The following is an excerpt from...
by Katy Beh Neas
Easter Seals North Georgia, a Head Start grantee, is succeeding in implementing positive behavior management strategies for enrolled children, including children with special needs. Approximately ten percent of the enrolled children have special needs, ranging from mental health and behavior management issues to speech delays and physical impairments.
Donna Davidson, President of Easter Seals, and Diana Makombe, Head Start Disability Specialist, have provided one-on-one training for the classroom teachers who are serving children with special needs. This training has enabled the staff to appropriately meet the needs of all the children. Staff has noted that the children without disabilities provide invaluable assistance to the children with special needs. The stories below demonstrate the benefits and value of inclusion.
Greg, a three-year-old who attends the Easter Seals program, was diagnosed with autism shortly after enrollment. Greg did not have any expressive language and had a great deal of difficulty with his receptive language skills. He was not toilet trained and engaged in many repetitive behaviors. Easter Seals worked with the local education agency to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) as required by the Head Start Program Performance Standards. Greg's IEP focused on increasing his language, self-help, and socialization skills and decreasing his inappropriate behaviors. Staff worked closely with the school district in planning individualized lessons for Greg and in assessing his progress.
Like many other children at Easter Seals, Greg now attends a special needs preschool program operated by the public schools for two and a half hours per day. The remainder of the day, he is in the Easter Seals Head Start Program.
Greg has made wonderful progress as a result of this cooperative partnership. He is using single words to greet and request. Easter Seals Head Start provides an inclusive setting that has helped him increase his socialization skills with his peers. He is beginning to play with the other children. He actively participates in group activities and his repetitive behaviors have decreased. He has also been successful in improving his self-help skills, particularly toileting.
Eros is another success story. Eros, who has Down Syndrome, is a bilingual, three-year-old child attending Easter Seals and the public schools. In addition to his developmental disabilities, Eros displayed aggressive behaviors such as hitting, scratching, and pulling the other children in the classroom. He often tried to leave the classroom.
Easter Seals worked closely with the local school district to develop goals and objectives to manage these behaviors. Eros responded to a fixed schedule with set routines and clear expectations. Redirection to deal with his aggressive behaviors has proven successful.
The teachers also educated the other children about Eros' disability and taught them ways to deal with his inappropriate behaviors, such as using redirection. His peers are important to him and he responds to their comments. Eros is learning English and has mastered his daily routine. He is playing very well with the other children in the classroom and the negative behaviors have significantly decreased.
Easter Seals, North Georgia is thrilled to be a Head Start grantee and is leveraging its expertise in early childhood disabilities services to benefit all children and families enrolled in our program.
Katy Beh Neas is Assistant Vice President at Easter Seals Head Start Program.