Debbie Drennan’s Inclusion Tools

March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.  Tools for inclusion assist teachers, parents, and caregivers of children with special needs.  In addition, please find tools for anxiety, which is especially problematical in today's environments!

Recently, I attended one of the best practical webinars that I have ever attended this past year.  The dynamic speaker, Debbie Drennan, has a Masters in Social Work and is an Early Start Resource Manager at Parents Helping Parents.  Parents Helping Parents is one of San Jose Public Library’s partners, as they provide resources to families who have children with special needs.

Debbie presented a tool kit for inclusion of young children.  Debbie is enthusiastic about 10 kinds of tools, in particular:

  • Tools for regulation and anxiety
  • Stories for an inclusive audience
  • Adapted Tools

I highly recommend signing up for any of the classes provided by Parents Helping Parents.  All the classes that I have ever attended have been useful.  This one, as one participant commented, "is especially useful because we're always looking for practical tools."

Though the tools are primarily aimed for a classroom setting, parents can certainly utilize these tools at home, especially in this distance learning environment.

Tools for Regulation and Anxiety

We can all use tools that help us to minimize anxiety!

Here are 4 tools that aid in reducing the anxiety about the passage of time during long distance learning:

  • Visual Schedules provide children a picture schedule that addresses the passage of time.  We may become anxious when we wonder how long something will last.  This is especially important for children who may have minimal control over their days.
    • One company, SchKIDules, already provide colorful ready-made schedules.
    • Another company, Global Symbols, provides free schedules.
  • Visual Timers show kids how much time is left in a particular session.  This is especially helpful for children who cannot tell time yet.  Debbie recommends:
    • looking online for “visual timers”.
    • getting a sand or kitchen timer.
    • or using the free timer app on your phone or tablet.
  • Wiggle Cushions may be bumpy or smooth.  They allow sitting and movement.  Some may vibrate.  The purpose of these tools is to help children who don’t know where their core is to self regulate the wiggles.  These may be useful for adults, too!
    • Bouncy Band allows children to bounce their feet to release energy.
    • Weighted Laps/Vests provide more sensory processing regulation.  An example is Sensi Pal.
  • Calming Tools are great for adults, as well as for children.  Debbie recommends:
    • Setting aside a calming area.
    • Noise cancellation ear muffs to reduce stimulation.
    • Posting a Calming Down Routine Schedule.

Stories for an Inclusive Audience

Adapted stories provide children with learning disabilities a way to participate in circle times and story reading.

  • Adapted Story Books may include big books with emphasized vocabulary, interactive stories, and flannel stories for non-verbal children:
    • When teachers create story props, they may share with their colleagues on sites like Teachers Pay Teachers
    • Kiz Club is a site that provides free story props.
  • Social Stories help kids learn to anticipate sequences of events.  Debbie recommends the free resource: Bookcreator.
  • Core Word Board emphasizes what you may want your child to learn for that day.  This idea may also encompass Choice Boards, where children can choose from a number of activities to place on their daily Board.  Debbie mentioned that a lot of behavioral issues arise from the inability to communicate!

Adapted Tools

Adapted tools allow or make it easier for children to navigate their environments:

  • Color Coding Tools help children to learn their colors and they also assist children who may be visually-impaired.  Color masking tape is wonderful in differentiating between workspaces and for outlining doors, for instance.
  • Slant Boards like Visual Edge are wonderful in making a comfortable writing surface and also provides a magnetic surface, clips, and miniature table.
  • Adapted Writing Tools and Scissors help children who are developing their fine motor skills like the pincer grip:

Please send me any questions in the comments section below!


Books About Inclusion

Starting With Their Strengths, book cover
Working With Families of Young Children With Special Needs, book cover
The preschool inclusion toolbox : how to build and lead a high-quality program, book cover
Inclusion : a practical guide for parents : tools to enhance your child's success in learning, book cover
Sensory Play for Toddlers and Preschoolers, book cover