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This essay will focus on a concise evaluation of how an intellectually disabled student should be accommodated by the learning opportunities and teaching practices and strategies offered by their teachers in an inclusive setting, the basic knowledge will be derived from Ashman and Elkin's Education for Inclusion and Diversity, 4th Edition.
Both Pearce (2009) and Killen (2007) raise the point that secondary schools are typically harder for intellectually disabled students due to "[High School's] traditional focus on curriculum, examinations, subjects and the large numbers of students allocated to each teacher" (Pearce, p. 1). This is justified through case studies dissected in both Ashman and Elkin's book and Baum and Lynggard's (2006) research; most notably I can draw similarities to conversations on "environments".
From here I will work in the parameters of Ashman and Elkin's definition of 'Intellectual Disability': "a disability of learning due to impaired cognition" (2012, p.256). From this basic understanding I predict that 'environmental' will be the operative word that will arise throughout the literature as Ashman and Elkin's work has alluded to it throughout the book (i.e. "environmental factors" p.71) and it is a useful analogy.
The main needs of a student with an intellectual disability are as follows: an appropriate assessment of their disability, their current academic position, their learning processes that are not inhibited by the disability, an appropriate Individual Education Plan (IEP) and an inclusive classroom environment to optimize learning outcomes, facilitate the IEP and consequently empower the student.
A Student with an Intellectual Disability Can Be Accommodated and Empowered by:
Inclusive Teaching Environments Facilitated by Innovative 'Teaching-Learning Ecology'
The creation of specific environments to accommodate specific students is a reoccurring suggestion in literature outside of Ashman and Elkin's work. This idea of an inclusive 'environment' has merit as it creates a flexible, understanding mindset for Inclusive Teaching Practices. According to Flem, Moen, Gudmundsdottir's article, Towards Inclusive Schools: A Study of Inclusive Education in Practice, "children may become aware of their own knowledge and how to proceed to solve a problem when they receive assistance" (2004, p.91). Whilst obvious, they go onto explain that this is only effective in the correct environment or, as Killen (2007) explains it, a "good classroom climate" (p. 44), which is defined as "the social environment of the class empowers learning" (Killen, p.44). Evidentially this can help facilitate an Individual Education Plan (IEP) to its full potential.
Ashman and Elkin (2012) describe an IEP as a "management tool" (p.74) which ensures the student's educational objectives and goals are met, or as Michelle Pearce, who echoes Ashmore's and Elkin's description, claims "Having a long-term vision that guides the inclusive teacher in curriculum delivery," (Pearce, p. 7). However, an IEP is only as effective as the teacher implementing it. Often, stimulating cognitive mechanisms designed by the teacher (Killen, 2007) need to be employed for it to be effective.
To illustrate an example: A teacher could build an effective, stimulating learning environment for the Intellectually Disabled which is called a 'teaching-learning ecology' (Ashman & Elkin, 2012). There are four components to this ecology: the learner; teacher; setting; and curriculum (Ashman & Elkin, p.72) that combine to accommodate an inclusive and sustainable environment for the Intellectually Disabled student. Ainscow, Booth and Dyson (2006), like many researches, agree that sustainability assists in developing inclusion because the idea of sustainability "connects inclusion to the most fundamental aim of education: to prepare children and young people for sustainable ways of life within sustainable communities and environments" (Ainscow et al. p. 10). This statement reinforces Ashman's and Elkin's idea of in-class preparation for real life scenarios hence accommodating both Intellectually Disabled students and their peers.
Tailored Learning Opportunities and/or Programs for Intellectually Disabled Children that are in Sync with the Curriculum and their Peers
Ashman and Elkin's preach 'teaching-learning ecology' and so do the works of Christina van Kraayenoord. van Kraayenoord makes constant references to 'Differentiated Instruction' in her article School and Classroom Practices in Inclusive Education in Australia (2007). It can be derived, from drawing parallels between her research and Ashman and Elkin, that tailoring the needs of each individual student ensures that a common goal (i.e. curriculum outcomes) are reached via an effective pathway for each student, principally the Intellectually Disabled students.
The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) supports this stating that all learners "are to be held to the same high expectations" (ACARA 2011). Pearce (2009) reinforces this policy through her research stating that "Having a student with a disability in the class does not mean that the child's needs are the most important or that they have to dominate the learning activities of the class. The needs of all the students and how the teacher can support everyone in the class are considered" (p. 5).
One example of how to achieve this is given by Ashman and Elkin explaining that "creating a media-rich environment" (2012 p.182) accommodates all students' needs, regardless of intellectual ability, everyone can contribute. This point is mirrored in research conducted by Flem, Moen, Gudmundsdottir (2004) as they found (via dissecting their observations) that structuring settings to facilitate positive social interactions in a classroom (typically using media) sees better results than typical 'chalk and talk' method for Intellectually Disabled adolescents because they feel included from the beginning learning process. I believe this is due to media encompassing auditory and visual elements. To elaborate, Flem et al. highlights that "Cognitive structuring is connected to the concept of metacognition, and how people can use knowledge of their cognition to monitor, control and regulate their cognitive processes." (Flem et al. 2004, p. 91).
Inclusive Education: A Successful Avenue for Intellectually Disabled Students
Based on the findings from a meticulously chosen group of researchers and authors it is concluded that inclusive teaching practices looking at the class a whole, coupled with appropriate classroom environment should support and accommodate an Intellectually Disabled Secondary School student. An appropriate teaching-learning ecology must be implemented in which the students IEP's in sync with their peers and the curriculum. It is evident that inclusive education is very versatile and ultimately, the benefits of inclusivity are considerable and tangible.