A Study into Special Education and its effects

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A learning disability is defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as

perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; of mental retardation; of emotional disturbance; or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

The IDEA 2004 requires all public schools to have a system to locate, identify, and evaluate all students who might have a disability. This is usually referred to as a "child find." Parent permission must be obtained in writing before professionals can evaluate or assess a student. After formal assessment, an Individual Education Plan must be made before placement in a special program can occur. Parents must give written consent to the placement recommendations before the plan can be implemented. Public law 94-142 Part B of the Education of the Handicapped Act (1975) states that a free and appropriate public education must be provided for all children with disabilities in the United States( those up to 5 years old may be excluded in some states). Under Public Law 94-142, schools were required to provide service only for children of school age. But In 1986, public law 99-457 was passed. This law mandated special education services for children ages 3-5 and provided financial incentives to states to provide services for children ages birth to 3. I can only imagine the difficulties that schools had to face before Public law 94-142 was passed. But even after 1975…children with disabilities who were not yet in schools (ages 3-5) had no rights that support their educational needs either. It took eleven years for the law to be revised. (Hardman, & Drew, 2008)

To address differences, society creates descriptions to identify people who vary significantly from the norm. This process is called labeling. Common descriptors used to describe people with differences include disorder and disability. These terms are not synonymous. Disorder refers to general disturbance in mental, physical, or psychological functioning. A disability on the other hand is more specific than disorder and results from loss of physical functioning such as a loss of sight, hearing, or mobility or from difficulty in learning social adjustment.

People with disabilities have been studied for centuries, they are stereotyped as a homogeneous group of individuals" the retarded" with similar characteristics and learning capabilities. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, disabilities encompass a broad range of functioning levels and learning capabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act places mental disabilities in the category of mental retardation. It states that "mental retardation means significantly sub average general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child's educational performance" A wide range or degree of mental disabilities exists. Cognitive capabilities for example vary greatly along this range. Physically, this group presents significant variations in characteristics. At the mild end of disability, there may be few or no observable physical differences but as the level of disability increases, especially when there are biological or pathological causal factors present, there may be facial differences (e.g., Down syndrome), sensory disabilities (hearing or vision), and seizures or cerebral palsy resulting from brain injury. (Kovar, 2008)

There are also emotional and behavioral disorders disturbance which can exhibit one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child's educational performance:

An inability to learn that cannot be explained

By intellectual, sensory, or health factors.

An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.

Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.

A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

Children with emotional or behavioral disorders often do not do productive work or know how to play, give and receive love, and have fun. Yet these four experiences, work, play, love, and fun are nearly the essence of satisfying and meaningful existence. The teacher's primary task is to structure or order the environment for the student in such a way that work is accomplished, play is learned, love is felt, and fun is enjoyed by the student and the teacher. Most students with emotional or behavioral disturbances display behaviors similar to those of other children: crying, tantrums, mouthing off, and fighting. What separates them from other children is that they display these behaviors more frequently and that less provocation is needed to trigger the behaviors. The following points will help teachers promote a positive instructional environment for students with emotional disabilities.

Choose tasks that are developmentally appropriate for the pupil (so that the student can usually succeed) and arrange appropriate consequences for performance

Build trust with the students.

Be fair, consistent, and patient.

Set clear rules and explain why there are rules. Letting students help set the rules will help them buy into the rules when there is a problem.

Set clear expectations and boundaries and stick to them. Following through with positive and negative consequences will help students to know that you are honest.

Be a good role model and maintain self-control.

Use continuous verbal feedback and praise.

Show the student you are willing to communicate by talking and listening.

Visual impairment is another disability that greatly affects the child learning. Children with visual impairments may be within normal limits of their age academically, or they may be delayed. Children with visual impairments receive input and learn primarily through their physical and auditory senses. As educators we should always tell them our names when we are approaching them. Also tell them in advance that we are going to touch them. These children cannot read body language and social cues therefore; teachers need explain to other students that students with visual impairments may stand a little too close because they have difficulty judging distances. A student with visual impairments need orientation and mobility training in order to gain a sense of where he or she is in relation to people and objects in his/her environment and learn to move around within that environment. Students with visual impairments are delayed in motor development. They are slow to walk and develop gross motor skills. "Limited movement and exploration, rather than blindness, is the cause of many of the resulting problems associated with visual impairment". The sooner educators can get a child with a visual impairment to move, the more they increase the chances for that child to achieve physical fitness gains. Physically, individuals who are blind tend to possess higher levels of body fat and lower levels of cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, and muscular endurance than their sighted peers do. It is important to encourage individuals who are blind to participate in physical activity. Make conscious efforts to be sure the classroom environment is safe for the student with visual impairments. Students will learn where desks, doors, computers, and other objects are in the classroom.

Inclusion can be defined as a philosophy of acceptance that supports placing students with disabilities in their neighborhood schools. Supplementary aids and services, or other supports, are brought to the student while in the regular classroom. It is best of the inclusion of each student made on an individual basis and the decision made by the team in the IEP process. There are many critics of full inclusion; they propose that it can create inappropriate placement for some children and advocate assessing the child's ability to function in a regular classroom, with necessary support services, as a condition for placement. Others stress the importance of having placement options and suggest that sometimes being placed in a separate setting, rather than the regular classroom, is the best option. Supporters of full inclusion propose that the development of all children is enhanced when children with disabilities are included in regular classrooms. For inclusion to be successful, both teachers and students with disabilities must receive support from parents, peers, extra personnel, special equipment and materials, and related in-service training. Although including children with special needs in learning environments with their typical peers presents many challenges, the rewards, benefits, and teamwork make it worthwhile.

A basic understanding of typical child development is necessary if a teacher is to work effectively among children with special needs. This understanding provides the teacher with a guideline to devise developmental instructional activities, a basis to modify the activities to meet the individual needs of the children in the classroom, and a guideline to form realistic expectations for all the children. With knowledge of typical child development, early childhood teachers can adapt and individualize their programs to meet the needs of the children in their classroom. This individualization process involves breaking down tasks into small steps so that the child can progress successfully, providing appropriate models for the child to follow, maintaining accurate records of the child's progress, and altering the physical makeup of the building and equipment to meet the child's special needs. Consulting with specialists and following through with the programs outlined also assist the teacher in developing individual plans and directions. Early intervention for young children with disabilities positively affects learning and development, and often reduces the likelihood of more serious problems later. This translates to the need for early childhood special education teachers and staff to be prepared and qualified to implement programs that support the research findings. Teachers who are trained in effective early intervention methods and supported by peers, administrators, and parents develop positive attitudes that enable them to meet classroom challenges and recognize the unique potential of each child regardless of ability or disability. (Eliason, 2008)

Whether we as educators choose to be special education or general education teachers, we should compile, organize and maintain good accurate records on each student and work directly with the student's parents to ensure that they are familiar with what is being taught. Since the special education teacher needs to know whom to depend on for role- specific advice, he or she has the responsibility to coordinate the student's individualized education program by keeping the line of communication open with each team member. General education teacher's role is critical too; he or she needs to provide support for students by restating or elaborating on the student's verbal contributions. The teacher assesses the general curriculum and assists in determining appropriate positive behavioral interventions and strategies for the student and provides services and programs modifications. Professionals who collaborate trust one another but collaboration and consultation will work in a school if, and only if, the people involved are prepared for the roles, understand their specific roles, and know the goals for the process. In addition, teachers or caregivers should respond to children's curiosity or questions with simple, accurate responses. Disabilities should be introduced to all children through books and materials that depict various disabilities, while still stressing the abilities and similarities among all human beings. All adults should model sensitivity to all people.

What opportunities are available for students with disabilities after they complete secondary school? The transition from school to adult life is a complex and dynamic process. Transition planning should end with the transfer of support from the school to an adult service agency, access to postsecondary education, or life as an independent adult. (Hardman, Drew, & Egan, 2008) Planning for student's future requires the perspective of multiple people who are vested in the student's life. IDEA 2004 requires that the planning team include the parents; at least one general education teacher; the special educator who works with the student; a representative of the school district; the school must also invite the student to attend the IEP/transition team meeting and assist the students in reaching his or her goals.

Teachers, parents, families, and schools should continue to look for available community resources to help students with disabilities become more independent and transition from high school to the community. Many times there are government funded agencies that have programs and services available for individuals with transitional barriers. One of the agencies that found to be helpful is The Job Accommodation Network (JAN). It has an international toll-free consulting service that provides information about job accommodations and the employability of people with disabilities. JAN also provides information regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Another agency is The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD-Y). It offers technical assistance programs to help the workforce development community with issues that affect the employment of youth with disabilities. The NCWD-Y also seeks the help of experts in disability, education, employment and workforce development issues to ensure that youth with disabilities are provide full access to high quality services. Institutions of higher learning also have different opportunities on their campuses for students with disabilities. Postsecondary academies are one-day conferences-type events for high school juniors and seniors with a wide range of disabilities. Parents, teachers, transition specialists, and other high school staff are also encouraged to attend.

To fully prepare for the transition from school, students and parents must be educated about critical components of adult services systems; Self determination and social skills also play a critical role in the successful transition from school to adult life. Students with disabilities in the secondary school years need access to social activities in order to be successful in the community and the workplace. Competence in using social skills will lead to positive perceptions of persons with disabilities in extended community settings such as postsecondary education. (Hardman, Egan, 2008)

All children develop their skills on their own time table, therefore, in a room of three to five year old children not all of them will be at the same developmental level. Teachers must be able to create a curriculum that encompasses the entire classroom. This means that they need to allow room for flexibility and creativity and must figure out a way to modify certain programs so that all children, even those that do not learn as rapidly, can experience success.

Students are highly influenced by their teacher and their surroundings, therefore, educators must make sure that they are influencing the students in a positive way. The things that we say and do are easily absorbed by little ears that we do not think here us. Guiding the children/ students through educational work is one aspect of being a teacher, however, the other half is helping them to build their character and understand good morals and values. We must cherish our children/ students for each of their own individual abilities and talents, recognizing that everyone has something different to offer. Not only are the teachers able to teach the students, the children/ students can also teach us something new every day