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Autism Society of Santa Barbara Hosts Inclusion Conference

Speaker Rick Clemens focuses on helping special-ed students adapt in a classroom environment

It’s imperative for children with disabilities to have positive interactions with typically developing children in their school environment, keynote speaker Rick Clemens said Friday at the Autism Society of Santa Barbara’s Inclusion Conference.

Clemens, a teacher and founder of the Inclusive Education and Community Partnership, works with dozens of schools as a consultant with his staff to help make programming and staff more prepared to help special-education students learn in a classroom environment.

About 50 parents, teachers, support staff and Autism Society members attended the daylong conference, including familiar faces from Santa Barbara school board meetings and advisory groups. The district’s problems with special education have been lamented by parents for years, and a consultant report identified the areas in trouble and provided recommendations for improvement. Parent groups are now working with the district to implement those plans.

Clemens emphasized the need for an educational environment to be a match between an adaptive teacher as a student learns how to, well, learn. Not only are academic skills important, but behavioral, social, vocational and independence skills are necessary to prepare someone for life after 12th grade, he said.

“I want them to be included in school, but also want them to be included in life,” Clemens said.

This can be done through each student’s Individualized Education Programs, or IEP, experienced staff and consistent strategies to approach needs on a daily basis, he said.

A big problem at districts all over the state is the overuse and misuse of instructional assistants — they should be used to assist the teacher adapt his or her style to help students learn, not spend hours at a time with a student if it’s not necessary, he said.

The conference also included speakers Dr. Ann Simun, a pediatric neuro-psychologist, and Jane DuBovy, an attorney and certified mediator.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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