UDL in Practice · Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Using UDL to De-Stigmatize Special Education

christmas-3003710_1920.jpgA lot of magic happens as you begin to implement Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  Your students take their projects to heights you never imagined.  You get to have conversations with your students most days of the week, real, face-to-face conversations.  And, as you put out more options for your students, you can begin to de-stigmatize special education.

Normalizing Choice

Much of what is codified in an IEP is simply good practice.  Providing students with copies of notes?  Check.  Access to calculators to facilitate non-computational work?  Check.  Working with a second adult in smaller groups?  Check.

When my colleague, Irene Witt, and I were planning last summer, Irene was concerned about how she would be able to implement her IEPs this year, two of which called for access to calculators, in a way that wouldn’t make those students stand out.  I’m not an expert on UDL by any means, but the answer seemed clear to me:  make calculators available all the time to all students, without exception, regardless of designation in an IEP or not.  If all students have access to calculators, and the focus is on conversations about how we use them effectively, then there’s no stigma attached to the fact that some people are using them more than others.  In the highly social world of middle school, the less that any given student stands out, the better.

Taking this approach to the accommodations generally given in an IEP allows us to steal lots of great ideas from IEPs and our District Accommodation Plan (DCAP)–these ideas are supportive for all students, while essential for others.  Will all students have access to all of these supports during MCAS (our state testing)?  No, of course not.  But, if we have provided these services and supports to our students as much as possible, then it is likely that they have picked up on more of the material that will be assessed, a sort of over-preparation.

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