Mainstreaming and Inclusion:
Getting Involved on How Teachers Handle Special Education
Special children have considerably different needs depending on their health situations. Hence teaching these types of children is indeed a challenge especially to early childhood educators. Parents at first base may have a hard time accepting the fact that their children are mentally different from other children. This is the reason why the educators of such children are required to have exceptional strategic ways of assisting the special children as well.
How would this problem be best resolved? How could the educators ensure that the special students who are to be enrolled in their institutions are sure to receive amiably fine education amidst their difficulties and difference against other children? What are other forces needed to be incorporated in the learning processes of the said exceptional students? These are among the most important questions that need to be addressed when the topic being discussed is regarding the educational systems provided for several exceptional students (Cooper, 2004, 18). First step to be able to address the problems of the said students though is to outline the types of difficult students that are usually enrolled in educational institutions.
Students with Difficulties
There are numerous types of learning difficulties among young students. Most of the time, the said difficulties occur among the children at the very moment they were born. Realizing the difficulties on the part of the parents though usually occur quite a longer time from being born (Doman, 2005, 19). At most, when the children reach the age of three, the symptoms of such difficulties already show and thus the parents realize the need to treat their children differently especially with regards to learning. However, not all difficulties mean that the children lack the interest in learning or the possibilities of being able to learn at that. Some difficulties are simply related to the attention span of some students. As for example, children with ADHD are exceptionally bright and creative, however, their lack of interest in giving much interest to learning processes makes it hard for educators to catch their attention during classes (Wagman, 1998, 17). The following paragraphs shall discuss the different difficulties that occur among children that concerns special educational arrangements for them.
Autism is a disorder of the brain in which social behavior, communication skills, and thinking ability fail to develop normally. It affects the way sensory input is processed, causing people with autism to overreact to some sensations (sights, sounds, smells, and so forth) and under react to others. The impairments of autism produce an assortment of unusual behavioral traits. Symptoms, which usually appear before the age of three, can vary greatly from child to child. Consider the following examples.
Imagine reaching out with love to a beautiful child and getting no response. This often happens when a child has autism. Instead of interacting with people, most children with autism prefer to be alone. They may dislike being cuddled, avoid eye contact, and use people as they would tools—showing little awareness of others’ feelings. In severe cases some do not seem to make any distinction between family members and strangers. They appear to live in a world of their own, oblivious to the people and events around them. The term “autism,” from the Greek word au·tos´ meaning “self,” refers to this self-absorbing quality. (Doman, 2005, 74)
In contrast with their indifference to people, children with autism may become preoccupied with a particular object or activity, pursuing it for several hours at a time in a bizarre, repetitive manner. For example, instead of pretending that toy cars are real ones, they may line the cars up in neat, straight rows or may endlessly spin their wheels. They display repetitiveness in other ways also. Many are intolerant of change in their daily routines, insisting on doing things exactly the same way every time. Children with autism may also respond in strange ways to the events and situations that they encounter. Their responses can be baffling, since most of them are unable to describe what they are experiencing. Nearly half are mute; often those who can speak use words in unusual ways. Rather than answer a question by saying yes, they may simply repeat the question (a phenomenon called echolalia). Some use expressions that seem strangely out of place and that can only be understood by those familiar with their “code.” For instance, one child used the phrase “it’s all dark outside” as his term for “window” (Cooper, 2004, 45). Many also have difficulty using gestures and may scream or throw a tantrum to signal a need.
Unlike most youngsters, children with autism do not readily absorb information from their surroundings. Teaching them the basic skills needed at home or in the community is a challenging and slow step-by-step process. The day’s routine can keep a parent rushing from task to task; assisting with dressing, feeding, and toileting; redirecting disruptive or inappropriate behaviors; and cleaning up after accidents. “Until [my son] was ten years old,” one parent recalls, “I was just trying to make it through each day.” (Klein, 2001, 47)
Adding to the strain is the child’s need for constant supervision. “Tommy has to be watched constantly,” says his mother, Rita, “because he has little sense of danger.” Since many autistic children also have irregular sleep patterns, the vigil often extends into the night. Florence, whose son Christopher was described at the outset of this article, comments, “I slept with one eye open.” (Wagman, 1998, 47)
As the children grow older, some of these demands diminish while others may intensify. Even when progress is made, almost all those with autism continue to require some level of supervision throughout their lives. Since residence facilities suitable for adults with autism are scarce, parents of autistic children face the prospect of either providing lifelong care at home or, if this becomes impossible, placing their grown children in institutions.
Over the years, attention problems have been blamed on everything from bad parenting to fluorescent lighting. It is now thought that ADHD is associated with disturbances in certain brain functions. In 1990 the National Institute of Mental Health tested 25 adults with ADHD symptoms and found that they metabolized glucose more slowly in the very areas of the brain that control movement and attention. In about 40 percent of ADHD cases, the individual’s genetic makeup seems to play a role. According to The Hyperactive Child Book, other factors that may be associated with ADHD are the use of alcohol or drugs by the mother during pregnancy, lead poisoning, and, in isolated cases, diet. (Doman, 2005, 47)
In recent years doctors have found that ADHD is not just a childhood condition. “Typically,” says Dr. Larry Silver, “parents will bring in a child for treatment and say, ‘I was the same when I was a kid.’ Then they’ll admit they still have problems waiting in line, sitting through meetings, getting things done” It is now believed that about half of all children with ADHD carry at least some of their symptoms into adolescence and adulthood. During adolescence, those with ADHD may shift from risky behavior to delinquency. “I used to worry that he wouldn’t get into college,” says the mother of an ADHD adolescent. “Now I just pray that he stays out of jail.” (Cooper, 2004, 41)
That such fears may be valid is shown by a study comparing 103 hyperactive youths with a control group of 100 children who did not have the disorder. “By their early 20s,” reports Newsweek, “the kids from the hyperactive group were twice as likely to have arrest records, five times as likely to have felony convictions and nine times as likely to have served time in prison.” (Cooper, 2004, 45)
According to a medical book, cerebral palsy is the general term for a group of
abnormal conditions commonly associated with a brain disorder that causes the loss or impairment of muscle control. It has been known through a chain of surveys worldwide that “7,000 suffers from some degree of the said disability” (Wagman, 1998, 126). This damage in the nervous system often occurs from birth, during delivery or in rare cases, because of an accident, injury or severe illness during infancy or childhood.
The symptoms of this illness vary so much from every case. Usually pediatricians, along with several others assist in providing therapies to children affected by this illness. Yet, one of the most important factors of the therapy is parental understanding and care. It involves helping the child help himself. Guiding him to understanding his own limits as a child and thus accepting it without bitterness. This naturally requires patience, persistence, and resourcefulness of the entire family, and may require a number of group therapies and counseling.
General Training Strategies for Exceptional Students: The Process of Inclusion
The methods suggested by Maria Montessori, who has been a victim of cerebral palsy in her earlier years of life, proved to be effective in teaching as it is used today in Montessori school. Where disabled kids such as those who have disorders as cerebral palsy and other special situations in child development are given chance to learn and live normally.
Here are the methods they use in teaching exceptional students:
· Children who find it difficult to communicate may express their frustration in bad temper or aggressive behavior. This may mean keeping a note of what leads up to the bad behavior. In other words, trying to establish the triggers. This also includes the constant tracking of the child’s behavior, recording what he does and does not like and the emotional responses that he shows to different situations he finds himself in. (TIMI, Internet)
· Try to keep the classrooms structured and keep the child aware of the pattern of the day-you might use a picture timeline. Since school must be an accommodating place for a child with cerebral palsy, pictures could make it more enjoyable for the child and also easier to understand things that are essential for them to know. (TIMI, Internet)
· Have a de-stressing area and have a child learn what to do when he/she is angry or frustrated. As to what has been said earlier, it may not be that easy to express anger for these children as they tend to be violent at times. A de-stressing area may help them eliminate their anger without hurting anybody else or even ruining things in the rooms. (TIMI, Internet)
· Try to seat the child in area of low distraction at least for some of the time. This could include a creatively decorated area, which may serve as a reward every time a child is able to do something good. A child with the said disorder needs a time-off every now and then to relax their minds and body as well. (TIMI, Internet)
· Consult a physiotherapist or occupational therapist as to know the correct seating for the child. Since the disorder may vary from the different cases they belong to, the children having this disorder also have different needs as to space and location of their seats from the board or the study area itself. It is very important to consider this able to provide the child with the learning that he could be able to easily grasp. (TIMI, Internet)
· Allow the child a wider space in seating as he may fidget frequently and this may annoy others who are seating nearby. Sometimes, it’s even better to have a child sit by himself to avoid irritation on other kids. (TIMI, Internet)
· Lighting can affect a child with cerebral palsy so it is better to put the light behind them so that there would be no glare affecting their eyes as it may affect their learning process. (TIMI, Internet)
· Some children who are specially suspended concerning education have poor memories. They may have short concentration span and may have difficulties in retaining new vocabularies. They may better learn from pictures and lessons involving visual illustration. Like with any other normal children, this type of teaching strategy makes the classroom more enjoyable and learning becomes an easy job for the child. (TIMI, Internet)
· Use reinforcement method. This involves recalling the lessons learned from time to time. All the previously learned lessons must be reviewed both before and after the class to improve the memory skills of the children. (TIMI, Internet)
· Chalk and talk is not the best way to teach a child with cerebral palsy. Children with this disorder comprehends better with pictures, songs, rhymes and other sensual activities that makes their body and mind work making the learning environment seem to be more like a game. Pressures should be set aside in treating children with this case. (TIMI, Internet)
· Children with cerebral palsy can have difficulty with spatial awareness. As well as getting in other people’s way, it can cause problems with copying notes from the blackboard. If possible, get children to copy from the pages of their books. These books are to have enlarged printed notes. It may also help if the writing activities are lessened and replaced with joining phrases or points, drawing and singing activities. (TIMI, Internet)
· There could also be implemented a separate time when they learn alone and another time when they learn with a group. This will help the children be able to learn at their own pace and then enjoy activities with other children at some time of the study hours. (TIMI, Internet)
It is indeed true that dealing with exceptional students in the educational systems require so much effort. The challenge that is opened to the educators who are supposed to deal with the said students is indeed an opportunity for them to measure their capability of educating students with special requirements. This is the reason why educators for these type of students are required to have long patience and understanding concerning the needs of the children especially with regards to their emotional being and development. To be able to successful with such learning difficulties, the involvement of the parents in the process of learning is a vital part of education for the said students. Hence, love for the students could be considered as the most essential part of educating exceptional students. This emotion and concern would naturally move the educators to have all the necessary skills for teaching special children and thus apply them regularly in dealing with the children’s learning needs.
Cooper, E. (2004). Teaching all the children: strategy for developing literacy in an urban setting. New York. Clifford Press. 203.
Doman, G. (2005). What to do about your brain-injured child. The Gentle Revolution Press. Wyndmoor. 221.
Klein, D. (2001). Strategies for including children with special needs in early childhood settings. Columbia. Delmar Thompson Learning. 102.
Wagman, R.J.(1998). The new complete medical and health encyclopedia. United States of America. Ferguson Publishing Company. 126.
THE INTERNATIONAL MONTESSORI INDEX. (2006). TEACHING MONTESSORI
Montessori Organizations, Teacher-Training Courses, & Details of Montessori Teaching Methods. http://www.montessori.edu/info.html. (July 13, 2008)