Special Education And Children With Disabilities Education Essay

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This section presents the literature that has been published in relation to the teacher's perceptions /attitude towards special education and children with disabilities. Special Education is a complex and broad area of study. It is a distinctive provision that involves a range of foundational disciplines that encourage and assist the progress of children with special needs and other children to grow hand in hand and attain proficiency at the academic, social, personal and inter-personal level. This requires that special educators undergo specialised training and receive support from the school management to ensure that such children with special needs benefit and thus ultimately receive the best of education and care that civil society can provide to them without disparity (Routledge, 2003). There is a general consensus that complete justice to the children with special needs seeking inclusivity by this system can be done only if teachers who are involved in mainstream education are also aware of specialist knowledge and possess the skills required to cater to atleast a minimum set of special needs. Although educators specializing in particular special needs would be considered as best equipped to help the children with certain special needs, a cooperative approach with colleagues is vital in a school setting to ensure the best interests of the children in question (Sage, 2004). A teachers role is very critical in identifying and recognizing the special needs of a child and in assessing the impact of the disability in detail so that ways and means can be devised to help the possible implications in learning (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Keeping this consideration in mind, the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act 2004 (House Bill 1350) directed that students with disabilities must be taught by teachers who hold complete certification in special education or who have passed a state teacher licensing examination and hold a state licence. In particular, special education teachers teaching core academic subjects, are expected to hold certifications in both the subject in question and in special education (Chapman R, 2008) so that complex core subject matter can be presented in a way that meets the individualized need of the child. Further, the special educators must be equipped, competent and confident in the use of adaptive equipment, information and communication technology and multisensory environments to effectively put to use technology as and where the curriculum or the requirements of the child with special needs demand, so that the education of children with special needs can be aided by the use of such services to increase the autonomy of the child and thereby build confidence, enhance learning and thereby improve knowledge acquired and thus effecting integration in its essential sense.


The new age concept of special education is based on the thought that any improvement made to the special education system is an improvements made to the education system as a whole in accordance with the fact that special education is not merely education of children with special needs but a collective effort of the community in helping different children with different abilities and tempraments to mutually benefit in the process of education. The view of the education community on special education today is based on the a variety of service options that must be made available in accordance with the special education laws such that a least restrictive environment may be constructed that enhances the scope of mutual interaction and considers the social well-being of the student community as a whole (Hallahan & Kauffman, 1998); As good as this sounds, this concept is far from being fully accepted (Yellin et al, 2003) by the civilized modern community and is still riddled with doubts, fears and litigative questions. The IDEA laws recommend inclusive mode of education as a solution rather than a problem for special educators, in which children with special needs are no more isolated, but educated in conjunction with children who are not disabled and special classes, separate schooling, or removal from the regular environment may be considered only when the nature or severity of the disability interferes with the education process. The new philosophy is to practice education on a general basis where (Bryant, Smith, & Bryant, 2008; Lipsky & Gartner, 1997; Rogers, 1993; Salend, 2001) the flexibility of an organization and special resources tchild should be an equally valued member of the school culture. However, the success of such inclusive methods of education depends largely on the attitude and willingness of special educators to make children with special needs feel welcome, accepted and included meaningfully. Addition or inclusion of material facts are mutually beneficial to children with special needs and also it help them benefit from being able to learn in a regular classroom and meet up with their peers without disabilities who can also gain from the exposure to children with diverse characteristics. School and community environments must be designed in such a way that they are physically and programmatically more accessible so that they will help children with physical disabilities function more effectively and enable others who do not have disabilities to access their environment even more readily (Ferguson, 1996).


Conceptually speaking, it can be said that the social and civil progress of any society can be measured by the way a society treats its weak and dependent citizens. Hence the emergence of inclusive education may be seen as a way to ensure school practices against discrimination and toward social justice and thus build a society that is indicatively progressing in the right direction. The responsibility rests on the shoulders of the teaching fraternity who must learn to identify the barriers that social taboos have placed in the way of children with special needs in a constructionist perspective discouraging the use of labeling and categorization so that children can be allowed to communicate, interact and advance to the best of their abilities (Berger and Luckmann, 1971). Inclusive education like any other new reform has been supported and criticized equally in both developing and developed countries. For those people who support inclusive education, (Stainback and Stainback, 1991), always stress on the fact that inclusion is a tool that can play an effectively role in the combat of discrimination, sow the seeds to create a warm and welcoming attitude in young minds: which replaces their past experience of isolation. (Smith, 2007), always insists on an inclusive society as it helps children to learn social skills adapting themselves to an environment that is close to normal conditions of development and growth (Mitchell & Brown, 1991) and achieve the ultimate commitment to educate every child (Ajuwon, 2008). The critics on the other hand overlook the problem of stigmatization and base their arguments on the idea that inclusive schools will not be able to adequately pay attention to or meet the needs of the disabled as can be done in therapy in segregated schools. This debate is vital in terms of determining the attitude of the teaching fraternity towards the idea of including children with special needs in general education as a child with a disability will benefit optimally from inclusion only when general education teachers are equipped to teach a wider array of children and be willing to collaborate effectively with special educators (Bender, Vail & Scott, 1995; Brophy & Good, 1991).


The crux of inclusivity is the human right to education. Apart from ethical, moral, human, economic, social and political reasons, it brings about development at the personal level, helps build relationships and ultimately turns schools into instruments of political and social change towards democracy (Slee, 2002). Inclusivity stresses on a collective community responsibility to develop a productive informed society (Raey, 2003). It stands for community innovation where diversity is the norm and stresses that programs must be developed to be exceptional and to suit the diversity so that all may be able to participate and thus benefit. Class rooms must be treated as mirrors of social reality where high expectations, high achievements and full participation of all learners is appreciated and teachers must understand and play the esteemed redefining role of working to enable rather than disable students so that social justice does not remain rhetoric but becomes practical. Awareness is the cry in the academic community today and the current appeal is to equip the teaching fraternity medically, contextually and logistically to help the students gain more out of existing infrastructure and thereby effectively realize the goals of special education. Although technology plays a vital role in special education, it can act as a means of social isolation too; hence it is vital that technology be used with care so that its positive social advantages are maximized and its alienating aspects minimized. Achieving this goal however, lies in the critical and analytical capability of the instructor so that use of technology is ensured in a way that is positive outcome oriented by assessing and re-assessing benefits on a regular basis and re-thinking/ planning new strategies in cases where no improvement is perceived.


The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), has guided that inclusive instruction be implemented and assessed. Even today this system of education elicits mixed responses in that it is lobbied for by some and against by some in courts, debated about in social forums and variously interpreted by the common man. The diversity of an inclusion class leads to a question of various students receiving different benefits (Rogers, 1993); however, unless the social, academic, functional, or life skill outcomes are better perceived clearly, it would end up limiting the teaching fraternity's assessment and thereby impairs the improvisation aspect that is vital for the progress and success of special education. Research shows that present day schools and teachers are struggling to respond to the wide array of students (Wills & Cain, 2002). An inclusive school without the adequate facilities in terms of technology equipment and incentives and inadequate specially trained teachers cannot rise up to the challenge of presenting fair knowledge distribution to all. Hence a universal design (Centre for Universal Design, 1997; Waksler, 1996) that includes physical, curricular and pedagogical changes must be evolved so that children with different learning styles can cope without adaptation or retrofitting. Child centered education practices must be ingrained in every teachers mind so that education approaches are based on a clear analysis of where each of their students stand in terms of academics, social and cultural factors so that learning can be best facilitated (Gildner, 2001). At the school level the learning needs of all children can be addressed only if a specific focus is placed on those children who are vulnerable to marginalisation and exclusion" (UNESCO, 1994). Research on special education strategies over the years says that assessments must be developed based on curriculum, team teaching must be encouraged, learning styles must be understood and cooperative strategies must be devised such as peer tutoring or skills training for inclusive education to work in a manner that speaks success. Classroom instruction must be planned and be well organized so that it meets each child's need, and helps in their wellbeing.

Pedagogy or the method of teaching the content of curriculum. Pedagogy whether it be in terms of knowledge gained or skills learnt or attitudes displayed plays a vital role in determining how much a child with special needs can assimilate. It involves the application of a set of general principles that enables accommodation of individual variations to be possible within a common framework (Lewis and Norwich, 2005, pp. 3-4). It involves presenting a structured teaching style that is individually suited to each childs unique requirement. It must be done in such a way that it helps him/ her focus. Developing focus without distraction is essential to ensure favourable results in terms of a variety of parameters. These parameters include the percentage of improvement in terms of independence, behavoiur and understanding. The special educator must have an open mind and keen eyes. Only then can he/ her decide on courses that can capitalize on the childs acheivements in terms of learning. Such acheivements may be brought about by learning by accidental successes, learning by imitation, and learning by ideas.

Several teaching styles can be adopted to help children with special needs. These include styles such as modeling, feedback, cognitive structuring, contingency management, task structuring and questioning. Modelling is a teaching style in which, the teacher presents a model for the student to copy and the student uses this as a benchmark or target and tries to achieve the same by imitation. Feedback is another method in which the student constantly corrects his own behavior based on the input of the teacher after evaluation. In cognitive structuring, the teacher creates interrelated structures of cause and effect so that the student will be able to comprehend a complicated framework. Contingency management is a method where behavioral modifications are achieved by rewards in the case of favourable and relevant acheivements and punishments in the case of unfavourable behavior. Task structuring is a process in which complex tasks are broken down into sequential processes that are simple to follow and thus aid the student complete the complex task in a series of simple guided steps. The final method is questioning, where the student is guided to make analytical decisions based on the teachers verbal line of thought. Such effective instruction methods would help not only children with special needs but also benefit the other children in the class. They help by facilitating increased interaction, simplifying concepts and ultimately provide better understanding of the subject on the whole.

The attitude of educators with special children must be far from negative and degrading. Both special educators and general educators must contribute against the stigma that the disabled community are incapable of contributing anything meaningful to the society (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1996; Stoler, 1992). When we examine the language used by the people involved in a profession the discourses can be considered revealing. Most teachers react to the inclusion policy in a way that implies that educating children with special needs consumes too much time and energy of the educator and that it isn't fair to the other children in the class. This attitude strongly suggests a negative feeling about the ability level of the students with special needs. It further reflects on how little an effort he/she is willing to make for these students as a teacher. The attitude of such special educators more than the disability itself makes it impossible for the children with special needs to fit into the standard general education system (Rizzo & Vispoel, 1992; Larrivee & Cook, 1979; MacDonald & Hardman, 1989; Parrish, Nunn, & Hattrup, 1982; Stoler).

It is an interesting study that teachers' attitudes toward inclusion is found to be influenced by both student grade level and the severeity of the disability. Research shows that students with disabilities were viewed more favourably when they were in lower grade levels than when they are in higher grade levels (Minner & Knutson, 1982; Rizzo, 1984). Similarly the severity of the disability also affected acceptance in that children with less severe disabilities were viewed more favourably than those with more severe disabilities (Rizzo, 1984; Rizzo & Vispoel, 1991; Rizzo & Wright, 1987; Tripp, 1988). Acceptance by the teacher (Whinnery et al., 1991; Biklen, Brogan, Ferguson, & Searl, 1985; Garvar-Pinhas & Schmelkin, 1989) and positive encouraging attitude from peers (Baker & Gottileb, 1980; Norwicki & Sandieson, 2002) plays a key role in the progress of a child with special needs. According to various studies conducted by education researchers, prior experience with children with special needs, knowledge of the disorders (Avramidis, Bayliss, and Burden, 2000) and direct contact with children with special needs (Brownlee and Carrington, 2000) have been found to result in higher comfort levels and increase a positive approach to special education.

Accountability of the school to the teacher and the teacher to the students helps forge stronger relationships between general and special education. This clearly is the first step to integration. Teachers must be educated for inclusive classroom teaching and learning, and encouraged to think philosophically so that classroom environments are created in such a way that they are supportive of participation. Such efforts will help all learners achieve and thus make the idea of a socially just education practical. Research shows that training has been found to have a positive correlation with encouraging attitude and accountability which in turn grows further with positive experiences with children with special needs (Avramidis & Norwich, 2002; Shade & Stewart, 2001; Subban & Sharma, 2006; Sharma et al., 2006; Sharma et al., 2006; Voltz, 2003; Hobbs and Westling, 1998).

Teacher accountability can be ensured by picking graduates with the right attitude, confidence and competence. Such teachers must be able to design and deliver appropriately developed courses with relevant accreditation. This will go a long way to help a diverse group of children with special needs to improve. An effective learning community can be developed by fostering a community of effective learners. A community where educators recognize and respect the uniqueness of every learner is essentially vital so that democracy can be achieved through the curriculum.

Inclusion has changed the dynamics of the classroom: the population changes and with the change in population, the range of abilities expand the functionality of the curriculum by delineation and definition of outcomes and broadened the expectations of teachers (McLaughlin & Warren, 1992; National Information Center for Children and Youth With Handicaps, 1993; Sands, 1995).

Educators need to be in cognizance with social and political constructs that influence inclusive education discourse. Regular education was not designed to cater for exceptionality (Brownlee & Carrington, 2000); however as a consequence of the integration era traditional methods from special education have been implemented within regular education to cater for diverse learners. While such practices may be effective for a small group of students with disabilities, they may in fact be a barrier to learning for other students and therefore undermine the intentions of current legislation and policy.

Learning needs must hence be provided within the context in a way that is common to all learners but at the same time also benefits the unique needs of children with special needs. Similarly, attitudes toward inclusive schooling and the effective education of diverse learners may well be biased by experiences of traditional integration practices (Forlin, Hattie & Douglas, 1996). A study by Forlin et al illustrated another problem where teachers may welcome learners but feel ill equipped at times, to deal with the diverse range of needs (Forlin, Hattie & Douglas, 1996). When teachers are the key to change in education, the greatest barrier to special education is feelings of frustration and inadequacy that may pervade the teaching community which are compounded where inflexibility of curriculum and assessment demands exist. Inclusion thus is a process and cannot be looked upon as a product (Robertson, 1999; Booth & Ainscow, 2002; Winzer et al, 2000) that works on mutual respect and collaboration by setting priorities for development.

A shift in focus from testing and reporting outcomes to supporting and improving outcomes will ensure the success of the special schooling process. Teachers must be aware of the history of injustice through discrimination against children with special needs. They must learn to accept and own accountability to their pivotal roles and innovatively present and implement knowledge in a way that it effectively reaches all (Moore, Gilbreath, & Maiuri, 1998).

Another vital issue is consent: to effect special education, identification of special needs in children by assessments is vital. In lieu with this concept, parental consent must be obtained. Developing written procedures for the early identification of special needs if any, in a child, implementing referral and regular assessments, training staff and parents to recognize physical, behavioural, communicational, cognitive, intellectual and academic signs that may be suggestive of special needs in children will all contribute to the success of an integration program. Decision making based on assessment data must be done with parental knowledge of assessment results. This will ensure that they are well informed about the status of their child and thus aid them to work in conjunction with school authorities to help better their child's scope in education. Hence an evidence based approach is vital where the efficacy and the anticipated outcomes of a particular intervention are analysed to determine if they are concordant with the students needs and identify and avert potential risks in the process. When educators, both special and general and others speak of 'meeting a childs needs', the implications of an adult deciding a child's needs are not always recognized. The adult's judgement may or may not be correct. It may project supposed needs onto a child that are merely what the adult thinks ought to happen. Parental wants or school and societal wants should not be misinterpreted as student needs and thereby leading to unfairness and injustice towards a child that might have adverse implications for his/ her/ a peers future.

It would be odd if we were to envisage that educational progress of children with/ without special needs and the personal betterment and social development of the student community were not vital to the education system. The new era education with inclusivity at its crux has identifiable aims. These aims may be defined as follows in two parts namely, 'identifying foundational disciplines that contribute to promoting learning and development' and 'ensuring that elements of provision informed by these foundations promotes the learning and development'. Current day education methods must be based on refining existing procedures and concentrating on developing more promising approaches. This can be achieved by analyzing evidence of educational research and deducing inferences on an evidence based fashion (Farrell,

2008b, passim).

In recent years, the number of special needs students is increasing partly because the teachers are becoming more skilled at identifying special needs children and are looking at the children with special needs in a new perspective. In developing countries however, children with special needs are recommended to attend a suitable school, group, class, or curriculum. This decision is made by a counseling committee. The members of the counseling committee include a special education teacher, a psychologist, a therapist, a social worker, and an administrative authority. The final decideing authority however are the parents of the child in question who determine whether their child attends a special school or a mainstream school.

The mainstreams schools support the education of children with special needs by drafting individual curriculum, instituting groups that provide support for children with learning diffi culties. In addition to this, other special facilities like speech therapy, day groups, and home study options are included. For children with social problems, boarding school facilities are recommended.

The state plays a vital role in determining the fate of the children with special needs. It is vital for the state to have a clear education policy that gives room for permiting amendments, supplements, and adaptations of curricula depending on a student's needs; and to ensure the quality of study materials, in- service teacher training, and the existence of support teachers. Not all of these obligations are met.

Special education professionals include special education teachers, counselors, social workers, psychologists, and researchers, and they work in a variety of settings that range from working with special needs children in mainstream classrooms, self- contained classrooms, residential settings, rehabilitation hospitals, homes of chronically ill children, and juvenile justice educational settings, among others. While the demands and organizational structures of the settings within which special education services are offered vary tremendously, the ethical principles and standards by which professionals guide their practices are very similar.

Originating in and published by the various professional organizations, all the ethical codes embody the fundamental ethical principles of autonomy, justice, fidelity, nonmaleficence (the duty to do no harm), and beneficence (the duty to do good) identified by Kitchener (1984), who built upon the work of earlier ethicists Beauchamp and Childress (1983) and Drane (1982).

The various ethical codes, including those of the American School Counselors Association (1992), the American Counseling Association (1995), the National Education Association (1985), the American Psychological Association (1992), the National Association of Social Workers (1993), and others, are periodically revised to reflect changes in social values and priorities, as well as evolving legal rulings and statutory requirements. All professionals have a

responsibility to be knowledgeable about the ethical codes of their particular profession, as those codes represent the profession's expectations of its members. In certain cases, these codes mandate or prohibit specific behaviors, and in less clear- cut situations they provide direction for further thought and consideration.

Considering the complexity of professional practice today, it is not possible for any ethical code to address every conceivable difficulty a professional might find themselves in, and thus the codes cannot be all- inclusive. When the codes are insufficient for reasoning through the conflicting interests that make up complex ethical questions, the professional should turn next to the ethical principles for guidance.

Several excellent models of ethical reasoning have been published, notably those of Kitchener (1984) and Welfel (1998), both of which stress the need for continued attention to and discussion with colleagues of the ethical dimensions of one's practice even in the absence of specifi c problems or decisions to be made. Such diligence increases sensitivity to the ethical aspects of all actions, thus improving the ethical reasoning skills needed when ethical dilemmas do arise. There are many competing and confl icting interests in the fi eld of education, and even more so in special education, many of which revolve around questions of the best educational choices for the special needs child, allocation of resources, respect for parental rights, and, not least, the diffi culties involved in making professional decisions within a bureaucratic and politicized organizational structure whose priorities are frequently very different from those working directly with the child.

For the professional, the primary ethical responsibility lies in identifying and providing the most appropriate services for the client, which in this case is the special needs child. When competing interests prevent, or seek to prevent, those services, it is the professional's ethical responsibility to advocate for the interests of the client, even if such advocacy is unsuccessful. In addition, there are several clear ethical mandates for special education professionals, including knowing the ethical standards embraced by the profession and establishing and maintaining professional levels of competence, which requires acceptable levels of knowledge, skill, and diligence (Welfel, 1998). There are also certain ethical issues that are practically endemic to special education. Two of the most frequent are issues of informed consent, and confi dentiality. Parents of special education children have a right to information about their child, their educational and cognitive status, and the plans and interventions being considered for them. The children themselves also have a right to as much of such information as they can understand, and it is the professional's responsibility to explain to both children and parents in understandable, jargon- free language so that parents understand about their child's evaluation, results, and education, and so that consent is fully informed. Confi - dentiality requires that the student's privacy be respected, and therefore that the child's information and records be kept confi dential from everyone not directly involved in their case. In school systems, where information is routinely shared and where counselors frequently have no place to store confi dential material, confi dentiality is a very diffi cult issue. Finally, professionals are mainly obligated to choose educational interventions and alternatives that will do no harm, either physically, mentally, or emotionally, to the special needs child, and that are the best choices for enhancing the child's development.