UPDATE: Principal Robin Robbins explains Inclusive Schools Week activities here.
For Burgess-Peterson Academy‘s Program for Exceptional Children teacher Monetia Hollie, the timing could not have been more perfect. She was thrilled to learn that Inclusive Schools Week (Dec. 6-10) would occur during the same week she had planned a field trip to celebrate the definition of inclusion.
This week, Hollie took seven PEC students and four general-education students on a trip to Sensations TheraFun, a playground facility in northeast Atlanta that is specially designed for sensory recreation. It serves as the perfect learning environment for students with autism or sensory-processing disorders. Burgess-Peterson students participated in activities such as the “zip line,” in which a student climbs a ladder holding a big round ball, then slides down a ramp while wrapping arms and legs around the ball. They also entered a room that featured iridescent lights, water fountains and mirrors that created differing sensory experiences.
“It was great to show them that they have a place to go,” said Hollie, “and to get them to adapt to different sensory places. It was also important to get them to interact with their peers. One difficulty that some kids with autism have is interacting with other kids and engaging in conversations. But we had three kids in particular — on the high end of the autism scale — who were talking to the other kids all day long. It was like they were peer partners. I also saw many of them ‘own’ their own space. They were very independent, and not as reliant as they are in the class.”
For Hollie, interaction between the two sets of students is very definition of inclusion: “It shows empathy to our kids. The gen-ed kids are not afraid of our babies anymore. They can now say, ‘OK, I know they’re different, but they also have some great qualities,’ and they become friends. They’re not strangers anymore.”
With encouragement from Principal Robin Robbins, Hollie has plans to create similar events so that inclusiveness is emphasized throughout the year at Burgess-Peterson.