Teachers' Guides to Inclusive Practices: Modifying Schoolwork (2nd ed.), by Rachel Janney and Martha E. Snell. Baltimore: Brookes, 2004.
To prepare students with intellectual disabilities for productive and meaningful adult lives, policymakers and the recent reauthorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) state that educators must have high expectations, and schooling must include access to the general education curriculum in inclusive settings with peers of the same age (American Association on Mental Retardation, 2004, IDEA, 2004; TASH, 2000). Nearly 30 years of research has provided ample evidence of the success of inclusive education practices and benefits for students with and without disabilities (Hunt, Doering, Hirose-Hatae, Maier, & Goetz, 2001; Fisher & Meyer, 2002; Jackson, Ryndak, & Billingsley, 2000; Janney & Snell, 1997). Yet, placement in inclusive or general education classrooms alone does not constitute quality education. True access to the general education curriculum requires educators to know how to appropriately adapt and modify the curriculum in a way that honors a child's strengths and abilities, meets their educational needs, and enhances their participation within activities and lessons in the general education classroom.
In this book, Janney and Snell provide educators with a framework and precise tools to create quality school programs where learning and participation for students with and without disabilities in general education classrooms are greatly improved. Being able to make modifications and adaptations to general education curriculum remains one of the most crucial jobs done by teachers to ensure meaningful learning and classroom participation by students with intellectual disabilities. When inclusion is deemed “not working,” it is often due to the lack of appropriate supports and skills of teachers and meaningful participation of students. Janney and Snell not only highlight key elements of inclusive education and accommodating curricular practices for all learners, they describe in detail a model for making general and individualized adaptations for students with disabilities to be able to participate fully in general education lessons, such as English language arts, math, and content area subjects. Many wonderfully detailed examples of adaptations made for actual students in inclusive classrooms are provided throughout the book (Voices From the Classroom, Student Snapshots). Educators will learn how to make general classroom adaptations and specific adaptations for individual students, depending upon their educational needs. The book utilizes a “strengths-based” and “growth paradigm” (Armstrong, 2000) language in its description of students with disabilities and other diverse learners, encouraging educators to discover students' abilities and multiple intelligences, while also determining specific individual needs in the areas of academics, social/communication, and physical management.
Another “gem” of this book is the succinct compilation of research findings in each chapter within “What the Research Says” text boxes. These allow readers quick access to research studies that support best practice for students with disabilities. At the end of the text (Appendix B), the authors also provide an extensive, easy-to-grasp list of resources and additional references categorized by relevant topics, such as accommodating curriculum, literacy instruction in inclusive classrooms, software for graphic organizers, creating an effective and inclusive school culture, and publishing companies providing high interest low-vocabulary books. The only missing element from this book appears to be the latest information on E-Readers, Thinking Readers, writing software, and other recently developed products that allow books and other materials to be accessed in alternative formats to support universally designed learning strategies. The authors do cite CAST (The Center for Applied Special Technology, 2005), which is a clearinghouse for such materials.
This book is written to be practical and highly usable for many different audiences. From a personal perspective as a faculty member in teacher preparation programs, I found that this book represents an incredible resource for preservice methods courses for both general and special educators. For school administrators, such as building principals and special education directors, it could be used to spearhead a school improvement effort or to increase the effectiveness of existing inclusive education programs. Elementary general and special educators would find this book highly relevant for individual development or study group purposes.
Having used the first edition of this book and other books in this series in methods courses for preservice teachers, I think that the absolute best thing about this book is the sample formats and suggested forms that are provided, which can guide teachers and teams through the process of making adaptations and modifications using a collaborative approach. The authors provide examples of the forms utilized with specific students as well as blank forms for duplication purposes within the appendices of the book. These concise forms have been used effectively by successful teams and could potentially “jump start” a new team by providing them with day-to-day, week-to-week planning tools for developing quality educational programs for students with disabilities.
The specific examples of adaptations for participation in literacy, math, and content area instruction are superb and detailed. The examples can help school principals address general educator questions, such as “How can ____________ (student with intellectual disabilities) participate in my class when she is so far below the rest of my students academically?” and also help focus special educators on facilitating meaningful learning and participation in general education classrooms through appropriate modifications and adaptations.
In summary, this book is an outstanding contribution to the literature on educating students with intellectual disabilities in general education classrooms. It should serve as an important resource for professionals and practitioners alike for many years to come.