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The Salamanca Statement indicates that the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization mandated all governments to enroll all students in regular schools regardless of their abilities or disabilities. Inclusive education is defined by the Salamanca Framework of Action as "education in the mainstream of regular education regardless of race, linguistic ability, economic status, gender, age, ability, ethnicity, religious and sexual orientation". The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA, 2004) prescribed educational institutions to thoroughly consider the needs of students with special education needs. Each child with disability will be furnished with an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
An IEP is the educational map used for children with disabilities availing of special education services in schools. Under Public law 108-144, the IEPs are required to have the following components:
the child's present level of performance;
measurable annual goals;
how the child's progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured and when periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the annual goals will be provided;
the special education (i.e., specially designed instruction) and
related services and supplementary aids and services, based on
peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided
to the child;
program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be
provided for the child;
the extent to which the child will not participate with nondisabled
children in the regular classroom; and
individual appropriate accommodations that are necessary to
measure the academic achievement and functional performance of
the child on state and districtwide assessments
(PL 108-446, 2004)
IDEA (2004) emphasizes the accurate and objective measurement of the student's progress
Statement of the Problem
This paper aims to explore what individual education programs (IEPs) are for children with special education needs. How is the curriculum modified to suit their needs?
This chapter has presented the concept of inclusion education the Individualized Educational Program as mandated by law to be provided to children with special education needs.
Introduction and Overview
Children with special education needs usually have more difficulty coping with the learning tasks in the inclusive classroom, considering they learn with more able peers. Thanks to government mandates Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) as implementation from the Salamanca Framework of Action of UNESCO that children with special education needs have same rights and privileges as typically-developing children.
Diliberto and Brewer (2012) define the IEP as the "curriculum road map for special education services developed by a team of individuals who are critical to the student's educational success" (p. 31). This program should be based on the appropriate assessment of the student's strengths and needs by the whole IEP team (O'Conner & Wyasik, 2008).
In order to address the learning needs of students with special education needs, teachers should prepare their IEP based on the recommended goals and objectives of professionals who have diagnosed the learners. The teachers themselves should assess the students' academic performance in all subjects or curricular areas by using both formal and formal assessment materials, interviews with other teachers of their observations and determining the students' strengths and weaknesses. All observations and judgments regarding the students' abilities should be considered in the design of the IEP. After looking into the student, the teacher should now analyze if the curriculum for the students' class or level is appropriate to the students with special education needs. If they are very difficult, then these should be modified according to the IEP goals and objectives.
Modifications in the curriculum and accommodations for the learning needs of students with special education needs should also be conferred with other teachers for consistency. Such modifications and accommodations should be regularly evaluated for their appropriateness, feasibility and relevance. These should be flexible enough to meet the changing needs of the students. Follow up at home should also be ensured by providing parents and family members of the children with supplemental activities to review lessons at home.
The IEP team is composed of both general and special education teachers especially if the student is in an inclusive education program in a regular school. These teachers need to be in constant communication regarding their observations of the students in order for them to individualize their program to suit their needs. Since IEPs address both academic and functional achievement, specialists in various fields related to the case of the student are also called in to be members of the team. This may include speech language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, and other professionals rendering special services for individuals with special needs (Diliberto & Brewer, 2012).
Not to be left behind in the IEP team are the parents of the students with special needs. Fish (2008) advocate parents to be consulted regarding final decisions about their children's IEP. In openly communicating with them prior to IEP meetings, parents will know that they are respected for their intimate knowledge of their children's abilities and needs from the home and how these may be translated to educational settings. This fosters equal team member partnership.
Integration of Curriculum
Generalization of skills is a major goal for individuals with special
education needs, their IEPs should include goals and objectives for them to acquire skills necessary for use in real-life situations (Heward, 2009). Due to the specific case of the individual, he would need the expertise of professionals in his IEP team to contribute their own goals for him so his program becomes multidisciplinary. For example, the speech pathologist may include goals for him to speak better with certain exercises while the occupational therapist may suggest some eye-hand coordination exercises to be included in his customized curriculum. Diliberto & Brewer (2012) contend, "Writing integrated goals promotes communication, decreases paperwork, and maintains the focus on the student" (p. 33).
Inclusion Vs. Individualized Education Approach
Two major approaches often pose a dilemma as to which one best serves children with special education needs. One is the individualized education approach that is more prevalent in the United States and the other is inclusive education which is a predominantly British approach (Jenkins, 2002). These two models have been viewed as contrasting and educators are confronted with the pressure of selecting one. Individualized programs focus only on addressing the needs of the child with disabilities however, inclusive programs put the child concerned within the context of a regular classroom with other children of various ability levels.
According to Becker, Dumas, and Roberts (2000), there are numerous social, academic, and behavioral benefits for students with special education needs placed in inclusive settings. These are gained without negatively impacting the educational experience of the other mainstream students. Karsten et al. (2001) conclude that children with special education needs do better academically and socially when they are educated in regular classes than in non-inclusive classes.
Jenkins (2002) proposes that rather than seeing individualized
education and inclusive school movement as opposed to each other, they may be viewed as two poles of a continuum of educational policy and practice in terms of students with special education needs. One end caters to the individual as all policies and practices focus on the assessment of each student's needs and providing an IEP to provide for those needs. On the other end, inclusive programs focus on the group. It encompasses all the students' needs and teachers are follow school-wide policies and practices. To compromise, differentiated instruction may be implemented.
Leatherman (2007) found that general education teachers who teach students with special education needs look at the accessibility of support services to help in the inclusion of students with special education needs. This involves having bigger classrooms, getting teaching materials to assist with the varying needs of the students with special education needs and having teaching assistants to further help a student with special needs. These can be useful tools to creating a more successful inclusive environment. Support and resources within the school and classrooms are deemed important for inclusion.
Kapusnick and Hauslein (2001) identified various differentiation approaches that would benefit children with special education needs who are included in regular classes. These are as follows:
Acceleration: Students who learn faster than others should not be held back. They are given free rein to progress to the next levels of the curriculum.
Curriculum Compacting: Advanced students are allowed to finish one unit of a curriculum and delve in depth on some topics not readily available within the classroom. It is one form of specializing in a particular topic in application to real world situations.
Independent Study: This is an individual project initiated by a self-motivated student collaborated with a teacher who mentors him or her throughout the process.
Flexible Grouping: Students have the opportunity to interact with others in groups. Several groupings may be formed based on "task, outcome, interest level, background knowledge or social readiness" (Kaputnick & Hauslein, 2001, p. 158). Teachers are on hand to remind group members of intragroup dynamics, outcome products and time frames.
Independent Learning Centers: Inspired by Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligence theory, various learning centers are set up offering different activities on a particular unit lesson. Students may choose the learning center they want to work in and accomplish the necessary tasks provided there.
Complex Questions: In differentiated classrooms, open-ended discussions of topics triggered by complex questions are common. Teacher asks questions that stimulate higher order thinking and brainstorming sessions that call upon students' communication skills.
Tiered Activities: Teachers present options of activity levels that students can choose from and work on their individual goals. One student may choose the goal of completing 4 tasks another may choose the goal of completing just 3. These goals have corresponding rewards that the students work towards for.
Contracts: Teachers and Students agree on the pursuit of individual student goals in certain tasks and teachers make sure their students meet their end of the deal. Teachers guide them accordingly based on their differentiated levels and competencies in the selection of their goals.
If schools are really serious in helping students with special needs benefit from their inclusive programs, then they would do everything possible to provide the services these children need. Weiner (2003) suggests inclusive schools try out various strategies. Relying on teamwork and collaboration, Weiner states that the "major changes in the culture of a school would result from a common focus and shared responsibility for student learning outcomes" (p. 18). Individual needs need to be addressed even if these students belong to inclusive classrooms if the goal is to optimize the potentials of each student.
Summary and Rationale
In exploring what individual education programs (IEPs) are for children with special education needs and how the curriculum may be modified to suit their needs, this paper has endeavored to research about it. IEPs are customized programs for individuals with special needs designed by a team of experts consisting of general and special education teachers, professionals offering special services such as occupational therapists, psychologists, speech pathologists and the parents of the child. Together, they formulate the necessary goals for the child in both educational and practical skills. The IEP is encouraged to be a multidisciplinary program culling from the expertise of the members of the IEP team. All goals are based on the strengths and needs of the student.
When placed in inclusive educational settings, students with special needs are not only provided their IEPs but teachers can also modify the curriculum for them. Kapusnick and Hauslein (2001) has suggested effective strategies such as acceleration, curriculum compacting, independent study, flexible grouping, independent learning centers, complex questions, tiered activities and drafting contract of agreements between teachers and students.:
How are IEPs designed for children with special needs?
How do these children respond to their IEPs?
How are children assessed of their development with their IEPs?
Qualitative methods are initiated when the researcher has determined that quantitative measures do not adequately pull in the necessary information or interpretation of a particular situation (Robson, 2002). In the current study, the research simply wants to explore how IEPs are designed for children with special education needs and how they respond to it as well as how they are assessed in their developmental progress. The researcher will use the research methods of observation of children's behaviours in the class as well as information gathered from interviews with members of the IEP team.
Subjects for this study will be children with special needs in inclusive classrooms. IEPs are being implemented for them.
Interviews are considered effective methods in deriving information from participants. It is a flexible tool that adapts to the situation and responses of the participants and being able to immediately follow up on their answers is one advantage this method has over others (Robson, 2002). The interview gives participants the opportunity to express their own point of view regarding certain situations (Cohen et al., 2000). This would include their personal feelings, opinions, experiences and interpretations (Milena, Dainora & Alin, 2008). Such qualitative data derived may not be accessible in the methods of observation or questionnaire (Blaxter, Hughes & Tight, 2006). Robson (2002) comments that the interview process can be time-consuming because it entails the researcher to make arrangements, fix appointment schedules, conduct the interview while writing down notes, then after the interview, transcribing it in verbatim. For this study, interviews will be conducted with members of the IEP team.
Direct observation offers a more detached perspective of the behaviours/ phenomenon observed. The researcher objectively observes rather than takes part and be immersed in the observed situation (Trochim, 2006). For this study, the researcher will observe an inclusive class with children with special education needs.