Touro College Addresses Quality Inclusive Schooling by Pairing Students in Occupational Therapy and Special Education Programs in Interactive Seminars

Date: August 26, 2009
Media Contact:

Barbara Franklin
Director of Communications
212-463-0400 x5530
Barbara.franklin@touro.edu

New York, N.Y. – As occupational therapists are increasingly making schools their workplace of choice, Touro College is one of the first schools to offer interactive seminars that bring together occupational therapy (OT) students with special education students to teach them how to work collaboratively when they ultimately work together in classroom settings.

Typically associated with employment in healthcare, OTs today are moving toward jobs in education as the commitment to “quality inclusive schooling” remains strong. Inclusive schooling, whenever possible, keeps children with disabilities, or specific challenges such as learning difficulties, in the same classroom with their peers rather than removing them for specialized services.

A recent Touro seminar was led by Brenda Dressler, associate professor of education; Meira Orentlicher, professor of occupational therapy; and Deborah Natale, adjunct professor of occupational therapy.

Dr. Louis Primavera, dean of Touro’s Graduate School of Psychology as well as its School of Health Sciences, says that “Touro is stepping ahead in an innovative way by offering these seminars for special educators and OTs, as they are increasingly working together in the classroom to support inclusive schooling.”

Dr. Primavera also stated that the desire to work with children seems to be one of the primary reasons for applying to OT programs today. He went on to add that many of Touro’s applicants have been introduced to OT by seeing it firsthand in schools, by having a sibling or classmate who received OT, being a recipient themselves, or having a friend or relative who works in special education.

Touro’s seminar teaches how OTs and special education teachers should clearly define their roles and implement their responsibilities; how supplemental support services, such as psychologists, are used effectively; how the instructional environment should be designed to support individual student needs; and how students participate in the general education environment. This seminar was funded by the New York Higher Education Support Center for Systems Change (HESC), utilizing federal funds provided through the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004.

Touro students who participated in the recent seminar reported positive results, including increased knowledge and appreciation for their respective disciplines, and how when services are implemented in a collaborative way, K-12 students benefit greatly. They learned about team communication, how to implement each other’s techniques to help children, and how to ensure that children get the best education possible.

Dr. Dressler, who leads the New York City Task Force on Quality Inclusive Schooling, said inclusive education “Promotes a sense of belonging, encourages collaboration, advances justice, values diversity, and creates opportunity for conflict resolution. Inclusive education values the individual learner and provides an individualized, balanced education that promotes both academic and social development.”

The New York City Task Force on Quality Inclusive Schooling has published a book entitled “Supporting Inclusive Classrooms: A Resource.” More than 3,600 copies of the book have been distributed to principals of New York City public schools, Teacher Centers of the United Federation of Teachers in the five boroughs of New York City, private schools in New York City, and colleges and universities in cities throughout New York state. Of the 30 members of the Task Force, ten are from Touro College, including Dr. Orentlicher.

“The inclusive schooling seminars provide critical insight to OT and special education students about how their collaboration in the future will play out in the real world,” said Dr. Orentlicher. “Touro provides the students with the tools they will need to deliver the best education to diverse classes when they begin their careers after graduation.”

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