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  • Natalie Hawkins

The Gray Area in Accessible Learning


There is gray area in accessible learning.


Outside of legal considerations, and IEP regulations, and specific behavior plans, there is still gray area within accessible learning.


At times, it is to the provider's discretion to choose which skill to honor, which behavior to reward or ignore, and what is determined as a "complete" task. Providers are faced with these challenges daily.


In music therapy sessions, there are times when students choose a different instrument than the choices they are offered. For example, I will offer two instrument choices, and a student will point to or verbalize that they want something different from the choices offered. Most times, I will honor communication such as this, and reward the student for practicing their self-advocacy, problem solving, and communication skills.


Other times, the student may be practicing flexible thinking skills more than communication, and in these instances I would keep the two choices for the student, and rephrase the choice presentation. I would then say something like, "That instrument is not a choice, but you get to choose from these two choices! Which one would you like?"


I often find myself asking my teachers and providers which skills they would prefer me to focus on for certain students. I ask them, "Are we working on communication or flexible thinking more?" and then I will honor that skill depending on what information the teacher provides me with.


It is also important to clarify, because as students have specific IEP goals, they also have specific areas that teachers are working diligently to address alongside IEP goals. For example, using full sentences, asking for something different, or accepting "no" could be skills addressed alongside or as a smaller part of IEP goals.


A few ways I confront the "gray area" in accessible education is through consistency and knowing my students. Consistency is key for students in accessible education settings, and as long as we are productively consistent with expectations, behavior plans, and reward systems, we will lead to the greatest success for our students. Knowing each students' needs and having a strong relationship with other providers is important as well. When we are able to understand the students' needs, communication styles, and IEP goals and objectives, we are able to better meet them where they are at and provide more specific supports.


When providers are able to collaborate, we are building a foundation for student therapeutic progress, and a safe space for them to learn.




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