I have hinted at it already in this chapter, but it is worth saying again: including students with disabilities in regular classrooms is valuable for everyone concerned. The students with disabilities themselves tend to experience a richer educational environment, both socially and academically. Just as with racial segregation, separate education is not equal education, or at least cannot be counted on to be equal. But classmates of students with disabilities also experience a richer educational environment; they potentially meet a wider range of classmates and to see a wider range of educational purposes in operation. Teachers also experience these benefits, but their programs often benefit in other ways as well. The most notable additional benefit is that many teaching strategies that are good for students with disabilities also turn out to benefit all students— benefits like careful planning of objectives, attention to individual differences among students, and establishment of a positive social atmosphere in the classroom. Later (in Chapters 9 and 10) we will return to these topics because of their importance for high- quality teaching. But at that point we will frame the topics around the needs of all students, whatever their individual qualities.
Since the 1970s support for people with disabilities has grown significantly, as reflected in the United States by three key pieces of legislation: the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The support has led to new educational practices, including alternative assessments for students with disabilities, placement in the least restrictive environment, and individual educational plans.
There are many ways of classifying people with disabilities, all of which carry risks of stereotyping and oversimplifying individuals' strengths and needs. For the purposes of education, the most frequent category is learning disabilities, which are difficulties with specific aspects of academic work. The high prevalence of learning disabilities makes this category especially ambiguous as a description of particular students. Assistance for students with learning disabilities can be framed in terms of behaviorist reinforcement, metacognitive strategies, or constructivist mentoring.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a problem in sustaining attention and controlling impulses. It can often be controlled with medications, but usually it is also important for teachers to provide a structured environment for the student as well.
Intellectual disabilities (or mental retardation) are general limitations in cognitive functioning as well as in the tasks of daily living. Contemporary experts tend to classify individuals with these disabilities according to the amount and frequency of support they need from others. Teachers can assist these students by giving more time and practice than usual, by including adaptive and functional skills in what they teach, and by making sure that the student is included in the daily life of the classroom.
Behavioral disorders are conditions in which students chronically perform highly inappropriate behaviors. Students with these problems present challenges for classroom management, which teachers can meet by identifying circumstances that trigger inappropriate behaviors, by teaching interpersonal skills explicitly, and by making sure that punishments or disciplinary actions are fair and have been previously agreed upon.
Physical and sensory disabilities are significant limitations in health, hearing, or vision. The signs both of hearing loss and of vision loss can be subtle, but can sometimes be observed over a period of time. Teaching students with either a hearing loss or a vision loss primarily involves making use of the students' residual sensory abilities and insuring that the student is included in and supported by the class as well as possible.
|Alternative assessment||Least restrictive environment (LRE)|
|Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990||Learning disabilities|
|Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)||Mental retardation|
|Behavioral disorders||Portfolio assessment|
|Contingency contracts||Rehabilitation Act of 1973|
|Hearing loss||Sensory impairment|
|Individuals with Disabilities Education Act||Transition planning|
|Individual educational plan (IEP)||Visual impairment|
On the Internet
Each of the following websites represents an organization focused on the needs of people with one particular type of disability. Each includes free access to archives of non-current journals and other publications, as well as information about conferences, professional training events, and political news relevant to persons with disabilities. (Note that the sponsoring organizations about hearing loss and about intellectual disabilities changed their names recently, though not their purposes, so their websites may eventually change names as well.)
< www.ldanatl.org > This is primarily about learning disabilities, but also somewhat about ADHD.
< www.add.org > This website is primarily about ADHD. Note that its website name uses an older terminology for this disability, ADD (no "H") for attention deficit disorder (with the term hyperactivity).
< www.shhh.org > This one primarily discusses about hearing loss.
< www.navh.org > This website is primarily about visual impairment.
< www.aamr.org > This one is primarily about intellectual disabilities or mental retardation.
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