Introduction “Education is important for all children, but even more so for children with disabilities, whose social and economic opportunities may be limited (Aron & Loprest, 2012. ) Depending on the quality of education doors will open and the quality of life will all be determined by one’s education. Over the last decades children with disabilities have received many benefits under the education system. There is early identification of disabilities and greater inclusion. When educators intervene early, problems can be identified, and if a child is identified with a learning disability corrective measures can be taken.
Although special education laws have come a long way, there are current and future challenges that have to be overcome. This area interests me because there are huge gaps educationally between disabled children and their non-disabled peers, and it is important that special education children achieve to their full potential. Historical Development and Current Legislation Within the last four decades legal changes have resulted in many major policies in the way of educating children with disabilities. Before the 1970s the children with disabilities had few educational rights.
Many children with a disability were denied a public education. However, two federal laws that were enacted in 1975 would bring about changes. These laws were, “The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). The EHA establishes a right to public education for all children regardless of disability, while the IDEA requires schools provide individualized or special education for children with qualifying disabilities (Correspondent, 2012). In 1990, Public Law 101-476 was enacted which renamed EHA to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
This law expanded the eligibility categories to include autism and traumatic brain injuries as well as defining assistive technology devices and services. In 1997, Public Law 105-17 often called IDEA 97 was enacted. This brought the transition plan of the Individual Education Plan (IEP) into effect. An IEP had to set out goals and indicators to fit the needs of a disabled child. “The IDEA also requires that education occur in the least restrictive environment and requires schools to take a child’s disability into account when enforcing discipline” (Correspondent, 2012).
In 2001 and 2004, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) came into being. This act held schools accountable for the quality of special education provided. This act also added technology assistance and loan programs to help schools acquire needed special education resources. According to Aron & Loprest, (2012), “by the 2004–05 school – year, more than 6. 7 million children (13. 8 percent of all students nationally) were receiving special education services through the law.
” The number of children served reached the highest in the middle of the decade. Since then the number of special education students has been gradually declining, and as of the 2009–10, school year, stood at 6. 5 million, or 13. 1 percent, of all students educated in the USA. Current Best Practices in Special Education Best practices in special education are linked to the child’s IEP. The No Child Left behind Act sets out guidelines for having each child achieve comparatively to other children without disabilities. Teachers need to follow through.
Goals are set for each child and the curriculum is modified to meet each child’s individual needs. The teaching process is designed to be fluid, so lessons are adjusted, supplement materials are utilized and best practices that are supported by research are utilized. Students are taught in whole class, small group or on an individual basis as the need arises. Many special education students should be taught in inclusion classrooms. If the student has a special disability like Autism, the curriculum needs to be tailored to meet the needs of the student.
Since there is network of persons responsible: teacher, counselor, IEP team, parents and so on, they all need to work together, and there are several accountability measures that need to be followed. In relation to associations, The National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) is the only National Membership organization serving the needs of special education teachers. The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest international organization for both the gifted and students with disabilities.
The National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) is an organization that provides a website with resources like certification, professional courses, e-journals and IEP issues and so on. There is also the National Center to Improve Practice in Special Education and the World associations of Persons with Disabilities. Special Technology and Future Trends Under IDEA, 2004, equal access to technology for all individuals irrespective of their abilities has been the focus. However, although technology in special education has improved within recent years with the focus being on assistive technology, more needs to be accomplished.
An assistive service is defined as, “any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or uses of an assistive technology device” (Bausch & Ault, 2008). On the other hand an assistive technology according to Lee & Templeton is defined as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability. ” Service providers must understand the nature of the disability whether cognitive, physical or sensory impairments and recommend the appropriate assistive technology.
Once a student is in need of an assistive technology device as recommended in the IEP, the school must provide it at no cost to the parents. Lee & Templeton (2008), identify that “Four major models that have had significant contribution to the delivery of AT services are The SETT (Student, Environment, Tasks, & Tools) Framework (Zabala, Bowser, & Korsten, 2004), Tech Points (Bowser & Reed, 1995), Chamber’s Model (Chamber, 1997), and Unifying Functional Model (Melichar & Blackhurst, 1993) (Cited in Lee & Templeton, p. 213).
However, the law related to assistive technology is vague and providers are challenged to develop effective AT services to meet needs. Many of the technological devices that have recently come on the market have been utilized successfully with special education students. For example, the communication challenges that many learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience have been resolved with newer technology like the iPad. Tools like the iPad can support learning for students with ASD. Children with autism have no control over the pace of information coming at them.
Therefore in a regular classroom they would experience brain overload. However, with the iPad they can communicate about ideas, play games and even make puzzles. With the iPad children can utilize the interface unlike a laptop that uses a keyboard and a mouse. Many children with ASD cannot communicate or have limited communication skills therefore the iPad can serve as their voice and communication device. It can help the child to express his/her needs. All the child needs to do is touch a screen or point and sweep. The child touches a picture or words and it speaks out loud for them.
There are thousands of APPs out there. For example, the emotion app uses diagrams and photographs and can help people with autism who often have a hard time talking to other people because they have difficulty reading someone’s facial cues. Improvements, Challenges, and Controversial Issues Educational Assessments as an Area of Improvement The passage of No Child Left Behind meant that students identified as disabled should be included in State testing and the standard used to measure how proficient they were performing should be the same as that used to measure progress of their non-disabled peers.
However, although the results suggest some progress, there remain huge gaps between disabled and non-disabled peers. In the 2009 reading assessment for twelfth graders, 64 percent of students with disabilities but 24 percent of other students tested below basic proficiency; in math 76 percent of students with disabilities and 34 percent of other students fell below basic proficiency. (Aron, 2012:113). When other grade-levels are assessed they show similar gaps.
There seems to be many different reasons for the lower scores among students with disabilities. The factors cited by one study were type of disability, cognitive ability, race, income, parental expectations, school absenteeism, and disciplinary problems. Grades, school mobility, and repeating a grade level were not significantly related to test scores (Aron, 2012:113). Quality of Service as Improvement IDEA and Section 504 are thought to have improved access to education for young people with disabilities.
This is attested to be the millions of children who are receiving service. However, critics suggest that special education programs are not always serving the right students, and further many students are not being identified in a timely manner and given the most appropriate and effective services (Aron & Loprest, 2012). Since African Americans are over represented it seems as if some children may be misdiagnosed and inappropriately placed in special education, while others may go unidentified or not receive the services they require.
Undoubtedly, many students who eventually receive special education did not receive the early intervention services to which they were entitled. Furthermore, transitions for young children from early childhood programs to preschool to school are not always smooth. When a child receiving Part C services reaches age two and a half, IDEA requires a meeting between the Part C service agency, parents, and the local education agency to determine continuing eligibility for special education services and to ensure a smooth effective transition to preschool.
Critics opinion that this transition is not always timely. Funding as a Challenge Funding is a serious challenge. When IDEA was enacted, its intention was to help states provide special education by funding a portion of the additional, or “excess,” cost of special education over general education. The original legislation set the maximum federal contribution at 40 percent of the estimated excess cost of educating children with disabilities, but federal funding has never come close to this “full funding” cap. Resources are also limited.
“For example, states are allowed to serve children who are at risk of a developmental delay, but only four states have opted to do so, in part because of funding concerns” (Aron & Loprest, 2012, p. 108). Parental Conflicts and Litigations as Controversial Issues Community Advocacy also seems also to present challenges. There seems to be a lot of parental conflict and confrontations since the inception of the IDEA. This is evident from the number of litigations involving parents of special education students.
Schools should provide in-service sessions geared toward avoiding parental confrontation. Ballard and Hulett (2010) suggest that schools should reach out to a broader range of parent and professional education and human service clusters such as those representing all students, educationally disadvantaged students, English language learners, economically and socially disadvantaged students and students challenged in reading, math and science.
Effort should also be made to bind the Internet in an effort to utilize this media of mass digital communication to further promote the objectives of the IDEA. In addition the authorities should pay attention to the statement made by Ballard & Hewlett (2010), “congress should order a national study and report. The charge: How and to what degree the IDEA principle of individualized education can be applied to all students in the nation toward the achievement of proficiency by the NCLB date of school year 2013–2014”.
Why I Chose This Field and How It Relates To My Philosophy of Education and Future Professional Goals I chose this field because I believe that through teaching, I can transform students’ lives and help them to fulfill their goals and in so doing help they make the maximum contribution to developing their country and the world. All students could learn and achieve to their full potential if they are allowed to progress at their own pace in collaboration with a knowledgeable teacher or peer who can provide the needed support to allow them to grow cognitively.
All students include students with disabilities who are often not encouraged and provided with the resources to achieve to their potential. As a “transformational teacher” (Stevenson, 2010) I can assist special education students to develop to their full potential through collaboration, questioning and scaffolding. As a program instructor at my previous place of employment, I noticed that there was a great deal of third graders that performed poorly on an IQ test and they were not expected to do well academically.
However, there was a fourth grade teacher that I worked closely with and she convinced me that they had great potential and would provide extra support to ensure that they achieved. We placed them in the resource room to work in smaller groups until their levels in basic subjects had improved.
This convinced me that students could learn if someone believed in them and provided the necessary support. I want to provide students with this “scaffold. ” Scaffolding can be used as an umbrella metaphor to describe the way that “teachers or peers supply students with the tools they need in order to learn” (Jacobs, 2001, p.125). According to Vygotsky (1978) students teach through, “teacher – learner collaboration and negotiation” with teacher and peers.
The teacher assists the student to reach the “zone of proximal development. ” This zone is defined as the “distance between the actual development by independent problem solving and the level of potential development” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86. Cited in S. A. McLeod 2010). Transformational teachers are conceptualized as change agents who engage students in active learning activities (reading, writing, discussions), and who develop critical thinking in students (Stevenson, 2010).
Transformational teachers have mastered the art of classroom questioning. They therefore use inferential, interpretational, reflective, divergent, and transfer questions in the classroom and they teach students to ask questions (The Teaching Center, 2009). The gaps between what children with disabilities achieve in relation to their non-disabled peers need to be filled. All students could learn and achieve to their full potential if they are allowed to progress at their own pace in collaboration with a knowledgeable teacher who provides the needed support to allow them to grow cognitively.
Through being a special education teacher I will make the above philosophy a reality. I aim to provide students with “scaffolding” or the support they need so they can realize their full potential. Furthermore, I aim to be a change agent in the classroom through utilizing active learning methods, encouraging questions and using technology and by being the catalyst that ignites a passion for learning in students. References Aron, L. & Loprest (2012). Disability and the Education System. Future of children. Vol. 22 (1). P. 97-122. Ballard, J. & Hulett, K. (2010). Future implications for Special Education Law.
Council for Exceptional Children. Bausch, M. & Ault, M. (2008). Assistive Technology Implementation Plan. A Tool for Improving Outcomes. Council for Exceptional Children, 41(1) p. 6-14. (Correspondent, 2012) History of Special Education in the United States. Special Education News. Sept. 3rd, 2012. http://www. specialeducationnews. com Jacobs, G. (2001) Providing the Scaffold: A Model for Early Childhood/Primary Teacher Preparation. Early Childhood Education Journal, Vol. 29 (2), p. 125-130. Lee, H. & Templeton, R. (2008). Ensuring equal access to technology: Providing Assistive Technology for students with disabilities.
Theory into Practice. 47, p. 212-219. McLeod, S. A. (2010). Zone of Proximal Development. Retrieved from http://www. simplypsychology. org/zone-of-Proximal-Development. html. Stevenson, J. R. (2010). Understanding the role of transformational teacher. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://Bethms. com/articles/pdf_articles/Stevenson_pdf/ The Teaching Center (2009). Washington University, Teaching Center. Wustl. edu Vygotsky, Lev S. (1978). Mind in society: Development of higher psychological processes. Edited by Cole, M. , John-Steiner, V. , Scribner, S. , Souberman, E. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.