What is special education?
Special education is also referred to as special Ed. This entails teaching challenged students who have special needs in a way which addresses all their needs individually. It involves teaching procedures that are individually planned and systematically monitored (Ainscow, 2006, p.29).These interventions are designed in a way that they help individuals who have special needs to achieve personal self-sufficiency and success in school activities as well as community activities which would not be achieved if the students were only able to access learning in typical ways.
Defining Special needs
A special need is a term used to refer to a wide array of diagnoses. Individuals with special needs may have mild learning disabilities or cognitive impairment which is profound; others are born with a syndrome or a terminal illness. Special needs are also manifested in individuals who have delays in development, food allergies, and pain attacks.
When people say “children with special needs” it refers to children who are faced with more severe challenges which have the risk of lasting a lifetime. These children require more support and extra services. People with special needs require being guided throughout their life and also to be supported in dealing with issues like housing and finances (Ainscow, 2006, p.33). Early intervention in children with special needs is important because it helps a child to fulfill their potential in education as well as social potential. Early intervention is a process involving evaluation of the developmental abilities of a child. At times programs which contain services meant to enhance the development skills of a child while encouraging development growth are developed, although these depend on necessity (Campbell, 2003, p.59)
A special education teacher is a person who works with children with various disabilities. Such children need unique instructions from professionals who are professionally trained. Teachers trained to handle children with special needs are patient and understanding. They are dedicated to giving each student the tools and guidance that they need to maximize their success (DfE, 2014, p.22). A special education teacher creates and applies a curriculum that is specific to the needs and abilities of each student (Cook, 2002, p.144). They also get involved in the social and behavioral development of their students.
Special needs teachers help in developing Individual Education Programs also known as IEPs for each student. An Individual Education Program is designed with the individual development goals of a child in mind; it is modified to the abilities and needs of a child. The teacher goes over the program with the parents of the child and also the school administrators. Special school teachers work closely with the parents of these special kids to keep them up to date on the progress of their children as well as making recommendations to promote home learning (Ainscow, 2006, p.42). A large part of the job of special education teachers involves communicating and coordinating with people involved in the development of the child including social workers, school administrators as well as other teachers.
Complex learning needs of Special Children
It is crucial to have several functional strategies which could help children who are extremely challenged in communicating. For example, an autistic child may need visual schedules and strategies to learn, a girl with a hearing impairment may need to use signs and facial expressions, on the other hand, a boy with learning difficulty may have to use communication devices or objects (University of Cambridge, 2013, p.2). Each child is unique, and the teacher needs to have strategies to deal with them individually.
Children who are severely affected by communication difficulties or needs which are complex face a challenge when communicating. However, it is possible for these kids to access communication and there are ways in which a teacher can help them do so. Developing such a communication system consumes time, and the tutor may have to communicate using only a few keywords (Campbell, 2003, p.63). Tutors find it very difficult to deal with children who cannot speak and those with severe autism. They are unable to understand, and they cannot express their needs and feelings. Severely autistic refers to non-verbal and at times being in their world. These individuals find it difficult to follow instructions and May also express behavior that is challenging when they are approached or when someone encourages them to do something (Ainscow, 2006, p.52).
One approach that teachers use to deal with students with complex needs is intensive interaction. This method creates an enjoyable and non-threatening environment for the autistic student or one who has learning difficulties that are severe. This approach is based on the way parents communicate with infants, such interactions are short, and they involve short noises which involve the autistic child and touch (Hornby, 2012, p.134). From the start, these interactions are brief, but they grow with time. The child is motivated to participate in the communication actively, and they try to control the communicative situation. This approach enables parents, teachers, and caretakers to connect with an individual and they create an exchange which is enjoyable and reduces challenges and helps to develop communication skills (Campbell, 2003, p.69)
However, regardless of the method being used, it is important for time to be spent observing children with complex communication delay. There have been attempts at communing which are unnoticed. It is important to pick these attempts and to understand their meaning. It is true that these communication attempts are at times unnoticed and this may make the child lose their resolve in learning (Campbell, 2003, p.74). With children who cannot talk, focusing on body movements and making notes of vocalizations is important. A teacher can video a child and then watch it back, most of the time they will notice something different they had not seen before (Ainscow, 2006, p.59). Looking at what triggers moving and being vocal is very crucial. Through keeping running records, teachers can note that there are some things which elicit a special reaction in children. A teacher can ask, what was the reaction of the kid when he/she was angry? How did the child act when they wanted more? This can be a special place to start communication. By learning the responses of the child teachers can learn the Children’s system of communication.
Supporting needs of children practically
Teaching children with special needs requires a planned strategy and consistent efforts. Good care should be taken to make them feel comfortable during the learning process. Apart from classroom lessons, emphasis should be made on practical lessons. This is because, by practical experience, it is possible for them to understand the concepts well. Practical teaching is an integral part of imparting knowledge to special kids. Use of virtual learning tools is the first step in making special children understand issues that they might otherwise find hard to comprehend (Frederickson, 2009, p.204). Additionally, integrated learning where Special needs children attend lessons with normal kids is helpful because repeated interaction makes them learn issues that they may not have understood during classroom interaction (Ainscow, 2006, p.63). Interaction through games and other social activities opens up the mind of special needs children and makes them more comfortable around members of the society.
Planning and delivering inclusive practice
Certain steps need to be followed in planning and delivering inclusive practice.
It is important to determine what a school has. A starting point is necessary to move forward. Data collected at this point serves as the baseline for measuring success during the school year. It is important to determine the inclusive practices that are already in use. To achieve this, the following data should be collected. It is important to know the number of students who already have disabilities and those who are currently in the general education classes. Data should also be collected on the number of special education teachers who are co-teaching, if there are any, what are the approaches that they are using? (Campbell, 2003, p.76) It is also important to take an inventory of staff to find out what they know about inclusive practices and how ready they are for implementation (Ainscow, 2006, p.65). The information from staff inventory identifies the members of staff who need to be developed professionally. It also identifies the members of staff who may serve as mentors to other staff members. Additionally, if the co-teaching model has just been introduced in a school, then a staff inventory helps to identify the members of staff who are willing to teach. When a needs assessment and staff inventory are conducted, they highlight what is going on in the school during the present time. This information helps in directing future actions.
The leadership of inclusive practices should address the overall implementation of inclusive practices throughout the school. Individuals who are within the school make up this team, and they function as leaders. This team does not need to be made up of new people, a leadership team that exists can take on the function of an inclusive practices leadership team. It is the responsibility of this team to identify a set of principles which will be used to govern a school-wide focus (Campbell, 2003, p.83). Monthly meetings should be convened by the leadership team to review data implementation and revise data implementation as needed. This team is mainly tasked with fostering the implementation of inclusive school-wide practices. The leadership team also has the responsibility of establishing policy in regards to inclusive practices and identification, actions that should be taken by the entire staff to ensure that policy implementation is effective (Ainscow, 2006, p.66).
The leadership team creates an action plan which addresses the long-term and short-term goals. It is the work of the leadership team to identify activities which are reasonably initiated within a specified period. An attempt to implement too much in a short time mostly leads to failure. The action plan identifies possible challenges and how they will be tackled. Every goal of the action plan should be addressed through specific actions. A plan which has concrete and specific goals is more easily implemented by the staff (Campbell, 2003, p.83). After the development of the plan it should be presented to the entire staff, the plan should be open for criticism although changes should only be made if the suggestions presented do not jeopardize the effective implementation of the plan (Ainscow, 2006, p.67). Additionally, the plan should be reviewed continually. Revisions should be made as the activities are conducted and goals achieved. The leadership should help in updating the plan regularly. If the plan is reasonable and can be easily implemented, then it is easier for the goals to be achieved.
This entails implementation of the action plan. For the plan to be effectively implemented certain decisions have to be made regarding some parameters and logistical areas which are related to inclusive practices. These include issues such as identification of student support needs, incorporating SWD into general education, lesson and time planning (Ainscow, 2006, p.68). If these are not addressed adequately focusing on procedures for each, then it will be impossible to effectively implement the plan.
Just as is common with any educational practice, meaningful professional development is critical because it ensures that all members of staff have the required knowledge and skills for effective implementation (Cook, 2002, p.134). Additionally, it is important to create an environment where all staff members are supported in their efforts in implementing inclusive practices. It is important that staff members receive professional development on the models of inclusive practices if they are to be implemented effectively.
Furthermore, engaging the family ensures that inclusive practices are supported and better promoted. Implementation measures should also be set. Identifying what indicates effective practices provides staff with an explicit excellence model which serves as a monitoring tool to gauge how successful implementation is. Additionally, the process needs to be monitored to ensure that inclusive practices are effectively implemented (Ainscow, 2006, p.69). An effective plan needs to be revised as needs change. If an implementation plan is successful, then it should be expected that the student’s outcome will improve, this plan needs to change so that it reflects higher expectations. Celebrating success is an essential part of an effective implementation of inclusive practices.
Developing a realistic and appropriate learning outcome
Creating learning outcomes gives a tutor a tool to use in tailoring the assessment of the students and also measuring the aptitude against the main purpose of the course. Teaching requires assessment this means an evaluation of student understanding considering the goals of a lesson. There are several types of assessment which involve student work (Ainscow, 2006, p.79). An assessment can take a few minutes, or at times it can take weeks. An assessment can ask students to demonstrate how they understand issues or how they have acquired skills through writing.
Additionally, an assessment may seek the ability of a student to create a product or presentation. An assessment can also ask students to demonstrate how much they understand individually or as a group. A successful student learning outcome expresses how much a student should know and what they should be able to achieve after they complete their course (Campbell, 2003, p.85). Assessment the student learning outcome may provide information which makes it possible to put the learning of students in front of all academic planning processes. An assessment program should show and be determined by the learning goals which a lesson brings forward. However, linking goals to assessment are at times difficult. If the goals set are for the student to learn a concept, does it mean that they should understand facts or summarize information? A tutor should know if the assessment is related to the goals of the lesson (Frederickson, 2009, p.212). An assessment is a multi-step process where a teacher formulates clear learning goals for all students. A successful assessment should also articulate the learning goals of the students.
Furthermore, a successful assessment can describe what the students should be able to do if they have met their learning goals (Cook, 2002, p.126). An assessment should develop a scoring rubric. Evaluation of students’ performance on the assessment instrument is essential. An assessment should be able to reflect why students were not able to master the learning goals. It should be able to develop strategies which assist in future success. Furthermore, an assessment can be able to help a student in understanding certain topics; students are also able to think about their learning through assessments (Ainscow, 2006, p.84). Assessments can help students to know what they have been able to learn in class or previously in other courses. An effective learning outcome should be created in line with the goals, objectives, and divisions of the school. An Effective learning outcome focuses on learning which results from an activity and not from the activity itself. Additionally, an effective learning system should be student-centered.
Successful Learning outcome
The success of a learning outcome can only be determined by demonstration of how much the children have learned. After completing a successful learning programme, a child should be able to demonstrate that they have learned something new. For example, children should be able to learn basic calculation and be able to express themselves (Norwich, 2007, p.92) Special children should also be able to interact with their peers in school in instances where they use the same facilities in the school. A successful program also increases the self-confidence of a child, and such children can personally express themselves (Ainscow, 2006, p.86). Additionally, a successful program makes it possible for parents of special children to better cope with them. The most successful programs are those where educators work together to share resources and expertise in meeting all student needs in various ways.
What is successful?
The goal for all students is to get the highest levels of success in classes which are taught by teachers who provide all the tools to overcome obstacles and to learn to their greatest potential. However, success has different meanings to different people although there are some common components of success which include academic success, satisfaction at the workplace and the sense that one’s life is meaningful. Studies relating to students suffering from special needs children in the past 20 years reveals that there are several attributes with the end results being successful outcomes (Ainscow, 2006, p.89). They include a self-concept which is positive, perseverance and an approach to life which is proactive. However, not every student who has attained success had all these attributes, studies reveal that their presence predicted success more than variables such as school grades and IQ.
Measuring success of progress for students with needs
What is measured to determine success varies among different people. The public is eager to understand simple ways to know the strength and effectiveness of schools. Goals are set for measuring and reporting things. There are many themes around measuring success in school levels. Determining what to measure is the first step. It is the responsibility of schools to track interim progress and outcomes which relate to the school environment and the performance of students (Ainscow, 2006, p.104). Stakeholders emphasize that the only way a turnaround can be referred to as successful if it gets gains with the same number of students. A school which is undergoing a turnaround needs to be accessed on time. It is possible to collect timely feedback through classroom observation and using tools. Nontraditional methods at times are used in turnarounds to re-engage students in learning and addressing long-standing deficits (Hornby, 2012, p.114).
Success, however, is not easy to define. Students who have special needs grow up to be adults with special needs. This means that many of the difficulties which are experienced in childhood continue when that child becomes an adult. However, some individuals who are challenged in learning follow a life path which results in success and they eventually become productive in the society leading satisfying lives (Cook, 2002, p.104). Successful people with disabilities know the problems that they have, and this includes academic problems like reading and math. They do not keep their disabilities a secret, and they know how their disabilities affect their lives. These individuals are conversant with their talents and accept their limitations. This is particularly displayed by a person who says, “We learn differently and we all have strengths and weaknesses.