Mary Quest, an early childhood teacher of 15 years, has shared two narratives of her experiences with response to intervention (RTI). After reading Chapter 3, Chapter 4, and the two case narratives below, describe what you see as both the strengths and challenges of RTI. How do you see children getting the support and services they may need through RTI? As you read the following case studies what would you like to learn more about? If RTI is new to you, what have you learned? If you have experience with RTI, what can you share about your experience with RTI?
Within the first few weeks of school, I knew was going to need extra support with a student named Joshua. Having been teaching in Early Childhood for 10 years, it was very apparent that his receptive and productive language skills needed support. He only repeated phrases that the other students or I had used right before. He didn’t speak using any original words or phrases (not even one or two words) and repeated questions back to me rather than answer them. (Even “what is your name?”, “how old are you?”, etc.). He had not attended preschool and the family had just moved into the district from another state before school started.
I was asked to wait until a month or two into the school year, but then in October, I decided to bring my concerns to the team which included a speech pathologist, social worker, OT, PT, and special services coordinator. Several of them came into the classroom to observe, and the speech pathologist started some basic language assessments, which tested both productive and receptive language in the developmental range of a two-year-old. RTI requires that you try various interventions in the classroom before going into a full referral process; so I was given cards with objects on them to work with him in the classroom on naming objects. I was also asked to document his language and keep work samples. As you can guess, the anecdotal records I kept showed little to no improvement in his language, and his work was not within the range of Kindergarten expectations. He also started to receive speech intervention at that time since you can get speech services without a full referral or an IEP, and the speech pathologist also felt that there was very limited improvement.
We met again with the rest of the team after trying the interventions for a few months. The parents had been involved in the process and seemed willing to do whatever the school suggested to help him. The team did not want to pursue a full assessment and go through the IEP process until we had tried other classroom interventions. I expressed my concern for the best interest of the student. I enlisted some volunteer help from a former parent to work with him one-on-one three times a week. After documenting very little improvement, it was finally approved in April, and he was given a full assessment (IQ, behavioral checklists, OT/PT, speech, cognitive ability, etc.).
Joshua qualified for services in May. The last three weeks of the school year, he was receiving services.
The other student was a boy named Max who had been progressing well socially until about February. He started hitting and generally being disruptive to the other students and me (yelling and rolling around on the floor during group and center time, refusing to participate, interfering with other students’ work, etc.). Some of the expectations for the length of time in a whole group and working in centers had been increasing as the school year went on and he seemed to struggle with that. He was a very kinesthetic person beyond just being a five-year-old. I had tried several things to help him manage his own behavior, which didn’t work.
I approached the team with my concerns about his behavior and what I had tried thus far. I did not feel that he needed a full referral or IEP, but was hoping for some suggestions for interventions to try with him. The school social worker and the occupational therapist both observed. The OT saw that he seemed to need to move after a certain amount of time and suggested that I try a picture schedule to help him to manage his own behavior.
I gave him a paper schedule with pictures to represent each part of the day (broken into 15- to 30-minute segments like ‘group time’, ‘centers’, ‘music class’, ‘choice time’, etc.) with a space next to each picture for him to check off or put a sticker as each part of the day passed and he was able to keep his body under control. This served two purposes in that he could have a clear sense of what to expect and not feel overwhelmed at the idea of keeping himself under control the whole day but rather for small segments of time, and it also gave him a legitimate reason to get up when he felt he needed to move. If I could see him getting antsy, I would say “Why don’t you go check your schedule?” and he would get up and go. He would also voluntarily get up to look at it if he felt himself needing to move over time.
I keep anecdotal records of his improvements in behavior and brought it back to the team for a follow up. Because the suggested intervention was working, we did not need to put others into place. He relied on the schedule less and less as the school year was ending and became better able to manage himself for lengths of time.