Exceptional StudentsExceptional Students are those students with disabilities, and those who are gifted and talented, who may require special education services in school to reach their full educational potential.Special education is “the educationalprogramming designed to meet the uniquelearning and developmental needs of astudent who is exceptional.”
Individuals with Disabilities Individuals with disabilities often lose freedom of choice when participating in special programs. Their own ideas become a part of the plan dictated by service providers. Federal laws provide for the basic civil rights for individuals with disabilities, but even the laws do not prevent ignorance or insensitivity.
Brown v. Board of Education The 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education addressed segregation of African American students. Brown became the basis for almost all special education right-to-education litigation.
Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC) v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Using the Brown decision, attorneys argued that having undertaken a free public education for the children of Pennsylvania, the state could not deny children with mental retardation the same. The earlier students with mental retardation are provided education, the greater the amount of learning that can be predicted.
Mills v. Board of Education This case was a class action suit for 18,000 out-of- school children with disabilities in the District of Columbia. The children’s disabilities included behavior problems, hyperactivity, epilepsy, mental retardation, and physical impairments. The court mandated that the school district provide all children with disabilities a public-supported education.
Additional Legislation Most federal and state right-to-education laws are based on prior litigation (PARC, Mills, and others) giving educational rights to individuals with disabilities. The two earlier and most prominent pieces of legislation include Section 504 of P.L. 93-112 and P.L. 94-142 (the Education for All Handicapped Children Act).
Section 504“No otherwise qualified handicappedindividual in the United States . . . shall,solely by reason of his (or her) handicap, beexcluded from the participation in, be deniedthe benefits of, or be subjected todiscrimination under any program or activityreceiving federal financial assistance.”
P.L. 94-142 In 1975 Congress passed Public Law 94-142, naming it the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA, or EHCA). This law permanently changed the face of education in the United States.
IDEA, Since 1990 Students must have a Transition Plan in place, in their IEP, by age 16. Autism and Traumatic Brain Injury were added as separate categories of disability. Mediation allows parents a stronger voice and role should disagreements about a child’s IEP take place. Students with disabilities are ensured access to the general education curriculum. Key provisions are aligned with No Child Left Behind.
Public Law 101-336:Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Congress passed the ADA in 1990 because Section 504 was not sufficient and did not end discrimination for adults with disabilities. The ADA guarantees access to all aspects of life—not just those that are federally funded (as with Section 504)—to individuals with disabilities.
Society’s View of Disability Society’s view of people with disabilities parallels the media portrayal of these individuals. The media portrayal is often limited to: (1) children or childlike, with severe mental retardation or obvious physical stigmata or (2) persons with crippling conditions in wheelchairs or on crutches.
Society’s Perception of Individuals with Disabilities Disability dominates our perception of the individual’s social value. Although the terms are now politically incorrect, we still hear “blind man,” “deaf woman,” and “retarded kid”—terms that emphasize the disability before the person. Stereotypes of individuals with disabilities deny them a place in society, limiting their social and economic equality.
Exceptional Cultural Groups They often find comfort and security with each other in exceptional cultural groups. Individuals with visual and hearing impairments are the most likely to form their own cultural groups.
Disproportionate Placements Disproportionate placement of students of color in classes for students with disabilities is among the biggest problem areas in special education. The disproportion is greatest among African American males who are placed in classes for students with mental retardation and severe emotional disturbances. American Indian students are overrepresented in some disability categories, as are Hispanics in some states and Native Hawaiians in Hawaii.
Contributing Variables Incongruent values and backgrounds between students and teacher result in over-referrals. Students referred to special education are primarily African American males from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds. Teachers making referrals are primarily white, female, and middle class.
Educating Students with Exceptionalities They are more like, than unlike, other students. They should be assisted to become proficient at whatever they are capable of doing. They have the same basic needs as other children: communication, acceptance, and freedom to grow.
Normalization and Inclusion Normalization: Making regular experiences and ways of life available to people with disabilities. Least-restrictive environment (LRE) is a key component of IDEA, with placement in a setting closest to a regular or general education as is feasible for each student with a disability. Inclusion: Allowing students with disabilities to be educated in general education classrooms. Based on the general education classroom being the least restrictive environment for most, if not all, students. Inclusion is not federally mandated. LRE, however, is.
Full Inclusion Current trends within special education are toward inclusive placements in general education classes. There are also increasing numbers of full-inclusion placements, with full-day placement within all general education classes regardless of the type of disability or degree of disability.
Supporters of Full Inclusion For many or most supporters, full inclusion is more a moral and ethical issue of desegregation than academic efficacy. They view segregation of children with disabilities as immoral and unethical as segregation of students because of race.
Concerns With Inclusion Some supporters question the appropriateness of full inclusion for all children with disabilities regardless of the type or degree of disability. Concerns are raised over some students with such severe disabilities that nothing is gained academically and little socially. Some argue that inclusion of students with disabilities is a disrupting influence to other students.
Is it Possible? Serving students with disabilities in general education environments would be possible for most students with disabilities if: schools and teachers have adequate resources. all teachers and specialists received adequate training. federal and state funding was at appropriate levels (federal funding is currently at 18% of what was/is promised in the legislation). Courts will not support inadequate funding as a reason not to provide students with inclusive education.