Disabled Students Perspectives Of Teachers In A Saudi Arabian City

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Over the last two decades, there has been a great deal of interest in research related to inclusion of students with learning disabilities. The importance of investigating Learning Disabilities (LD) and their complex relationship with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) has led to the development of different models of L\D as a, seen as either a medical or a social issue . The notion of inclusive education, which aims to engage special needs students holistically, is a relatively 'new' movement, at least in the Arab world. In particular, there seems to be a shortage of qualitative research conducted on the Learning Disabled and their relations to (IEPs) in the Saudi context. Moreover, Special Education is preferred over other traditional approaches in education which have not dealt with special needs students according to certain developing standards. Instead, Special Education deals with these students as independent individuals who have certain abilities and needs. It is important to diagnose the kind of retardation, in addition to assessing abilities, in order to determine students' current level of performance, which forms the base upon which annual objectives for the Individualized Education Program is built. Many Special Needs professionals see the Individualized Education Plan is as one of the main tools in the in development of a Special Education program. It is the base for any other training or educational activities for students with Special Education Needs (SEN) .(Haroon, 2004).

In the Saudi context, as in other parts of the world, there have been significant changes in the way in which SEN pupils receive their education. Since the introduction of the new inclusion policy and practice (1997), there has been a major transition from the traditional mode of teaching L\D students - within a long-established special schools framework (called "institutions" in Saudi Arabia ) towards an emphasis on acknowledging their needs to be effectively engaged and respected in conventional schools that are well prepared to receive them. Therefore, it is central in this investigation to explore the complexities of Learning Disabilities as viewed on the medical model as a deficit/disability or through a social interpretation.

Significance of the Study and Contribution to Knowledge

This study is significant for the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, it is the first empirical endeavor to be undertaken in the Saudi context. It is important because it is concerned with identifying the barriers; which teachers of the Learning Disabled see as standing against their application of the (IEPs) . These barriers affect the process of providing these students with appropriate educational services. Awareness of these barriers can inform appropriate strategies to reduce them or, at least, to limit the disadvantages they cause. This awareness may also help teachers how to apply the (IEPs), thereby creating a new spirit for the work of teaching the Learning Disabled and improving the level of educational services provided for them. This will increase teachers in creativity for applying IEPs and this is a most important process. Finally, it is hoped that the current study will also pave the way for more qualitative research on Learning Disability and its relations with IEPs in Saudi Arabia and in the Middle East generally. It is also hoped that the study will contribute to the ongoing debate about inclusion of students with learning disabilities; and the literature on IEPs in general.


The nature of the problem

My experience in a school for Disabled Learners in the city of Riyadh shows that there is a lack of knowledge of IEP among teachers of Special Needs students in general and of Disabled Learners in particular. My experience also shows that implementation of IEPs by these teachers is either weak at best or absent at worst. There also seems to be barriers that could stand against teachers' use of the IEP, which could negatively affect the flexibility and team-work features that characterize IEPs and consequently could only lead to undesirable outcomes.

It is important to realize the potential of teachers' knowledge of IEP in identifying and handling obstacles which, in turn, could improve their practice and enable them to adopt approaches that best suit the Learning Disabled. Barriers are those variables related to the teachers which stand against applying the (IEPs) in the best way, in addition to deprive students with L\D to use the educational services that help a lot in improving their abilities.

Some of these barriers, for example, are: absence of assistant teachers, large class size, lack of in- service training in IEP and lack of family participation. Added to this is a lack of awareness of the importance of both multidisciplinary and ICT as crucial elements in planning and implementing IEPs.

Research aims

This study focuses on teachers of Learning Disabled using IEPs in teaching students with Learning Disabled. Based on the research problem discussed above, the current study is an attempt to investigate the best ways in which teachers can implement IEPs, as well as ways in which these teachers can approach obstacles that could hinder the implementation of IEPs.

History of Special Educational Needs

One of the most significant discussions in education philosophy is the history of SEN. There is considerable controversy about the history of SEN because it began as provision by and for individuals but there was no general academic interest in it . (Armstrong ,2003) . It can be seen that, people with Special Needs are more 'special' than others and that they were not able to benefit from the educational programs provided for the general population. They could not be provided for unless is taken account Unless laws and special legislation were made for the handicapped . (Adams ,1986).

The history of Special Needs, has been a key aspect of educational research. Starting in the nineteenth century, and continuing until now, there has been an interest in the field of Special Education and in the provision of services to children with Special Needs, such as legislation and educational programs for each category of Special Educational Needs. In addition, throughout history challenging attitudes have been displayed towards individuals with special needs, and these have always tended towards the negative. A disabled individual was seen to be a financial burden on society, in addition to the mind of the spirit and the abomination of Satan (,Rousan,1998).According to Gulliford and Upton (1992), the concept of Special Educational Needs is hidden and encompasses a wide range of disabilities . There is considerable controversy about the dissatisfaction and term in specific use for handicapped people.

Slater ( 1976 ) pointed out, that the term 'Special Education' developed through the efforts of individual organizations concerned with certain disabilities. For example, in the field of L\D in the early nineteenth century efforts were made by educational pioneers in many countries of the world, such as Itard ,Seguin and Montessori . They were pioneers of in the field of learning disability.

In the Greeks and Romans periods , a disabled person was not considered suitable for life and should be disposed of , they were also used for entertainment and amusement. In the Christian period, it was more usual for persons to be treated as humans of humans and accepted by the community. By contrast, Islam called for non-discrimination between human beings and called for the establishment of equality between them . It is characteristic of Muslim community are justice, equality and humanity, that the status of humanity is key in dealing with others .(Fayyad,1983). It seems that development in serving Special Needs people has gone through several main legislative phases, starting with Individuals with Disabilities . Education Act (IDEA). This law was the first special law relating to the disabled education of the and this is called . The Education Act for all Persons with Disabilities', issued in 1975. It carries with it certain requirements for various States to help to provide education for all students with disabilities. Secondly, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act included a decision on rehabilitation. Public law L. 93 -112 Rehabilitation Act, which was adopted in 1977, stated that individuals with disabilities could not be excluded from any program or activity funded by the federal government simply on grounds of their disability. Finally, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 emphasized the protection of the rights of disabled children and their parents and supported funding for their free education (Brookshire, Roy, Klotz and Jack, 2002) . It appears, however, that the perspective on Special Educational Needs of this legislation still focuses on the principle of the least restrictive environment of the people with special need.

Definition of Special Educational Needs

"Special Needs is about giving exceptional consideration and providing exceptional help to those whose needs (whether by reason of special gifts or, in the more generally accepted sense, significant handicaps, disorders or difficulties) are greatest, whilst at the same time acknowledging their entitlement to maximum participation in the social, political, cultural and religious aspects of life which we all share" (Adams, 1986,P p.1-2).

Furthermore, the field of Special Education has witnessed many changes and trends, from negative to positive attitudes, towards members of this category. As Armstrong (2003) has indicated, Special Education, like other - areas of - social science, has its strengths and weaknesses which can be debated and problem attitudes towards persons with disabilities can be overcome . If we play sufficient attention to this definition, it can be seen that , the issue of Special Needs has been a controversial and much disputed subject within the field of education. The education authorities' claim that there is general provisions for Special Educational Needs , and that people with SEN can achieve a degree of social integration and psychological and vocational education if the Individual Education Plan is used to meet the Special Educational Needs arising from the disability. .

In view of these mainstream ideas on the importance of issuing legislation for those with Special Educational Needs, it can be emphasized that many countries have taken the initiative to pass legislation for the disabled. In the following section, some of the laws and legislation at the international and local levels for those with Special Educational Needs will be elucidated


Special education needs in Britain

In - the seventies of the twentieth century-, Britain saw increasingly rapid advances in the field of Special Educational Needs, enhanced by the issuing of laws and legislation for those with Special Educational Needs, and this interest arose after the issuance of the Act 94/142 in the United States of America. The British government has shown a clear interest in children with Special Needs.

The study - "Barton and Tomlinson ", in the Warnock Report - involved the rights of and legislation for children with special needs. This report covered the dimensions of Special Education, classifications of Special Education, concepts - of - learning - and schooling, merging of government and private schools, continuing education, resource centers, early education, measurement, diagnosis , and teacher training . (1981). We can note from the above review of legislation for the disabled that there is great interest in this area and, in particular, at the international level , conferences , have been held which issued recommendations for the rights of disabled persons and the responsibility of the State and the international community towards them. These included the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the Declaration on the Rights of the Mentally Retarded in 1971, and the issuance of the Declaration of the United Nations in 1975, which decided the necessity of respecting the human dignity of persons with disabilities and protecting their rights. Armstrong (2003) stated that, in the twentieth century, the field of Special Education is growing and people have become more aware of the concept of Special Education . It can be said that the Special Education system in Britain is interested in providing the best educational programs for the disabled in the presence of legislation for the disabled.

Special education needs in Saudi Arabia

I will describe the general situation in SEN in Saudi Arabia at the current time. In the middle of 1987, there was a major shift in Special Needs legislation resulting in a change in the way such students should receive their education. The first law relating to the education of students with special needs in -Saudi Arabia - (The Law of Persons with Disabilities) - was based on a number of social and educational foundations. The most important of these were equal rights for the disabled, international laws which were issued in the field, and the rights of persons with disabilities . (Rousan,1989) . By 2000, Saudi Arabia had 13,914 pupils dispersed across 226 programmers in a variety of settings, starting from special schools with residential facilities to mainstream schools with supporting units. By 2001 the number had increased to 901 institutions and various types of schools had joined the mainstream movement (Al-Mosa, 2005). Today, Special Educational Needs provision makes educational services available to a wider range of SEN students than ever before, such as those who have autistic, motor or multiple physical disabilities, the hard of hearing, and learning disabled (Al-Mosa, 2007) .

According to Oliver (1996; p. 94): "The history of the twentieth century for disabled people has been one of exclusion. The twenty-first century will see the struggle of disabled people for inclusion goes from strength to strength. In such a struggle, special segregated education has no role to play".

History of the Learning Disabled

Over the past decades, the role of Special Needs education in human life has become vital in every society. At present, living standards and quality of education are the highest in human history; many societies have achieved unprecedented levels of education, income per capita and civil participation. In this context, the term 'Special Needs education' refers to imparting knowledge, skills and attitudes. Special Needs education is not only what people obtain through formal schooling, but also through informal learning and it is a life-long learning process. Also, 'progress in special needs' can be defined as improvements and sustainable developments in the health care, financial and social status of such people. Also, there has been a great deal of interest in researching L\D students, not only in Saudi Arabia but all around the globe. The importance of investigating L\D and its complex relationship with disability, has led to the development of different terms, and of medical and social models of L\D. On the other hand, there seems to be a shortage of qualitative educational research on L\D and its relation with Special Educational Needs. According to J. Zen Meservy, M.D. (2008, p.7): "The term L\D covers the same population of individuals who were diagnosed previously with L\D in number, kind, level, type, and duration of the disability and the need of people with this disability for individualized services and supports. Furthermore, every individual who is or was eligible for a diagnosis of L\D is eligible for a diagnosis of L\D ". There are different kinds of L\D such as simple L\D, mild L\D and severe L\D. Measures must be diagnosed by L\D and them appropriate educational programs must be provided through Individual Educational Plans .According to , Karyoti, Carcinoid and Samadi (1995, p 67-68) give a succinct account of four basic stages in the history of attitudes to Learning Disability. First , the stage of genocide. Human societies in ancient times got rid of weak and disabled children, the most prominent example being "Plato's Republic" which recommended the removal of persons with disabilities outside the boundaries of the State until they are destroyed. Secondly, the neglect phase, in which the L\D were left alive in the community but abandoned without any help. Thirdly, the phase of fundamental care in which, as for the weak, sick, disabled and other disadvantaged groups in society, the L\D were provided with homes, food and drink. Finally, the stage of education and rehabilitation. This phase started in the late eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century and was characterized by attempts to train the L\D and rehabilitate them. The efforts of a French doctor, Itard, marked the beginning of this stage, followed by Segiun who opened the first boarding school for the mentally retarded in 1854. Later, in 1897, Maria Montessori established a school for the L\D. After World War 2, increased attention was paid to the disabled in general, as a result of efforts to foster the war-disabled and wounded soldiers, and continued attention to the disabled and increased awareness of the problem of disability was demonstrated through the Universal Declaration of Rights of Disabled Persons which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1971.

We find that these stages ranged from isolation to openness in the upbringing, care and rehabilitation of the Learning Disabled. Starting with killing them, then isolating them from society completely, and eventually reaching the final stage of training and rehabilitation in the community. Moreover, findings in Learning Disability research have related to the notion of general education .This means that it created a important role in education of L\D (Slater , 1976).According to L. Tyor and Leland V. Bell Preen (1976) disagree, and argue that, oddly enough, over the past two decades, social services have not provided for people with L\D. There seems to be considerable debate about the concept of L\D and the services which are provided for the Learning Disabled. Therefore, revision to Special Needs legislation, and a commitment to its implementation, are required.

Definition of Learning Disabled

The definition of Learning Disability is a controversial issue; L\D has been defined from many different angles. Some of the definitions reflect the theories of causation, while the other definitions attempt to describe L\D. It seems clear that L\D is a social as well as psychological problem and that it involves more than one condition, as it involves the child having conceptual difficulties in knowledge and skills, as well as a number of other characteristics. It can be said that there are many definitions of L\D with different medical or social emphases. In addition, L\D as a social psychological problem has been known to humans since ancient times. The field of L\D, within the field of Special Educational Needs, has faced many challenges and trends, and has seen a change from a very negative to a more positive attitude towards the members of this category throughout the ages (AL Azza, 2001, p.149). It means that, over the last century, various terms have been used to denote the concept of Learning Disability, including Mental Impairment, L\D, below-normal mental performance and Mental Retardation. The choice of term in a particular era may be due to a combination of social, scientific and philosophical reasons. Klitze claims that the notion of Mental Retardation is related to a negative signification and a lack of human respect (2008). The concept of L\D has been discussed from the scientific perspective, but a further acceptable and comprehensive definition of Mental Retardation has come from the American Association of Mental Retardation. This definition has passed the stages of amendment and revision, and has been accepted by the American Society as a result of criticisms of the psychometric definition, which depended on certain criteria for mental capacity in the definition of Mental Retardation. This resulted from criticism directed at the social definitions that relied on social eligibility criteria. As a result, this definition has been adopted by the American Association on Mental Retardation (Meservy, 2008). He (2008, p.7), explained the reasons for the change in name. "The name mental retardation has been associated with negative connotation and does not always communicate dignity or respect. A quick dictionary search of the term 'mental retardation' includes several definitions with the connotation 'derogatory term' linked to them. 'Retardation' further implies a static course instead of a dynamic and variable one. This is often cause for the practitioner, health insurers and providers to classify problems in the individual's functioning as a 'long-standing' function of the individual's mental retardation". He demonstrated four levels of agreement for the changing of the name.

The first level of agreement is abolition of the stigma.The second is improvement in the level of understanding. The third level of agreement is using measurement and evaluation for the diagnosis of the situation. The fourth level of agreement is description of people with Mental Retardation depending on the category. Moreover, in 2002 the American Association on Mental Retardation (AAMR) argued that "Mental retardation is a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social and practical adaptive skills. This disability originates before age 18". In 2002, the name Mental Retardation was changed to Intellectual Disability in an attempt to remove the stigma. In the medical study of L\D, doctors have focused on its causes. As Obied points out, 'there are centers of feeling distributed in the cerebral cortex and injury to any of the centers may lead to disabling its function, such as injury to center of feeling and movement or hearing center, and the injury of course leads to the disruption of the central nervous system, as the central nervous system manages all operations mental motor and sensory' (2000, p. 21). According to Macmillan (1977 ) , the L\D is a condition of mental deficiency caused by malnutrition or disease resulting from infection at the center of the nervous system, such an injury occurring before birth or at an early stage of childhood. As Peter L. Tyor and Leland V. Bell (1984, p.309) noted, "retardation was often due to brain damage rather than heredity". The former term is associated with the medical interpretation of L\D, where it is seen as a medical disability. Many difficulties face such medical definitions and many criticisms have been made about L\D being a health problem. Thus, a multidisciplinary team must be involved who can identify cases of L\D and do not rely on a single concept (Simon, Courtman and Mumby, 2008). However, the social definition gave us another model of understanding L\D, where it was seen as a social deficit or disability. In 1918, social attitudes had changed and Congress ordered the first federal legislation for vocational training. Social standards emerged which measured the extent of interaction of the individual with society and their response to its social requirements. Social definitions rest on the success or failure of the individual in response to social requirements expected of him/her compared to peers of the same age group. Moreover, the individual is considered mentally retarded if he/she fails to meet the expected social demands.

Many have focused on the response to social requirements as a basic variable in the definition of L\D ( Longmore , 1987). Batoti (2004, p. 27) states that the social definition refers to behavior which may be an indicator or criterion to identify cases of L\D. On this definition, L\D is viewed as a state of incomplete mental development which renders the individual unable to set him/herself within the environment of ordinary people and is always in need of care. It can be seen that the social requirements vary depending on the age of the individual and can be judged on the performance of the individual and the extent of his/her ability to achieve an expected level of performance. Consequently, a child like this is suffering from a problem in social adaptability. Thomas (1996, p.20) states that "the classification systems are merely representative. It is important for teachers, parents and other IEPs team members to understand the particular system used to classify students with MCD in their school district, whether or not it is either of those". It can be seen that, children in the category of LD are different from normal people according to physical, motor, mental, emotional and social criteria. As a consequence, this category needs to appropriate training and developmental programs.


Researcher feels that implementation of IEPs, could increase with the trend of inclusion, and this assures that inclusion of learning disabled students in general classes could have more positive effects, but there could be some negative effects, which required more implementation of IEPs to face or confront these negative points.