by Lyn Harrision
Restorative methods seek to address problems by working with youth rather than doing things to them or for them. While individual teachers use such methods, a restorative school requires a consistent whole school approach. This article describes core principles for building restorative schools being implemented by Marist Youth Care in Sydney, Australia.
Many an educationalist ponders on the rapid changes in schools and the journey from the traditional school in which an authoritarian regime ruled through control and fear. We celebrated the departure of the cane and welcomed the era of self-esteem. More and more, schools began to be seen as the centers for social change that could provide all the social support that our youth were increasingly lacking.
We live in an age of constant change, ever increasing stressors, and a disintegration of support structures. Our innate human “fight or flight” response is no longer adequate to deal with modern day stress. Our children are growing up faster and with more pressures. Many are alienated through victimization or negative peer culture. There is a breakdown in social structures with more single-parent families and young people in care. Within our school system, there is pressure to juggle the academic with the pastoral in order to manage greater levels of accountability, more depressed and disruptive students, and new challenges around multicultural issues (Weare, 2000).
It is with great frustration that schools are now declaring, “How much more can we be expected to do?” “How do we find the balance between discipline and support?” “What sort of school culture can best respond to the needs of our youth?”
While faced with ever increasing challenges to meet the sociological needs of our youth, Restorative Practices give us new hope. This whole school approach builds on the important notion of connectedness in a school community. Connectedness, in terms of building positive relationships, is one of the most protective factors we can offer our youth (Catholic Education Office, 2002).
Restorative Justice is a philosophy and a set of practices that embraces the right blend between a high degree of discipline encompassing clear expectations, limits and consequences, and a high degree of support and nurturance. Steinberg (2001) suggests that this blend tends to correlate with the best psychological and behavioral outcomes for children. This “authoritative” approach is seen as far more effective than the authoritarian (YMCA of the USA, 2003). Simply put, in a Restorative school one works with people, rather than doing things to them or for them.
Restorative Justice programs in schools aim to develop:
The Work of Marist Youth Care
For the last four years Marist Youth Care has been developing Restorative Justice Programs for schools across Australia, with the focus being a whole school approach. In many schools, one will see daily interactions between teachers and students that reflect Restorative Practices, but these will not have the lasting impetus unless the whole school approach is consistent. A Restorative School can articulate the underlying principles and beliefs. There is a commitment to collaborative problem solving, involving students, teachers, and parents. While there is consistency in values, there is flexibility in commitment to meet individual needs. This is a school that has transparent processes to resolve conflict, is forward looking, optimistic, and committed to inclusiveness.
This whole school approach is based on a set of underlying principles.
1. Focus on the relationship and how people are affected.
2. Restore damaged relationships.
3. Talk about the behavior without blaming.
4. See mistakes and misbehavior as an opportunity for learning.
5. Accept that sometimes we cannot get to the ultimate truth.
6. Be future focused and talk about how to make things right.
Strategies progress from the informal, when the teacher uses “the language of choice” to de-escalate potentially negative behavior, through to the Restorative Meeting, the most formal intervention. This occurs when conflict or behavior is of such severity that all key stakeholders are brought together to heighten understanding, repair damaged relationships, and make a plan for a positive way forward. The goal of the continuum of strategies is to move all interventions down toward the least formal end.
Excerpt from Lyn Harrison’s 2007 article, “From Authoritarian to Restorative Schools.” Reclaiming Children and Youth: The Journal of Strength-Based Interventions 16:2 (2007): 17-19. Read the rest of the article online: http://reclaimingjournal.com/sites/default/files/journal-article-pdfs/16_2_Harrison.pdf.
Used with permission from Reclaiming Youth International, a division of the Starr Global Learning Network. For subscription information and related information, visit www.reclaiming.com.
by Jimi Gilroy, iPad/Assistive Communication Project Coordinator
When I think about the fundamental desires that a parent has for their child, three basic themes come to mind: to be independent, to be safe, and to be happy. When I apply these to the outcomes for children with disabilities, it creates a startling gap between, on one side, our understanding of how we can use technology and the different ways that brains process information, and on the other, how to use that understanding to improve the lives of children with disabilities.
Our goal with this project is to start to bridge that gap between what children need to thrive and what resources we have available to make that a reality.
In my experience as an early intervention specialist, play and social interaction can be the most powerful ways to build on a child’s strengths. My hope with this project is that the increased ability to communicate will create more opportunities for children to play and interact with others that will allow them to be more independent, to be safer, and to be happier.
In the next few months, the ability for families to access Assistive Technology such as iPads will be bolstered by a new iPad Lending Program at Support for Families of Children with Disabilities in San Francisco. Twenty-four iPads will be available to lend to families and there will be workshops in Spanish and English for parents on how to use the devices for their children’s communication needs. The hope is that parents will connect with the technology and find support moving forward to find other resources such as grants, insurance, or other funding to maintain their consistent use of the device as a “talker” or assistive communication device. This is so important because, as Jennifer MacDonald-Peltier from the Center for Accessible Technology states, “Once you give someone a voice, you should not take it away.”
A few resources for iPad lending already exist: The Center for Accessible Technology maintains an iPad lending program of 12 devices, the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco has 8 devices, and there are 14 technology lending libraries throughout California through the Assistive Technology Exchange that can provide families with myriad tools to incorporate technology as part of a child’s system of communication.
The challenge often becomes how to reach families who either do not know how the technology can benefit them or how to ask for it as part of the IEP process. With that in mind, by next year we will also offer a Parent Provider Workshop which will include service providers and stress the role of collaboration which is one of the crucial components to the program. We also hope to collaborate with the San Francisco Unified School District, as well as the other centers and lending libraries, which make use of this technology.
Our parent workshops will start in September in both English and Spanish on a monthly basis. Topics covered in the workshop will include: how to use an iPad, IDEA regulations, apps for assistive communication, incorporation of the “talkers” in conjunction with speech therapy and occupational therapy and resources in the community for accessing this technology on a long-term basis. Cases are also often an overlooked but important topic – we’ve chosen Gripcases for our fleet of iPads because they are light and shock-absorbent enough to be thrown across the room. (We’re so thankful to Gripcase USA for donating 5 of them to our project!)
In addition, features like guided access will show parents how to set limits and boundaries around using the device as a “talker” as opposed to an entertainment device, which are both valid uses of the technology but the distinct roles need to be made clear to children as well as parents in order for the device to be used effectively. We’ll also talk about how many children that can benefit from these devices, including children that have some verbal ability and children that have mobility and accessibility needs.
Most importantly, the devices do not stand alone as a communication system. The most important part of the process is that the families, support staff, school staff, and other members of the community find ways to play, socialize, and communicate with the child. iPads are also not the solution for every child. Often a combination of high tech and low tech solutions is going to be the most sustainable option. But to not give children with special needs the opportunity to explore this technology and find their own voice would be the greatest failure.
To find out the dates of the next iPad workshop, go to our Upcoming Events page and call 415-920-5040 to sign up.
Jimi Gilroy is the Assistive Communication Coordinator at Support for Families of Children with Disabilities. He is also an Early Interventionist for ABC Special Start in San Francisco and a presenter for San Francisco SafeStart. He speaks Spanish and Mandarin and he has a background in Sociolinguistics and child development.
by Joan E. Selby, Parent Mentor Program Coordinator
The Parent Mentor Program (PMP) provides families with an additional resource in helping them find support and answers to their concerns. It is supported by parents trained to help other parents around similar experiences and is appreciated by many.
How wonderful is our PMP? Why, let us share a one Parent Mentor’s testimonial…
The Parent Mentor Program (PMP) at Support for Families of Children with Disabilities (SFCD) is literally my lifeline of support. I can’t imagine navigating the complicated and stressful world of disabilities without it.
Fortunately I was connected with a couple of different parent mentors shortly after my child was diagnosed, a time when I felt depressed, overwhelmed and confused. My dear mentors were there for me emotionally, in ways that my closest family and friends weren’t able to be. After helping me cope, my mentors empowered me by providing me with extremely useful and specific information. They gave me the support and courage to start the process to get services for my child. Over the years, the PMP has connected me with other amazing mentors when unique challenges arose and specific guidance was needed.
One of the aspects that makes the PMP so successful is that incoming parents are matched with other parents whom have shared experiences. I have learned that parents helping parents is the most effective way of learning what we need to advocate for our children.
I was so inspired by my mentors that I decided to participate in the Parent Mentor Training program, a supportive environment in which to learn and ask questions about the intricacies of special education law. I now mentor other parents and in doing so, I am able to share my experiences and successes so they can advocate for their children and get them the services that they need. In turn this makes me feel wonderful knowing that my experiences and knowledge may help other families.
The PMP is one of the most cherished services that SFCD offers. Whenever I meet a parent who is new to the world of disabilities, the first thing I do is tell them about SFCD and suggest that they get a mentor through the PMP.
Become a Parent Mentor!!
If you are interested in becoming a Support for Families’ Parent Mentor, please contact us. We are currently registering parents for the next eight-month Special Education training series starting this September, 2013 and completing by May, 2014.
The Special Education training series of the PMP covers various areas, including evaluations and assessments, the IEP Process, and Related Services to help Parent Mentors get a perspective of the Special Education system.
To be an effective Parent Mentor, Parent Mentors also take the Parent-to-Parent (P2P) training, which is a necessity of the PMP. The P2P provides helpful information such as positive listening techniques, coping skills, and accessing and understanding resources. The next P2P training will occur in December, 2013.
For information or to register, please contact:
JoAnna Van Brusselen (Spanish)
Note: Registration through Joan (English) or JoAnna (Spanish) is required. Thank you.
Fundraising Gala: Friday, October 4, 2013
For more information about volunteering with Support for Families, please contact Teri Lynes, Volunteer Manager: email@example.com or 415-282-7494 ext. 121
San Francisco Inclusion Networks, a program of Support for Families, is assisting numerous early childhood programs throughout the city to build their capacity to include young children with disabilities. Through monthly workshops for providers and families as well as coaching, consultation and technical assistance at Preschool for All programs, preschool program staff are sharpening their skills in creating welcoming, inclusive, and high quality learning environments for San Francisco’s youngest citizens. Contact SF Inclusion Networks (415-282-7494 ext. 122) to find out more about the free services and training.
Teachers and families often have questions about how the practice of inclusion came about. This article describes the legal basis of inclusion, and also provides a good overview of the benefits that result when children with disabilities are active participants in school and community life.
Inclusion is the principle that supports the education of children with disabilities alongside their non-disabled peers rather than separately. Ever since Brown v. Board of Education held that separate was not equal, inclusion has been part of this requirement to provide equal educational opportunities Both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Sec. 504) require schools and agencies to provide equal educational opportunities for children with disabilities. Another primary source for the inclusion requirement is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA. IDEA not only supports equal educational opportunities, it specifically requires schools to support inclusion of children with disabilities through the least restrictive and natural environment mandates. For preschool and school age children (ages 3-21), IDEA requires that children with disabilities be educated in the “least restrictive environment” (§1412(a)(5) and §1413(a)(1)). For infants and toddlers (ages 0-3) with disabilities, IDEA promotes the use of “natural environments” for early intervention services (§1432(4 )(G)).
Why does federal law support inclusion in schools and services?
“Almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by . . . ensuring their access to the general education curriculum in the regular classroom, to the maximum extent possible.”
In addition to the academic benefits of inclusion, courts have long recognized that there are non- educational benefits to inclusion that are important to the quality of life of children with disabilities—such as the opportunity to make friends and increase acceptance among their peers (Daniel R.R. v. State Bd. of Educ., 1989; Sacramento City Sch. Dist. v. Rachel H., 1994). Federal law thus recognizes and supports inclusion because of the developmental, educational, and social benefits that inclusion provides to children with disabilities.
How does federal law define inclusion and what does it involve?
The Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) have developed a joint position statement on early childhood inclusion. (For more information on that definition and specifics on access, participation and supports for inclusion, visit http://community.fpg.unc.edu)
Policy differences for different age groups— early intervention (ages 0-3) vs. special education (ages 3- 21)
First, for children 0-3 years of age, natural environments include homes and other community locations where children without disabilities participate (§1432(4)(G)). Even though the home is an arguably separate environment, it is considered an inclusive environment for an infant or toddler because most children without disabilities at this age are cared for in the home. In other words, the home is inclusive for infants and toddlers because it is a typical setting for infants and toddlers who don’t have disabilities. For children age 3-21, the home is not considered an inclusive environment.
Second, for children 3-21 years of age, the least restrictive environment includes a continuum of placements (§ 1412(a)(5)) from fully inclusive (the general education classroom) to fully separate (special school) with a lot of different options in between, such as the use of a part-time resource room. Natural environments do not have a spectrum of inclusion—they either are natural environments or they are not. The home is considered just as much of a natural environment as a child care setting that children without disabilities attend. When trying to decide between natural environments (i.e., the home or inclusive child care setting), either of which would qualify as “full inclusion” for an infant or toddler, the natural environment that is likely to provide the most benefit to the child should be selected (§1435(16)(B)).
Excerpt from CONNECT: The Center to Mobilize Early Childhood Knowledge. (2012). Policy advisory: The law on inclusive education (Rev. ed.). Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute, Author. This document was developed with Matthew Stowe, J.D., Beach Center on Disability, University of Kansas. Updates based on changes to Part C Regulations made by Anna Stagg, M.Ed., with input from Lynda Pletcher, M.Ed. (February 2012). Updated by Pam Winton March 2013.
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