It is important for educators to understand special education and how the diagnosis of developmental disabilities, early intervention, educational programs, services for young learners, transitional programs, strengths and weaknesses in assessments and interventions affects their students and classroom environment, while also being able to offer suggestions for student improvement and expected performance. People learn for a lifetime so special education needs to start as early as possible for all children that need it and continue on through their high school years.
The learning process is not just about academic learning for special education students, but is also about learning social, emotional, and self-care skills. There is much to learn and it all begins with diagnosis. Diagnosis of Developmental Disabilities
Developmental monitoring occurs from the time a child is born through well-child visits with a health professional. There are five areas of development that can be affected and these are what health professional are monitoring: “cognitive development, physical development (including vision and hearing), communication development, social or emotional development, and adaptive development (Overview of Early Intervention, 2012)”.
If any problems are noticed during monitoring, then the child is further assessed through developmental screening. Screening allows health professionals to monitor a child’s progress more closely and determine how their development relates to the general population of children at the same developmental stages. The hope with all well-child visits to prove a child is in perfect physical, mental, and emotional health and if they are not, then the process helps parents and health professional to intervene early. Early Intervention
“Early intervention is a system of services that helps babies and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities (Overview of Early Intervention, 2012)”, which has been proven to significantly improve a child’s chances of success in all developmental areas. For children with developmental delay of disabilities, early intervention can help them develop their physical, cognitive, communication, social, and self-care skills extensively. There are many services that can help develop these skills, such as speech therapies, assistive devices, physical therapies, and many more. Once children reach school age, they may then be placed in special education programs within their selected school system where they will continue the learning process. Educational Programs
Once children enter the educational system, IDEA requires schools to provide the necessary tools and support staff to ensure that each student can achieve a free education. This may require something as simple as an assistive device, such as an iPad or computer to use to communicate, or could require more direct assistance, such as an aid to provide one-on-one assistance. Parents, teachers, and other support staff work together to create an IEP for each student. The IEP lays out the plan for each individual student and also includes what that students areas of developmental delay or disability are so schools can appropriately assist the student. Then once the IEP is established, it can then be decided what educational program that the student should be involved in. There are a few different educational programs: 1) strictly special education, which does not include any general education classes, 2) semi-special education, which includes a combination of general and special education classes, and 3) all general education classes, which is intended for those students that require special education, but do not necessarily need to be a part of a special education classroom.
Strictly special education situations would be for students that are not capable of actively participating in a general classroom setting. Semi-special education programs are for students that are able to actively participate in a general education classroom, but may only need extra help in certain areas. One example could be in Math and Science, where a student significantly struggles, but they achieve well in other areas such as Related Arts classes. Some students only need a little help and do well in a general education classroom, but still need to be involved in the special education program in certain facets in order to follow an IEP to ensure their needs are being met and that they are achieving well in school. Services for Young Exceptional Learners
Another group of children, often included in the special education program, are those that are gifted, or considered exceptional learners. Although gifted children are often very intelligent, they can struggle with other areas that can affect their education and social development. These students should be offered services to help them reach their true potential. Quite often, gifted students just need focus, which can be achieved through services that help them learn how to develop their skills, interests, and intellectual capacities. (Beckley, 1998) Nurturing students with positive reinforcements, while provided adequate challenge in their stronger areas, can help ensure their ultimate success. It is important to not just throw gifted students into special education because their skills are not seen, but rather to work at understanding the student so that their intellect can blossom and their weaknesses improved or managed. Transitional Programs
Children continue through the education program until they complete high school. This can be up through age 22 for some students. At age 16, or before then for some students, IDEA mandates that students begin an Individualized Transition Plan (ITP) as part of their IEP. “Transition services are intended to prepare students to move from the world of school to the world of adulthood (Transition to Adulthood, 2010).” Just like the IEP, transition service for students must be coordinated between parents, teachers, support staff, and at this age also includes the student. Transition is intended to help students not only achieve academic goals, but also to aid in developing a student’s self-care and independent living skills. In addition, it also aids in determining their interests so that they can interact in their community, begin college or other post high school education, or obtain employment. If transition is successful, then students should be able to adequately adapt to their new circumstances and environment after completing high school. Assessments
Assessments and interventions can be extremely beneficial to the well-being of a child with developmental delays or disabilities. Assessments by parents, health care professionals, and educators help to identify potential delays or disabilities early so that the child can receive services to help them manage or overcome them. Intervention programs provide the resources necessary for children to receive the services they are entitled to. Unfortunately, assessments and intervention are only as good as the support around the student. Parents must take their child to well-child checks for health professional to be able to identify an issue. Once an issue is determined, intervention can begin and involves parents, educators, healthcare professionals, and other support personnel. It is important for all parties in the support staff to work together and keep in communication about the needs of the child. The support system surrounding a special needs child can be their strongest resource or their weakness. It is up to parents to ensure that their child is getting the best treatments and services available to meet their needs and ensure their child’s success. Improvement Suggestions
Improvements in assessment and intervention begins with parents. Parents need to be thoroughly educated on the needs of their child. Knowledge is power and the more the parents have, then the more they will be equipped to work with the child’s other support personnel. Doctors and teachers needs to help parents understand the needs of their child and how all the various programs and processes can help their child succeed. Improvement stems primarily around a cohesive unit of well-educated or well informed support group surrounding the child. Expected Outcomes
As parents, students, educators, and health professionals come together to form a cohesive support group, involving great communication, then the child can benefit by overcoming or improving their delay or disability. As more is learned about developmental disabilities, the brighter the future looks for all those that are challenged by such disabilities. Early intervention and appropriate support gives special needs children the chance to reach
Beckley, D. (1998). Gifted and Learning Disabled: Twice Exceptional Students. Retrieved from Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development: http://www.gifted.uconn.edu/nrcgt/newsletter/spring98/sprng984.html Overview of Early Intervention. (2012, December). Retrieved from National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities: http://nichcy.org/babies/overview#what Transition to Adulthood. (2010, September). Retrieved from National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities: http://nichcy.org/schoolage/transitionadult