be able to have an EA to be able to help transition her and support her in the classroom full-time? Will the new school consider our school's SIP (Safety Intervention Plan) and create strategies for Vanessa should behaviours emerge? It is important that communication about strategies and behaviours happens between the schools and that her father understands the history of her behaviour and what to expect.

3. Parent's Perspective (Alex)

3.1. As having just recently gained custody of my daughter, I have naturally lost a lot of time being the full time father I want to be for her. That being said I want to be able to give her the best of the best in all areas of her life, including her education. Being that two separate assessments provided results that Vanessa is of an average intelligence with no physical or learning disabilities, I don't see why there is a need to separate her from other students her age. With assistance from an EA she is able to engage in everyday school activities with peers, proving that she does need to be in a seperate classroom.

3.2. The school years are very important for a child's social interaction skills. If Vanessa is not spending time inside of a regular classroom with other students her age, I fear she will fall back on the communication scale if not making friendships. Some of my best friends were made at school, in class, at recess and I don't want her to miss out on that crucial childhood experience.

3.3. By separating Vanessa from her peers you are making it clear to others that she is different. Children (and adults from that matter) can be extremely insensitive. There is absolutely no reason why Vanessa needs to be subject to ridicule and made to feel different when she is more than capable of doing and being all the things the other students her age can with the exception of a little in class assistance from an EA. She is just a child like everyone else and deserves to be treated the same way.

3.4. The new school I want Vanessa to start attending does not believe in segregation and has a full inclusion program. At no point during the day will she have to leave her peers and the education taking place in the mainstream classroom to go to a different class where she is not doing what she should be doing for her age. Vanessa needs to be pushed to her maximum capacity, which is what will be taking place at her new school in an inclusive classroom.

4. Interpretation/Connections to Text

4.1. Special Education Policies: As per the "Learning for All: K-12 (2013)" and "Developing and Implementing Equity and Inclusion Policies in Ontario Schools (2013)" documents, it is evident special education as a whole is moving towards an inclusion model. It is becoming more rare to find special education classes and resource rooms with students being withdrawn part-time compared to in the past. For example, the Hamilton Catholic District School Board has a full inclusion policy and does not have specialized classes. Thus, the specialized environment that Vanessa is in for part or most of the day is not commonplace in many school boards. Thus, if she made the move to the new school that works on a full inclusion model she would be one of many students with exceptionalities operating in the mainstream class in that school board. I would assume that although the transition to a new school and a full-time mainstream classroom could pose challenges and possibly some setbacks for Vanessa, there would be a Special Education Resource Teacher and Special Education Team at the school to help her be successful in the mainstream environment. Strategies outlined in these documents, such as Differentiated Instruction and Universal Design for Learning, could be effective methods of teaching for Vanessa. The current school team should communicate how Vanessa learns best, what she enjoys doing and what assistive technology could best support her transition into the mainstream classroom. By teaching to various teaching styles and engaging the students in the class with Differentiated Instruction, the new teacher could better foster Vanessa's engagement and learning.

4.2. Universal Design for Learning: The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provides access to the curriculum for all students as it assists educators in designing a learning environment that is accessible for everyone (Learning for All, 2013). UDL provides students from any walk of life with the ability to excel in their own learning in an inclusive and appropriately designed safe space. Although most of the education world would say they believe in learning for all certain questions must be asked to ensure truly all students are welcome in our schools and classrooms. Therefore, to create an environment that ensures learning for all, teachers and staff must ask themselves how they can provide a flexible environment where lessons are presented in multiple forms and answers and engagement can be shown in different ways. For students like Vanessa to excel, her teachers and school must believe in the core concepts of UDL to ensure Vanessa has the accommodations and and the support and safety that she truly needs. Although Vanessa is not struggling in school as a result of a learning disability the "Universal Design is not just a technique for special education; rather a technique to enhance the learning of all students." (Turnbull, Turnbull, Shank, Smith, & Leal, 2002, p.92) Vanessa's currents school has come to understand how her childhood experiences have made a large impact on her life and how she learns and interacts with others. Her school has been able to see her struggle and grow over the years and has been supporting her longer than most of the adults in her home life. This school has given her the stability she has needed and through their time working with her they have made mistakes but they seem to have learned from them to build a true understanding of how Vanessa learns. This gives Vanessa a great opportunity to be supported through her learning to the best of the schools ability. Whether Vanessa stays at her current school, where full inclusion has not yet been put in place, or goes to her new all inclusive school, it is crucial that Vanessa's story is not overlooked. With the right support and accommodations Vanessa can continue to grow as an individual and a learn along the side of her peers.

4.3. Traditional Vs. Constructivist Approach: Students learn best when they are provided with a form of teaching that speaks to the way they learn. For many years education took on a very traditional role where education was teacher based and students were there to absorb by listening. Although this method has worked for some it is not the only way to to approach teaching. Another approach to teaching is those who take on the perspective of a constructivist. Constructivism is the "view that emphasizes the active role of the learner in building understanding and making sense of information." (Woolfolk, Winne & Perry, 2016, p.332) Vanessa has lived a life that shows signs of neglect and these experiences and instability in her life have resulted in a challenge for her when interacting with others. This ultimately has impacted her ability to learn in a classroom. However, it is clear that as Vanessa has spent more time in a stable school environment and has been given the needed tools to cope and appropriately socialize with her peers she has begun to flourish in her learning environment. Therefore, through the brief study of Vanessa's experience as a child, a constructivist approach seems to be an important element to her continued learning because in this approach social interactions are a crucial component of the knowledge construction process and as an educator we want to build her skills to help her succeed in all aspects of her life.(Bruning, Schraw, & Norby, 2011)