Teaching Core Content for College and Career Readiness


Charley Gets it Together!

Charley, a 17-year-old eleventh grade student, dually diagnosed with autism and some intellectual impairment, has been engaged in an inclusive academic program throughout his education. With instructional and behavioral supports, he has been able to perform close to grade level in most basic subjects. Charley plans to graduate at 19 and to continue his education at a local university, which offers a strong college support program. He and his parents are concerned that, as he's nearing college age, Charley needs to develop independent learning behaviors because he will no longer have the benefit of the learning supports that his school district has provided through the learning resource center's individual tutorial sessions, nor will he have access to Ms. Sloane, the one-on-one paraprofessional who has been assigned to him for several subjects each day. In large measure, Charley's school performance has been dependent on the attention he's received from, Ms. Sloane, who attends his English, Math, History, and Science classes with him. In college, he will have to be his own advocate and seek out supports when he needs them.

While Charley has expressed a clear desire to attend college, he has also discussed his fear that he will not do well without his current level of support. He is correct that he has not reached a sufficient level of independent functioning to succeed in his next environment. The concerns about his ability to succeed in college fall into several critical areas, including time management, self-regulation, information processing, self-determination, and self-advocacy.

With regard to academic instruction, he experiences difficulty and frustration when presented with complex, multi-step instructions, and rapid paced lectures. Charley depends on his paraprofessional to dissect the instructions, breaking them down into digestible steps. There's no question that when material is presented in small concisely stated chunks by Ms. Sloane, he can process and comprehend many demands of his high school curriculum. However, in typical college classes it is assumed that students will process large amounts of information on their own.

Charley's teachers recognize that Charley will benefit from instruction in study skills and strategies to enable him to succeed in college. If he can develop a pattern of study habits and will utilize these strategies in courses, with the help of the university disabilities resource center, he should be able to manage most assignments. Specific strategies will also be useful in courses where independent and group participation are required. The teachers have designed their courses to incorporate learning strategies within the context of the curriculum. Through their collaborative efforts, they have built into their lessons and assignments activities and tasks that will lead to more independent functioning. The coursework addresses the State's core learning standards required for attainment of his high school diploma, plus tasks to foster competence in executive functioning, self-determination, and self-advocacy.

As part of his instruction, Charley will have to get to class on time, participate in class without the assistance of an aide, and complete assignments to fulfill course requirements. In order to accomplish these tasks, Charley will need to be able to set goals, make choices, and organize his time. He will also have to self-advocate to obtain needed supports from the school's learning center. Through academic instruction, Charley's support team will need to build Charley's self-determination, executive functioning, and independent living competence. His teachers have begun to concentrate on utilizing numerous opportunities within the curriculum to build self-determination or improve executive functioning competence through the curriculum.

Simply stated, the mission of education is to prepare young people to lead productive and fulfilling adult lives, in which they participate and contribute to their community. Toward this end, it is the responsibility of high schools to provide curriculum and instruction designed to instill knowledge and skills needed for students to enter the next stage of their lives Student outcomes are largely dependent on course material.

Students with ASD often have difficulty following multistep instructions and understanding teachers when they present complex verbose concepts. While neurotypical students may be able to follow and grasp fast-paced lectures and read texts that are replete with abstract sophisticated emotional language, such work may create anxiety and frustration for adolescents with ASD. It is the job of high school teachers to build and deliver course curriculum, which is required for graduation, in a manner that is understandable by all high school diploma bound students. Curriculum and programming should prepare students to succeed in college level work and should guide them toward increased independence.

This chapter utilizes a course syllabus on World History to illustrate how it is possible to teach core curriculum while simultaneously building competency in skills related to school and life success. The course syllabus includes activities and responsibilities leading to improved learning and independent functioning.

Building Skills for Independence

Through Curriculum

Well-designed curriculum teaches academic content and related skills needed for success in school and community. It engages students in meaningful learning activities, therein increasing appropriate behavior patterns and reducing maladaptive student actions. In this chapter, we use a Social Studies course syllabus prepared at Shrub Oak International School (2018) to illustrate through a concrete example the necessary components of a course of study, and means to adapt, adjust, and modify curriculum to meet individual student ability and needs. Readers of this chapter have permission to use any part of this syllabus, or the syllabus in entirety in their schools.

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