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UDL and Students with Intensive Support Needs: Strategies and Issues from the Field

Universal Design for Learning is for ALL students! Proactive planning according to the principles of UDL and responsive implementation of UDL practices lower barriers and provide support and challenge needed for most students; however some students have intensive support needs that require the provision of ADDITIONAL individualized supports and services to participate and progress in the general education classroom.  This discussion focuses on the issues and strategies around the complementary nature of UDL for all and additional services for some.
I am taking the liberty of starting the discussion off with a couple of questions. 
What strategies have you used (or have helped others use) to increase the participation of students with intensive support needs within general education classrooms designed according to the principles of UDL?

What issues have you faced?

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Happy 2014!  As we start off this new year, it is a great time to be thinking about the questions above.  Please do chime in.

I know that there are people "out there" who are using UDL principles to develop goals, methods, and assessment and acquire materials to support the participation and achievement of students with more intensive support needs and their peers.  I have talked to many.  I think it would be very useful to share what is working and not working for you with others.

Clearly many of the strategies you put in place to support one student supports many. So we recently enrolled a student with a vision impairment. This has really made us think about our OHS practices across the school. For example, ensuring that rooms do not have electrical cords lying around, or that chairs are placed legs down on tables ensure the safety of all children, not just our vision impaired student. 

We have been using collaborative planning frameworks to bring together the work of content and intervention specialists.  We have also been supporting the use of general and extended standards with the addition of learning progressions to show markers for baseline knowledge, learning targets and progress toward grade level standards for students with intensive support needs.  We have tried to design planning tools that can be used to support instruction and assessment across a wide variety of settings (LRE's).  Tiered planning tools help educators merge together academic standards, IEP goals/objectives and instructional tools, methods and materials. (including instructional and assistive technologies) 

Sound like you have been doing some great work around this area. We have been struggling how to determine baseline knowledge of our students. Can you tell me a bit more of how you developed learning progressions for your students?

Thanks

Kelly

Learning progressions begin with a grade-level standard which can be unpacked to outline individual concepts and skills within the larger standard.  Usually we arrange these skills into a rubric or checklist framework and then add extended standards leading to the grade level target.  In addition to general and extended standards we add onset and expanded skills and concepts to both ends of the learning progression to capture data for learners who are moving toward the grade level standard and for those who have mastered the grade level standard and are demonstrating skills and concepts beyond the standard.  Our learning progression begins with an engagement marker in alignment with our Alternate Assessment where the first test item offers points for engagement with items or activities related to the grade level standard.  In some cases this first progress marker seems quite low but engagement is essential for participation in both learning and assessment.  If engagement is not demonstrated by the learner during pre-assessment it is evident that the work of the professionals and learner will begin with establishing a communication mode with materials that are engaging to the individual learner.  Once engagement is established the learning progressions that follow are task analyzed skills and/or concepts that lead to the least complex level of the extended standards.  Learning progressions beyond the standard are established in much of the same way by expanding the knowledge and skills of the learner, possibly using applications of previously demonstrated skills as described in Webb's Depth of Knowledge.  I have included a simplified example. (please note this example does not show the unpacked markers within the general standard or expanded markers in the learning progression) Feel free to contact me for additional information and examples.

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You have said it beautifully!  May I add that if a communication mode has to be established, it may be a very long, but valuable process.  Digital tools can support students communication needs, while being a catalyst to engage the student in learning at the same time.  It is important for the student to be assessed against those markers using the same tools for which he or she learns.  If professional learning is offered on how to effectively use the learning tools for assessment then the student will have a great chance for success.

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