As I've been setting up our classroom this past week, I've been trying to decipher what the most important aspects of a classroom for students with special needs are. I suppose it depends on who you talk to. If you run a strict ABA program, you probably have more one to one teacher table set ups in your classroom. If you run a DIR Floortime program, you likely have much more space and place more of an emphasis on your play or leisure time area. I run something called the "Blended Model Method" which includes some ABA aspects, some DIR Floortime aspects, mostly TEACCH based and Sensory Integration driven. Plus, I throw in the curriculum (or the more appropriate, "standards"), some functional skill work, and social skills. (You can click here for some of the other programs we use.)
Mash all those things up and hope for...
...A student who is able to read, count coins, add, subtract, use the computer for more than just playing PBSKids, respond appropriately in social settings, share toys with friends, and monitor his/her own sensory needs in ANY setting. Hope for generalization (before 4th grade).
So, what in the world should this classroom look like?
Well, we need a "one to one teacher table" and an "independent work station", of course. One to one teacher table is where most of my instruction takes place. I instruct the skills in the content standards at the one to one teacher table. Then, once those skills are mastered, we move them to the independent work station. We have one of each, for 7 students. In both one to one teacher table and independent work station, students master activities like shoebox tasks and file folder games. Here is our shelf of homemade shoebox tasks (as you may be able to see, some are numbered, some aren't. That was our first attempt at organization in the first year we opened this classroom).
Next, I've attempted to make 3 small group areas this year. Because our students have been so inundated with one to one therapy, they are not used to working in small groups. We can also do one to one teacher time on the carpet in a more unstructured space. I believe we need more small groups and more time for problem solving. Here's one space for that.
We'll use this small group area daily for circle time and calendar skills. This is the only "cutesy" bulletin board we have, but I believe it's useful as well. I believe in making the room useful and meaningful to students, not just cluttered with cute.
weebly.com this year! We also have a SMARTboard, Leap pads, Leapsters, a Touch Screen, BoardMaker Activity Pads, etc.
BoardMaker Plus v.6) to show Circle Time, computer, bathroom, wash hands, read book, Music Class. (In place of picture icons, you could also use an object schedule, photo schedule, or word schedule, depending on the students' level.) Students remove the icons as they finish and place them in the plastic envelope below the schedule. At the end of the schedule, our day is done (depending on how many icons the student can handle). Here is an example of an empty visual schedule. This student's schedule has Legos because I know he loves to build with Lego blocks.
Of course, we'll make it work. I am thankful to have a classroom (and not a closet). I am thankful to have a job. I am thankful that we have the amount of materials and games and puzzles... I am thankful that not one of these students is "self-contained" because we have managed to get them each included at some point during the school day (because they can be, and because they can be successful).
Now, just in case I missed something...
Are there other areas that you would include? What's your rationale? What would you do with the other bulletin boards in the room? Do you have questions about our space? Your space? Can I help?