UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION, WINNEBA
DEPARTMENT OF BASIC EDUCATION
POST-DIPLOMA IN BASIC EDUCATION (SANDWICH)
What is the relevance of special education to the teacher?
Hallahan and Kauffman (1987), said that special education is specially designed education
which meets the unique needs of an exceptional child. These authors argued that meeting
the unique needs of children involves the use of special material, teaching techniques,
equipment and other facilities critical to survive.
It is an enriched form of general education that seeks to improve the overall status of
exceptional children and adults (UNESCO 1983).
Also, Smith (1993) defined special education as a set of instructions that is individually
tailored to meet the unique needs of a child with exceptionality, taking into account the
child’s individual learning strength, and weakness rather than following one set curriculum
as regular education does.
The relevance of special education to the teacher can be viewed from the following
Special education will help teachers to appreciate the importance of individual
differences, knowing that all learners do not develop at the same level and are not
likely to learn the same things at the same time. This will help to underscore
individual strength and weakness. When that is established teachers can then learn
to teach towards the differential learning of all children. Even though Piaget said
that all children go through the same form of sequential observation about their
world and make similar mistakes, the teacher should be careful in using the models
of Piaget to interpret the learning styles of children with intellectual difficulties
because such children do not consistently follow Piaget’s model owing to organic
problems, cognitive difficulties or delayed development. Dockrell and McShane
(1992) said that children’s task are properly analysed, teachers would be able to
determine the cognitive demands task have on children and so be able to establish
exactly where to meet the child. Their explanation of learning difficulties revolve
around the task, the child and environment, and the complex interchange among
these is a way of understanding how children learn. Many regulator teachers are
not aware of these complexities.
Teachers will understand that some children have vision but canot read, a
phenomenon called word blindness, while some children will have difficulties with
specific school subject not because they are lazy but their problem is a result of
intrinsic or inherent problems. Special education improves and develops a variety of
teaching methodologies, equips the teacher with the capacity to procure and use a
wide range of teaching and learning materials that can be adapted to suit learning
needs of every individual.
Teachers will be able to educate parents on how to manage special children; parents
of special children should be able to bring their children to be educated; parents
should no longer be haunted by the feeling of stigmatization. Parents and teachers
will become more aware of the causes and prevention of disabilities. The
rationalisation that disabilities are caused by the gods will no longer influence their
thinking and this could be a solid basis for creating awareness within communities
as opinion leaders.
Knowledge of special education will also equip the teacher with the know-how to
identify disabilities early enough for effective management processes. Children with
specific disabilities will be identified and educational provision made for them, since
it is anticipated that the regular classroom teacher would become familiar with
characteristics and signs of disabilities.
The ill-informed and negative impression about special education and special
teachers will change, once regular teachers become aware that special education is
not exclusively for persons with obvious disabilities. Teachers will become aware of
their children’s disabilities as well as their own disabilities. They will realized that
special education cuts across all subjects, and that where their subjects end is
precisely where special education begins.
It is a UNESCO requirement that every teacher should study special need education
to get acquainted with the characteristics, needs and capabilities of children with
exceptionalities. Through special education, more children with disabilities will be
accepted in schools and teachers will understand that certain disabilities such as
epilepsy are not contagious and this is likely to form a solid base for inclusive
classroom ultimately leading to an inclusive society.
Knowledge in special education will expose the teacher to scientific causes of
disabilities. Teachers will be aware of the complexities involved in knocking pupils
on the head in class or hitting their head since that can result in disabilities.
Teachers will be able to understand the learning difficulties and problems of
children. They will also have an insight into the psychology of disabilities. Based on
insight into children’s difficulties appropriate referral will be made and thereby the
will be helping to save the lives of many children who otherwise are at risk for
Teachers will develop a better understanding of their own successes, failures and
struggles during their school period and use this understanding of learning
problems to prevent other children from going through such traumatic and lonely
experiences while they are under their care.
Clearly, special education has a lot of relevance for the teacher and it is therefore important
for all teachers to be exposed to rudiments in special education so as to become effective in
their teaching, understanding the needs of all pupils and help children who will be at risk
for disabilities and failure in school.
Avoke, M (2008) Introduction to Special Education for Universities and Colleges,
Accra: City Publishers.
Ocloo M.A, D.B.M &Boison (2001) Comprehensive Study Notes on Special Education.
Department of Special Education, Winneba.