Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

5.9: The Value of Including Students with Special Needs

  • Page ID
    11520
  • 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.

    Chapter summary

    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.

    Key terms

    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
    Intellectual disabilities

    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.

    References

    Algozzine, R. & Ysseldyke, J. (2006). Teaching students with emotional disturbance: A practical guide for every teacher. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

    American Association on Mental Retardation. (2002). Definition, classification, and system of supports, 10 th edition. Washington, D.C.: Author.

    American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, DSM-IV- TR (text revision). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.

    Biklen, S. & Kliewer, C. (2006). Constructing competence: Autism, voice and the "disordered" body. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 10(2/3), 169-188.

    Bogdan, D., Attfield, R., Bissonnette, L., Blackman, L., Burke, J., Mukopadhyay, T., & Rubin, S. (Eds.). (2005). Autism: The myth of the person alone. New York: New York University Press.

    Bogdan, D. (2006). Who maybe literate? Disability and resistance to the cultural denial of competence. American Educational Research Journal, 43(2), 163-192.

    Bradley, M. & Mandell, D. (2005). Oppositional defiant disorder: A systematic review of the evidence of intervention effectiveness. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 34(1), 343-365.

    Carothers, D. & Taylor, R. (2003). Use of portfolios for students with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disorders, 18(2), 121-124.

    Chamberlain, S. (2005). Recognizing and responding to cultural differences in the education of culturally and linguistically diverse learners. Intervention in School and Clinic, 40(4), 195-211.

    Green, S., Davis, C, Karshmer, E., March, P. & Straight, B. (2005). Living stigma: The impact of labeling, stereotyping, separation, status loss, and discrimination in the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families. Sociological Inquiry , 75(2), 197-215.

    Hallahan, D. & Kauffman, J. (2006). Exceptional learners: Introduction to special education, 10 th edition. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    Heineman, M., Dunlap, G., & Kincaid, D. (2005). Positive support strategies for students with behavioral disorders in regular classrooms. Psychology in the Schools, 42(8), 779-794.

    Kauffman, J. (2005). Characteristics of children with emotional and behavioral disorders, 8 th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.

    Keller, H. (1952). The story of my life. New York: Doubleday. Kelly, S. (2004). Are teachers tracked? On what basis and with what consequences. Social psychology in education, 7(1), 55~72.

    Koretz, D. & Barton, K. (2003/2004). Assessing students with disabilities: Issues and evidence. Assessment and Evaluation, 9(1 & 2), 29-60.

    Luckner, J. L. & Carter, K. (2001). Essential Competencies for Teaching Students with Hearing Loss and Additional Disabilities. 146(1), 7-15.

    Newburn, T. & Shiner, M. (2006). Young people, mentoring and social inclusion. Youth Justice, 6(1), 23-41.

    Oakes, J. (2005). Keeping track: How schools structure inequality, 2 nd edition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    Olfson, M., Gameroff, M., Marcus, S., & Jensen, P. (2003). National trends in the treatment of ADHD. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 1071-1077.

    Public Law 93-112, 87 Stat. 394 (Sept. 26, 1973). Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office.

    Public Law 101-336, 104 Stat. 327 (July 26, 1990). Americans with Disabilities Act 0/1990. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office.

    Public Law 108-446, 118 Stat. 2647 (December 3, 2004). Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office.

    Puffin, D. (2005). When one size does not fit all: The special challenges of accountability testing for students with disabilities. Yearbook of the National Society for Studies in Education, 104(2), 199.

    Quinn, M. (2002). Changing antisocial behavior patterns in young boys: a structured cooperative learning approach. Education and treatment of young children, 25(4), 380-395.

    Robinson, W. (1982). Critical essays on Phillis Wheatley. Boston: Hall Publishers.

    Rutter, M. (2004). Pathways of genetic influences in psychopathology. European Review, 12, 19-33.

    Rutter, M. (2005). Multiple meanings of a developmental perspective on psychopathology. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 2(3), 221-252.

    Schalock, R. & Luckasson, R. (2004). American Association on Mental Retardation's Definition, Classification, & System of Supports, 10 th edition. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 1(3/4), 136-146.

    Sherer, M. (2004). Connecting to learn: Educational and assistive technology for people with disabilities. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

    Snell, M., Janney, R., Elliott, J., Beck, M., Colley, K., & Burton, C. (2005). Collaborative teaming: Teachers' guide to inclusive practices. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing Co.

    Stowitschek, J., Lovitt, T., & Rodriguez, J. (2001). Patterns of collaboration in secondary education for youth with special needs: Profiles of three high schools. Urban Education, 36(1), 93-128.

    Sullivan, A. K. & Strang, H. R. (2002/2003). Bibliotherapy in the Classroom: Using Literature to Promote the Development of Emotional Intelligence. Childhood Education 79(2), 74-80.

    Tierney, J., Grossman, J., & Resch, N. (1995). Making a difference: An impact study of big brothers big sisters. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.

    United States Department of Education. (2005). 27 th Annual Report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, D.C.: Author.

    Wesson, C. & King, R. (1996). Portfolio assessment and special education students. Teaching Exceptional Children, 28(2), 44-48.

    West, L., Corbey, S., Boyer-Stephens, A., Jones, B. Miller, R., & Sarkees-Wircenski, M. (1999). Integrating transition planning into the IEP process, 2 nd edition. Alexandria, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.

    Wilens, T., McBurnett, K., Stein, M., Lerner, M., Spencer, T., & Wolraich, M. (2005). ADHD treatment with once-daily methylphenidate. Journal of American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 44(10), 1015-1023.

    Wilkinson, L. (2003). Using behavioral consultation to reduce challenging behavior in the classroom. Psychology in the schools, 47(3), 100-105.

    Ysseldyke, J. & Bielinski, J. (2002). Effect of different methods of reporting and reclassification on trends in test scores for students with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 68(2), 189-201.