The Academic Communitys Attitude Towards Special Education Education Essay

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Today, the concept of special needs education inclusion has gained special attention in the world. This emerging concept could be known by its volume of intellectual publications in the field. As a new approach in the provisions of services for learners with special needs, inclusion or special education is generating thoughts and attention worldwide. In the education of this class of learners, UNESCO (1994), an international organization particularly now see inclusive schooling as an effective approach.

In the report provided for inclusive education by the Salamanca Declaration of 1994, provided the needed theoretical and international frames and where this report highlighted "the task of the future is to identify ways in which school, as part of the social environment can create better learning opportunities for all children and by this means, address the challenge that the most pervasive source of learning difficulties is the school system itself" (UNESCO, 1994). In addition, the report highlighted further as "the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitude, of creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all; moreover they provide an effective education for the majority of children" (UNESCO, 1994)

According to Staub and Peck (2000), the meaning of inclusion is "full time placement of children with mild, moderate and severe disabilities in regular classroom". The belief of inclusion movement is to place these children in the regular classroom rather than as special schools without imposing any condition to exclude them from a normal environment.

1.1 Special Education: An Introduction

Special education is an education program that is designed in a way that it can address individual differences in student capabilities so that the children with special needs can be helped to achieve self-sufficient success in the social and educational setting. It is vital to understand the exceptionalities that may exist in human development socially, behaviourally, linguistically, cognitively, physically and emotionally so that this knowledge can help in the provision of education to all students without any bias in terms of cultural differences, language barriers, sex or gender, economy or age (Wood et al, 1976). The special education system is planned to consist a series of systematic teaching procedures that are generously infused with creative learning methods, technologically advanced aids (Lipsky and Gartner, 1997; Stainback and Stainback, 1992; Udvari-Solner, 1995; Udvari-Solner and Thousand, 1995; Villa and Thousand, 1995), adapted materials to suit individualized requirements, equipment and accessibility settings so that a vast majority of students with learning challenges, communication problems, physical and psychological disabilities (emotional and behavioral) and developmentally challenged children can be addressed effectively through it (DfES, 2001:74). Special education is a godsend for students with distinctive challenges that it gives them the opportunity and the ability to adapt to normalcy and be self-sufficient to handle and acclimate to normal school settings.

History of Special Education:

Widespread training for teachers to impart education to children with developmental disorders in the US was first provided by the Civitans as early as 1952. The focus shifted to the disparity of education amidst children and people with learning disabilities as a whole due to the civil rights movement that took the nation by storm in the 1960s. Even then children with substantial impairments were discriminated against in public schools and hence the decision was taken to substantiate their position with political support and federal laws. This brought about a noticeable change in Federal Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975 which then was renamed again Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)). The IDEA was then preceded by the Education Act of 1981 according to which the term 'special educational need' was redefined that if a child has 'significantly greater difficulty in learning' than his/ her peers, or a disability that hinders him or her from using the educational facilities that are normally available in the local school he/she was eligible for special education and the local education authorities were directed to provide mainstream education to all students provided the following conditions are met namely; the child's special needs are met, there is no perceived interference in the education of other children, by efficient use of resources with parental consent (DfEE, 1997). The UNESCO Salamanca statement asserts that education is the fundamental right of every child and that opportunity must be given to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of learning. It also states that education systems should be designed and implemented to cater to the unique characteristics, interests, and learning capabilities. It directs that inclusive schools be developed and children with special needs be nurtured in them to combat discriminatory attitudes so that an inclusive, welcoming civil society can be developed by achieving education for everyone and thus increase the effectiveness of the system (UNESCO, 1994: viii, section 2). A current development via the "Special Educational Needs and Disability Act of 2001" (SENDA) has further modified the Education Act of 1981 and says that a child with special educational need should be educated in a normal school unless he/she be unable to get along with the wishes of the child's parents or the delivery of competent education of other children thereby making it unlawful for local education authorities to differentiate against children with special needs. Further, the SENDA empowers parents with the right to appeal to the 'Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal' if they feel that their child has been discriminated against (SENDA, 2001). The Disability Discrimination Act of 2005 stresses planned approaches to eliminating discrimination and improving access and places a duty on public bodies to promote disability equality (DDA, 2005).

The Special Education System:

The strength of a special education system lies in the sensitivity, caring ethos and relationship building among the teachers, class assistant and the student which directly improves the clarity the student achieves in terms of lessons and individual learning capacity. It is vital for the teacher to manage the classroom well, deploy appropriate assistants, structure appropriate curriculum, approach learning and teaching practically, identify achievable targets and setting standards accordingly (UNESCO, 1994: 61, para. 7). A special educator's success lies in his or her ability to develop a clearer focus on what has been learnt by the student and plan further progress with proper monitoring and evaluation by benchmarking, best practice, using appropriate standards to aid improvements in terms of achievements (Lewis and Norwich, 2000). Apart from this a telling factor on student performance is the expectation factor of the young people in their classes (Rogoff, 1990).

Addressing Special Education Needs:

Each student has unique needs, and the education design must be customized to suit each student's individual capability. One has to clearly identify and define the specific needs categorically with relevance to incidence and prevalence, study the frequency, duration, intensity and the nature of behavior that warrants special attention and accordingly, a well-designed continuum of services must be provided from which each student is catered for with varying degrees based on individualized requirements. A special education educator must cater to the students access to subject matter by allowing for modifications in the regular curriculum and by encouraging the emotional and physical participation of the student in the education environment (Lewis and Norwich, 2000). Students with writing disabilities could be helped with typing alternatives on computers or by oral assignments, those with attention problems could be provided with smaller, compact and calm classrooms to minimize the level of possible distractions in a large busy classroom. Such perceptive and creative approaches would help in overcoming the limitations which are related with deficit thinking and it makes sure that children get their encouragement needed to make learning disabilities become easier and create them to become potential learners.

Role of the special educations instructor:

The special education instructor must focus on the necessary aspects of a child's learning based on his intellectual grasp such that the child spends more of his/ her time on high priority skill sets that are not frustratingly beyond his capability in a modified method of instruction that caters to his/her unique needs. Flexibility is the foremost standard for a special educations instructor as one cannot always depend on a globally constituted syllabi and teaching practices, although there could be some guidance (Tomlinson, 1997: 193). It is for sure that only properly trained and skilled professional teachers who know about and have a basic understanding on the concept of diversity that exists in humankind can handle and help students with special needs. This is in accordance with the idea that we all require equal but not identical treatment: equality is in deserving equally good education and not as in sameness of mode of education (Evans 1995:3). Teacher advocacy for a child with special needs is the first step towards development of self-advocacy in the child. It is vital that the special education instructor propagates a positive approach to the concept of special education need so that it is not viewed in terms of a disability and judged accordingly but as a collective view of both the child's abilities and disabilities and all factors that have a bearing on his progress. Progress monitoring is vital to assess the efficacy of a special education program and this responsibility rests on the special education instructor or teacher to ensure that the student advances in the desired direction. Progress might be defined as a closure of accomplishment achieved by the child and his/ her peers, during the actual training period help the child improve and concentrate on specialized tasks given which in turn plays a major role and is described as an improvement in helping themselves, develop personal skills, and also changes the overall behavior. (DfES 2001: para. 4.14).

Provisions practiced in special education:

Education researchers have identified four provisions practiced in special education today and over the years namely, inclusion, mainstreaming, segregation and exclusion. A teacher's role in inclusive special education is important for students with special needs because, students with special needs always tend to spend most of their time or all their time with students who do not have special educational needs (Pijl et al, 1997). This can require curriculum modifications, which can be applicable to only those with special needs. Other needs that require facilitated equipment and aids are catered to in a session of the day when the student attends a specialized resource room designed for them such as speech therapy, occupational or physiotherapy and social work (Warnock, 1978). Mainstreaming the students according to their thought pattern and skill set is very important and when analyzed and segregated properly and assigning them to be a part of the group that best fit their skill set will improve their understanding towards a particular module and it is always recommended to make them be a part of a full time module. A full-time special education classroom set on the basis of the segregation analysis made although they attend to regular classes on a regular basis. Several organizations such as the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE), Parents for Inclusion, and the Alliance for Inclusion work towards closure of special school provision and the development of mainstream schools that are open to all. Excluded students on the other hand do not receive instruction in any school especially in places where legal mandate for special education services do not exist or when a student is hospitalized, homebound, or detained by incrimination by the judiciary. Present day trends have favored deinstitutionalization and encouraged community based placements in an inclusive approach that is supported by technical sophistication, social, political, familial and administrative advocacy, and accountability such that fair education standards are catered to all. A vital hand in this transition is played by the federal (IDEA) and state laws (such as MGL c.71B in the state of Massachusetts) to make sure that Individualized Education Program (IEP) are guaranteed to students with special need to make them improve their standards and develop them to be potential individuals.

Special Education and Society:

Education of students with special needs is an issue that involves the whole school, and not just the individual or the teacher. The school management and teaching heads must be closely involved in innovations, to improve the working of the system, its ethos, and to motivate the teachers to work for all the children on the roll and not be satisfied with educating the few intellectually elite in the class. Educational systems supporting effective functional inclusion must effect conducive changes in areas such as school organization and management, curriculum development, classroom organization, within-school support, parental and community involvement, and training (Ballard, 1995; Fulcher, 1993; Vlachou and Barton, 1994; Vlachou, 1997; Ware, 1995). Parents are the key to children with special needs and their role as teacher, at home make all the difference. However, there seems to be a disparity in the degree of parental involvement in the educational process. Parents must be encouraged to take part in training sessions with teachers in problem-solving approaches (Ainscow, 1994, 1997; Skrtic, 1991a, 1991b, 1991c) by liaison between schools and parents, that discuss problem-centered questions and emphasize seeking practical solutions.

1.2. Rationale for research

Teachers' attitudes and concerns

Studies have highlighted that the factors such as teacher's belief about their concerns, attitude, ethnicity, and disability which all influence the practice of instruction student's receive, the education materials quality and the inclusive of education (Wilczenski, 1992; Sharma & Desai, 2002; Nieto, 1997; Leyser & Tappendorf, 2001)

There are a lot of studies done on regular education system and majority of the analysis lets us know that regular teachers get frustrated and angry to handle children with special need. It is also proved that this happen because of lack of basic skills needed to handle special children. The main reason for such behaviour was belief of lower academic standards when they involve in such special education programme (Tiegerman-Farber & Radziewicz, 1998; Gary, 1997)

In addition, teacher confidence and attitude toward inclusive education was also affected by accessibility of resources they receive and specialist support (Wolery, Anthony, Snyder, Werts, & Katzenmeyer, 1997; Bennett, DeLuca, & Bruns, 1997)

It is argued in general that teachers have tendency to succumb to it, when they gain extensive professional knowledge needed to implement such inclusive programme as reported by Avramidis, Buylis, & Burden (2000). Similarly, teacher's confidence to teach special education students is likely to grow when the teachers experience with special needs students intensify which invariably alter their negative attitude (LeyRoy and Simpson, 1996)

Although there are number of studies that assess the teacher's attitude towards special education teaching, the data have not been conclusive. Hence with this background it is imperative to conduct to clarify the strength of association between teacher's attitude and special education. Further, in the educational environments of many states, continuing movement toward "inclusion" has gained great attention. Thus, it is imperative to fully understand the educator's attitude towards special education particularly among students with disabilities. Thus, the study had the following aim and research objectives:

1.3. Aim

To examine the academic community attitude towards special education

1.4. Research Objectives

To assess the teachers attitude towards the inclusion of special education

To examine the relationship between teacher's attributes towards special education resource program.

To assess the boundaries that limits the teachers to select special education profession.