Today I want to talk about one of the most difficult parts of being a special education teacher, scheduling! I teach in a self-contained multiple disabilities classroom, so there are many variables that go into creating our schedule. I’m going to walk you through my process when I’m creating a schedule for a multiple disabilities classroom.
What are the things already set in stone when creating a schedule for a multiple disabilities classroom?
I teach in an elementary school. I know when we will have lunch, recess, and specials before school starts. We have our own adapted specials, attend recess with another class, and have lunch in our classroom. I know those times going in. I use that to start what I call a ‘skeleton schedule’. It’s the bare bones of what I need when creating a schedule for a multiple disabilities classroom. I want to note that I’m writing this for next year with the assumption that most things go back to normal.
But what about lunches and plan time?
My students eat in the classroom. Hear me out on this: All of my students are tube fed or need assistance eating. I found we weren’t really able to socialize in any way with our peers if we ate in the cafeteria. Instead we will have inclusion time in the cafeteria with same aged peers at another time. This is when staff take lunches. It honestly takes us an hour to eat and use the restroom during this time. One staff member goes at a time and I take my lunch during specials.
Do I always get my lunch? No. I usually go to Art with my students to help because it is very hands on (as it should be!). Sometimes someone is absent, if that happens I just eat when my students are done eating. For planning I use our Sensory Lab time. Everyday at 11:30 we have 30 minutes in the sensory lab. I use that time to plan. I may have a student with me during that time, maybe someone is recovering from a seizure and needs to sit in the quiet.
Making Therapies Work In a Schedule
At the beginning of the year there is no way to fill in therapies in the schedule. The therapists don’t know their schedules any more than we do. What we end up doing for Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy is having a collaborative approach where they pop in and join lessons in progress. The Speech Pathologist does group therapy with my students and because her schedule is very pressed, I fit her in wherever she has time. I will rearrange our schedule for speech. Make sense? I will figure out about 4-6 weeks in that OT and PT will come every Tuesday and Thursday and I will note that on my schedule. We may have speech every Tuesday and 10:50 and I know to get the students ready for that. Let’s look at what we have now.
Adding in Library Time and Yoga Time
We have library every other Monday. The librarian gives me a schedule and I add that in. We also have Yoga period and that is every other week as well. The Yoga teacher is a wonderful woman. She gives me a schedule as well and I factor that in. Lets see what our skeleton schedule looks like now.
Academics and Toileting
Now that I’ve got a pretty good framework for things that have to happen I start adding in academics. I note that things will not be the same in weeks with library and yoga and make sure to reflect on students’ schedules. My first priority is toileting. I schedule in three toileting breaks, but we take a student whenever they need it. My students get to school at 8:30am, so I start right away. Here what our schedule looks like now.
Now I pencil in academics. I like to do things one of two ways: I do all subjects everyday OR I split in an A/B pattern. The decider is always student stamina. If I found the majority of my students are exhausted at the end of the day we may do something other than ELA or Math. Let me show you on the schedule.
Our day is pretty full. You may be wondering about inclusion.
I fit in inclusion whenever I can. Inclusion always trumps whatever we are doing. Inclusion is amazing for both my students and students in the general education classroom. It is essential. I like to make a schedule that ensures each student is rotated into general education with their same age peers at least once a week. My students need to always be attended by a paraprofessional or myself due to medical needs. Some of my students attend specials with peers for inclusion, some go to lunch with peers, and some join their classroom. This is something I’ve nailed down after about the 6 week mark and added to the schedule it looks something like this.
We have a reasonable outline for the week. Will this always go as planned? No, not all. But I find having this outline helps me stick to it. I don’t assign paras to work with a particular student everyday. It’s different each day because it is important for the students to be comfortable with all of us. Even students with 1:1 paraprofessionals spend time with me for a large part of the day. I do have students that come at different times so I will note that on my schedule as well.
I post this in the classroom and give everyone a copy. Can you make it fancier? Sure. But this works for me really well. We are also always doing more than one thing as well. Done toileting? Time to use switches or VI materials while we transition. Math time? Time to use the stander or the special tomato chair. If you need ideas on what to do to maximize your time check out the active learning website.
This is how I go about creating a schedule for a multiple disabilities classroom. If you want to add classroom zoning as well check out this great post on zoning your classroom by Whitney. What do you think about my process? Is there any way I can help you with your schedule? Would you like to see how I lesson plan? Let me know in the comments. I hope this is helpful!