The education system in our country was put in place in order to do service to our children. Despite this, in many cases, children that have disabilities are neglected by their schools. As a society, we all want to make sure that these children are being taken care of. However, there is a large spectrum of students with disabilities, and more needs to be done in order to meet every individual’s needs. In some cases, they do not receive enough attention, and others receive so much that it holds them back from succeeding on their own.
Generally speaking, students with special needs benefit from integration into general education classrooms when it is handled appropriately; however in many cases, students are still being short-changed. Integrating students with special needs into a general education classroom has many advantages, both social and academic. For example, all students are required to receive and be tested on common core information, regardless of academic status. Julie Verdonik, an administrator at Maple Grove Jr. Sr.
High School who is the head of the Special Education department , says if the students are not able to participate in the general education class, it is much more likely that they will not be taught all of the information that they are responsible for knowing. Special education classrooms slow down the pace of learning, and in many cases, this can actually be detrimental to the student (Verdonik). Verdonik also says, “When high expectations are set, generally the students are able to meet them. ” Any students that are capable of handling the common-core curriculum should be given the opportunity to do so.
Not only is the challenging curriculum good for them, but interacting with their peers is very beneficial as well. When asked if integration was socially beneficial for students with special needs Verdonik responded, “It is always beneficial to have students interacting together. ” As a general rule, when students interact with each other, social skills are improved. This is no different for students with special needs. There are other life skills that are taught in a general education classroom that are important for these students too.
They are taught the importance of meeting due dates, to listen to and respect a boss or a teacher, and how to handle challenges and frustrations that arise in daily life (Verdonik). By teaching these students important life skills, we are doing them a service that will stay with them their whole life. When integration is implemented appropriately, it is highly successful. There are specific requirements for children who are in need of special attention. They are not just left to cope with a challenging work environment.
The government mandates that each eligible student receives an IEP or 504 plan under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, that will help them as they go through school (Koch). These plans are created on an individualized basis, and can include the implementing of a variety of practices to best help the student (NCLD). Different testing accommodations or formats can be assigned, as well as different classroom times or activities such as remedial classes and aides, or “study buddies” (“What is a 504 plan? ”).
Smaller, but equally significant, actions can be taken too, such as requiring that a student have access to a computer for every writing assignment, or that someone gives them a “backpack check” to make sure they have all of the right homework (“What is a 504 plan? ”). All of these individualized requirements, added to integration, have a very strong and successful impact on the education of special needs students. There have been a number of success stories in our nation’s history when it comes to the education of special needs students.
One in particular, told by Kathy Koch in her article entitled, “Do Students With Disabilities Get the Help They Need? ” is the story of a young girl named Rose who suffers from cerebral palsy. Despite her condition, Rose has aspirations of attending college, and was elected onto the student’s council (Koch). Koch says that, “By nearly all accounts, the law has been highly successful at educating students once turned away at the schoolhouse door as ‘untrainable’…”. Julie Verdonik too believes that the program can be successful, and has confidence in the special needs students at Maple Grove.
With all of this success, why is it necessary that the special education system be reevaluated? Despite the potential for success that IDEA creates, there are many students whose needs are not yet being met. Some states in our country ignore the act altogether, and do not provide their students with the resources and materials they need to be successful. In many cases, teachers in general education are not trained enough to handle students with special needs being a part of their classroom (Gable).
The two of these factors combine to create an environment that slows down the learning process at no fault of the child. On top of that, many low-income areas do not receive enough funding to afford to service their students to the best of their ability, further hindering the child. Misdiagnosis is also a problem commonly found in low-income areas that holds students back from reaching their full potential (Koch). Students that are simply falling behind due to overcrowded classrooms are subjected to remedial reading and other needs-based classes when they don’t actually suffer from any disability (Koch).
In some states, children with special needs are tested in a different category than the students in general education. Due to the fact that overcrowded classroom leave some students behind by nature, this method of testing often results in students who are falling behind being forced into special education classrooms unnecessarily to manipulate test scores (Koch). These students are robbed of the social benefits of being in a general education classroom, as well as the chance to face academic challenges.
Students who are falling behind and are being pushed aside at no fault of their own often develop behavioral problems that are disruptive and detrimental to themselves and those around them (Gable). If teachers are not qualified to help these students, the problems only increase and multiply, unfairly leaving the student to cope in an environment that they can’t handle. The dropout rate of students with special needs is twice that of the students who have no disabilities (Gable). When schools fail to meet the needs of their students, the results aren’t beneficial to anybody.
In too many cases, our current system is not effective enough to satisfy the needs of our students. Although there is potential for success in our system, more needs to be done to ensure that there can be adequate help for every student that needs it. Funding for special education needs to be increased to schools in low-income areas. If this were to happen, misdiagnosis, overcrowding, and a lack of resources would no longer be a problem for these districts. Teachers in the field of general education need to be adequately trained to handle the challenges that come from students with special needs in the classroom.
It is not currently required that all teachers receive training in special education before earning their degree (DuBois). This should not be acceptable any longer, because even in general education classrooms, there will be students who require more attention based on behavioral and academic issues (DuBois). Most importantly, states need to be held accountable for the education that they are providing to their students. It is a common misconception that students with special needs do not match the level of achievement of students without disabilities.
Many people think that the pace of classes and amount of curriculum they would be responsible for would be too much for these students to handle. However, with the proper accommodations, this would not have to be true. If necessary, an aide or special education teacher can be assigned to children through their IEP. These aides are beneficial to both the student and the teacher in the classroom. With another person to help explain concepts, as well as hold the child accountable for the work the child is responsible for, students can often meet and even exceed expectations (Verdonik).
While it is true that bringing students with special needs into the classroom can introduce additional behavioral and academic issues, Verdonik says, “Having another person in the room that is trained to work with these kids can also take some of the pressure off of the teacher. ” If teachers were trained more adequately to handle these problems on their own, and there was an aide available to the child, there is no reason to believe that they would not be able to adapt to and succeed in a general education classroom.
There are some who believe that integrating special needs students among their peers would lead to bullying and other detrimental social problems. While theoretically this argument makes sense, there are many reasons to believe the exact opposite will happen. Integration would actually cause more tolerance and acceptance between these students. For one thing, they would be exposed to each other from a much earlier age, and would continue to be as they advance through school. Growing up together, students with and without disabilities would learn how to interact together, and even realize that they aren’t so different from each other anyway.
Kathy Koch’s story about Rose is the perfect example of this. Rose’s cerebral palsy not only affects her mentally, but physically as well. Despite these defects, she was accepted by her classmates enough to be voted the secretary of her class (Koch). Anna Schuppenhaur, who suffered a stroke at the age of two, is still suffering from the physical and mental repercussions (DuBois). Her kindergarten teacher, Elizabeth Dubois, remembers celebrating Anna’s victories as a class with her students; when Anna learned how to swing all by herself, they had a party for her.
Years later, in eighth grade Anna suffered from muscle spasms during class (DuBois). Anna received the support and concern of all of her classmates afterwards (DuBois). When recalling the event DuBois said, “I believe that if these children had not grown up learning to be supportive of each other, they would have reacted much differently to Anna’s situation. ” Rather than feeling alone or unwanted by her classmates, the support given to Anna has helped her get through difficult times presented to her by her disability.
Also, if special needs students weren’t treated differently from the beginning, there would be less distinction between them and the other students anyway. If the administration treats them differently, then they will be labeled as different. But if they are treated as equally as possible, discrimination would not develop into a problem from the beginning. If special education students are integrated into general education classrooms, general education teachers will be required to learn how to cope with the challenges that they present.
However, teachers who teach in general education classrooms are not required to take special education classes before earning their degree (DuBois). It is true that training teachers in this area would be expensive. Either the individual would have to pay to take the classes at the collegiate level before earning their degree, the school district in which they work would have to pay to provide a workshop or other source of training for the teacher, or a combination of both of these options would be necessary.
However, the result is worth the cost, because without the training, teachers are not able to do their job effectively. Inadequate teachers lead to higher lower test scores, misplacement of students into remedial classes (Koch), higher dropout rates, and emotionally and mentally detrimental effects for their students (Gable). Making sure teachers receive the proper training is crucial to the success of the special needs students in their classrooms. State and federal funding for special education needs to increase in order to enable schools to be capable of helping their students.
The low-income areas that lack resources are not able to provide them because they cannot afford to (Associated). Helping children who require special education involves many extra expenses, such as hiring speech pathologists and psychologists, training teachers, and providing equipment and facilities, accommodations and other resources. With all of this, educating students with special needs can cost four times more students in general education (Associated). Federal funds cover a fraction of that expense, leaving the districts to their own means (Associated).
Schools that are already struggling with financial troubles are unlikely to be able to meet the costs required of them without more help from the government. The most important step that needs to be taken in order to help children with disabilities in America is the development of a system that holds states and school districts accountable for providing these students with the education they deserve. Too often, students are being pushed aside when they deserve benefits because the schools do not have the resources to help them.
Parents are often left to fight for their children’s rights, and are then labeled as “problem parents” and are viewed as a burden to the school system (Koch). Lilliam Rangel-Diaz says, The one constant factor throughout two and a half decades is that federal [enforcement] efforts over several administrations have been inconsistent and lacking any real teeth. There have been no consequences for states that have disregarded the law and devastating consequences for the students with disabilities and their families who have been denied the protections of the law. (qtd.
in Koch) In order to solve this problem, consequences need to be established. States that are adequately helping their students should be able to pass on ideas and concepts that have influenced their student’s success, and implement new regulations that would improve the current programs. States that cannot support their students’ needs should receive funding in order to do so, because providing schools with the resources they don’t have is the only way to ensure the needs of the students will be met.
However, if after a few years of receiving this funding there is no marked improvement in a particular school district’s program, then other surrounding schools that have managed to run a successful program should take over. This may be an unorthodox system, but with the needs of the students in mind, it is a solution that makes sense.
It would ensure that money is not being put to waste, give districts incentive to make improvements in their own systems, and guarantee that people who are capable and experienced are in charge of the education of our students. There are certainly situations in which integration is not actually the best option for students with disabilities.
Some students have such severe limitations that they would not benefit from placement into general education classrooms, and they would be nearly impossible for teachers to work with without neglecting the rest of the class. This includes children who cannot comprehend or reproduce language, or whose mental development will never reach the adolescent stage. The education that these children receive is based more on living skills, for example, anything from shoe-tying and bed-making, to preparing food and interacting socially, depending upon the severity of their case.
There are even cases in which students can learn math, reading, and writing skills. These students would be better off in a special education classroom or school, with a teacher trained specifically to handle their needs. However, this cannot be used as an excuse to keep capable children from getting the education that they deserve. Students with special needs benefit in many areas when they are integrated into special education classrooms. They develop stronger social skills, become better prepared for their future, and are challenged with a more difficult curriculum.
When they are denied the opportunity to face these challenges and meet higher expectations, it is detrimental to them now and in the future. It is also a disadvantage for society, because without the proper education, it is harder for them to later become functioning members of society. With more funding, a wider range of teacher education, and a stricter enforcement of special education regulations, we can ensure that the needs of all of our students are adequately met. Works Cited Associated Press.
“Public Schools Bearing the Brunt of Special Education Costs. ” ThOnline. Telegraph Herald, 19 Aug 2012. Web. 1 February 2013. DuBois, Elizabeth. Personal interview. 27 January 2013. Gable, Robert A. ; Tonelson, et al. “Importance, Usage, and Preparedness to Implement Evidence-based Practices for students with Emotional Disabilities: A Comparison of Knowledge and Skills of Special Education and General Education Teachers. ” Education & Treatment of Children 35. 4 (2012): pg. 499-519.
West Virginia University Press. Web. 20 December 2012. Koch, Kathy. “Do Students With Disabilities Get the Help They Need? ” CQ Researcher 10. 39 (2013): 905-928. CQ Researcher Online. Web. 11 January 2013. NCLD Editorial Team. “What is an IEP? ” National Center for Learning Disabilities. The National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2013. Web. 1 February 2013. Verdonik, Julie. Personal interview. 10 January 2013. “What is a 504 plan? ” NCLD. National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2013. Web. 1 February 2013.