Experience has taught me that students with moderate/severe disabilities, who are receiving functional services, often have families that are simply stressed. These are folks who don’t have the time or inclination to complete a form. These are sometimes the families who do not return forms sent to them from school. The importance of the needed information is high; however, gathering it sometimes requires a different effort.
The environments our students live in beyond the school day are the focus of this tool. It is a significant piece of student assessment—gathered by teachers—to help verify the objectives, as well as the approaches to—or environments for–providing instruction. These are students with some of the highest support needs that are often complex and require extended time. The process of verifying, with the family, what we do is essential to assure the school is using this scarce time wisely. Examples of inefficient and unfocused functional skills training are still too common:
- Students who load and unload electric dishwashers in school, but never encounter one at home, and still don’t know how to hand wash dishes in a sanitary way.
- Students who make cookies repeatedly at school, or help put on a big turkey dinner, but don’t know how to make a simple snack or cold meal for themselves (with food the family is likely to store in their cupboard).
- Students who put together puzzles time and time again, yet have no true independent, recreational skills.
There is a need for educators–who work with this population of students having moderate to severe disabilities—to verify specific skills, environments, motivators, and approaches for instruction through the family. Transition planning is crucial for the long term; environmental assessments such as this survey are critical all through the student’s years in school.
Use of this Survey/Inventory
First, this tool is never just sent home for completion: In part, because of what was stated above about family stress; partly, because it is intended as an interactive process to gather specific information.
The ideal way to use this inventory is face-to-face during a home visit. This process allows the teacher to gain critical data about what the student is expected to do at home and opportunities to find skills important to the family that can be reinforced during the school day. This process helps build the relationship between school and family. In addition, it can pinpoint ideas for motivators and integrating home/school skills.
Recognizing some families are uncomfortable with teachers coming to their homes, if a home visit is not possible, ask the parent to meet in a neutral spot away from school, for example, offer to buy her/him a cup of coffee at a restaurant. If this isn’t possible, and you have to meet at school, meet in a neutral, quiet spot.
The inventory is a distilled version of various formats I’ve seen and used over the years. Teachers found this format expedient and a helpful component of a full assessment of student needs.
Hopefully you find this tool useful. Contact me if you have any questions.