According to Wikipedia, special needs is a term used in clinical diagnostic and functional development to describe individuals who require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological (2012).
Medical Issues Children with serious conditions like cancer and heart defects, muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis; chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes; congenital conditions like cerebral palsy and dwarfism; and health threats like food allergies and obesity (Mauro, 2012). Children with medical issues may require numerous tests, long hospital stays, expensive equipment, and accommodations for disabilities. (Mauro, 2012). Behavior Issues Children who do not respond to traditional discipline. With diagnoses like ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Dysfunction of Sensory Integration, and Tourette Syndrome, they require specialized strategies that are tailored to their specific abilities and disabilities (Mauro, 2012).
Learning Issues Children with Dyslexia and Central Auditory Processing Disorder struggle with schoolwork and require specialized learning strategies to meet their potential and avoid self-esteem problems and behavioral difficulties (Mauro, 2012). Mental Health Issues Children may experience Anxiety or Depression suddenly. They may need to seek professional help and make hard decisions about therapy, medications, and hospitalization (Mauro, 2012). Developmental Issues Diagnoses like Autism, Down Syndrome, and Intellectual Disabilities (Mauro, 2012).
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Section 504 of the act states that "no otherwise qualified" individual with a disability "shall solely by reason of his [disability], be excluded from participation in... any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance..." (US Department of Justice, 2005). Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) Title II states that it is illegal for a qualified individual with a disability, by reason of the disability, to be excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity, which includes public schools. Public services cannot be provided in a segregated fashion simply because it is administratively or fiscally more convenient (US Department of Justice, 2005). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) A federal law enacted in 1990 and reauthorized in 1997 and 2004. It is designed to protect the rights of students with disabilities by ensuring that everyone receives free appropriate public education (FAPE), regardless of ability. Furthermore, IDEA strives not only to grant equal access to students with disabilities, but also to provide additional special education services and procedural safeguards (US Department of Justice, 2005).
Least Restrictive Environment A child with a disability should be served in the regular classroom with as much interaction with his or her non- handicapped classmates as possible. A child with a disability may only be removed from the regular classroom when the nature or severity of the disability is such that the education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily, even with the use of supplementary aids and services. However, for specific areas of intensive training, it is appropriate to remove a child from the regular classroom. For example, a child with a reading disability may appropriately be educated in most academic areas in the regular classroom with assistance in note taking and test taking, but it may be necessary to remove the child from the classroom to work in a small group or one-on-one specifically in the area of reading. The childs placement and the services he or she will receive depend on the childs individual needs, not on administrative convenience (Least restrictive environment and inclusion)
Supported Inclusive Education Refers to the opportunity for all students, regardless of their disability, to be educated in age-appropriate general education classes in their neighborhood school in natural proportions. All necessary supports are provided to students and educators to ensure meaningful participation in the total school community. Students may be engaged in the same activity with or without modifications, or may be engaged in parallel activities (i.e., same content area but different activity). Inclusion has come to be preferred primarily because it connotes that students with disabilities are considered part of the general education classroom. "Inclusion is a right, not a privilege for a select few. While this surely requires considerable effort on the part of educators... it is a small price to pay to increase the opportunity of individuals with disabilities to become fully functioning, productive, and co- equal members of society." (Least restrictive environment and inclusion)
Assistive technology “Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability" (IDEA, 1997, 20, USC, Ch. 33, Sec. 1401  US). The level of guidance and support necessary for each student in the classroom may vary greatly; the student may need anything from physical, verbal, or visual prompts to high-technology devices and services. "No" technology and "low" technology devices do not require electronic equipment and may need only a simple accommodation, are usually readily available, and are cost effective; "high" technology requires a high-maintenance electronic system and, hence, is more costly (Purcell & Grant, 2002) (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory). High-Tech: Relatively expensive devices that contain microcomputer components for storage and retrieval of information Talking calculators or word processors Word prediction, graphic organizer, or flowchart software On–screen math, computer calculations Communications device/software (Assistive technology, 2000)
Examples of Assistive Technology Mid-Tech: Moderately priced, easy to operate electronic devices Tape or digital recorders Electronic dictionaries or organizers Audio books Special lighting or acoustical treatments Adapted keyboards Audible word scanning devices (Assistive technology, 2000) Low-Tech: Low-cost, typically non electronic devices Raised-line, colored, or grid paper Correction tape or pens Highlighter tape or pens Velcro Adapted furniture, tools, or utensils Manual communication boards Large print books Magnifiers Line guides Pencil grips (Assistive technology, 2000)
Tips for Academic and Behavioral Success Make sure that the learning objectives are clear and easy to read and understand Provide written individual instructional guides if needed to insure that students stay focused and on task Provide clear expectations for Instructional assistants/resource staff to guide students through the lesson Create kinesthetic opportunities for hands on manipulations/performance based assessments Provide visual aids if needed to accompany the lesson objectives Create classroom transitions that provide students with before and after warning reminders during activity or lesson changes Make sure that the proper and expected lesson modifications/accommodations are being implemented Include student interest in lesson changes to create accessible and fun lessons Create smaller chunks of information for understanding and processing of the learning objectives Provide practice opportunities for students to understand the lesson expectations Model what you teach with clear, concise steps and processing. Incorporate assistive technology hen indicated by students IEP or learning need Provide celebrations and reinforcement incentives for positive and constructive behavior in the classroom Create lesson assessments that are doable and challenges the student masters the expected outcome Make lessons fun and teaching fun(Stonecypher, (2011)
Preparation for Adult Living: The goal of education is to prepare individuals to be contributing members of society. By attending their local schools, students with disabilities can practice skills in the actual community settings where theyre needed and they can then develop a sense of belonging. Improved Learning Through Peers and Greater Exposure: Students with disabilities who are placed in general education classes have opportunities to grow socially and academically through peer models and exposure to a greater variety of experiences. Growth for Peers: Peers without disabilities learn to develop skills in dealing with others who are different from them. It leads to growth in self-esteem and interpersonal behaviors, Effective Use of Resources: Special educators provide support in that setting. This affords students the opportunity to learn from special educators, general education classroom teachers, and classmates. The entire class benefits from the collaboration of general education and special educators. Friendship Development: Inclusion affords students with and without disabilities opportunities to become friends with one another. Acceptance of Differences: Breaks down barriers and help people to understand each other better. Team Building: Results in improved instruction for students and improved staff morale. Focus on Strengths: Inclusive education programs are characterized by a focus on the students strengths, rather than the students deficits. This emphasis enables the educators to look closely at areas where the student is functioning most like his typical peers, and these strengths are then used to facilitate positive interactions with classmates. Support of Civil Rights: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) entitles all children with disabilities to free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment(Least restrictive environment and inclusion)
Assistive technology. (2000). Teaching resources for Florida. Retrieved from: http://www.cpt.fsu.edu/eseold/in/acom/tech.html Disability info. Children with special needs. (2011). Retrieved from http://childrenwithspecialneeds.com/index.php/disability-info.html Least restrictive environment and inclusion. Retrieved from: http://www.spannj.org/BasicRights/least_restrictive_environment.htm Mauro, T. (2012). What are special needs? About.com. Retrieved from: http://specialchildren.about.com/od/gettingadiagnosis/p/whatare.htm North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. Assistive technology to meet K- 12 students needs. Retrieved from: http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/technlgy/te7assist.htm Stonecypher, L. (2011). Modifications and accommodations in lesson planning. Brighthub. Retrieved from: http://www.brighthub.com/education/special/articles/30418.aspx US Department of Justice (2005). A guide to disability rights laws. Retrieved from: http://www.ada.gov/cguide.htm Wikipedia. (2012). Special needs. Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_needs