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3. If you could change the way we provide services to children with disabilities, what would you recommend?
Elda De Haro-Ramirez
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Something that bothers me about the way services are provided to students with disabilities is the way they are qualified for services. Many schools will not consider testing students who are in kindergarten or even 1 st grade. They seem to think that the child is still developing that might be immature and not used to a structured school environment. This may be the case but I think that a disability or disorder should be ruled out. I think that early intervention and the correct educational setting is key to helping students with their particular disability, especially in cases like autism where communication is a major issue. The earlier that the students are exposed to speech therapy and other interventions the better the chances the student will have at overcoming their issues and be more successful in school and in general. I really dislike the way a student has to fall so far behind until they are even considered for special education testing. I understand that a system has to be in place and policies have to be followed but it shouldn’t be the case that the students have to suffer for months and sometimes years before they are helped and put into an appropriate program. General education teachers are the first to observe students and they might identify problem behavior, but I feel that sometimes they are ignored or not taken seriously. I feel that all valid concerns should be looked at even if the child is young. That is why there are early education teachers that are specialized to work with students with special needs.
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If I could change the way services are provided I think the biggest change I would make would be to lessen the stigma of special education. I believe that many children with mild disabilities go without special education due to embarrassment. This has been shown in research to lead to low self-esteem, under achievement and a pattern of unemployment for these individuals. I think one way to do this is by integrating more special education services and teaching modalities into the regular classroom process. I understand that this can be confusing and demanding but I feel it is absolutely necessary.
Another key issue is that parents are often not informed about the services available for children with special needs.
As someone else mentioned on this discussion board I am sure that there are people that abuse the system but I would bet that more children that need care are not getting it then vice versa. It seems there needs to be a forum for parents and teachers to discuss early on in the child’s education options for assistance if required at some future point.
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If I could change the way we provide services to children with disabilities it would be to change special education to full inclusion. I would have had a difficult time answering this question before this class. I believed only by limited experience, that children with disabilities should stay separated from regular education students. I did see some benefits come from mainstreaming and reverse-mainstreaming but, for the most part I did not see how you could place a child that is in special education in a regular classroom of students.
The data that has been presented shows our current special education system is not working. I have seen an example of inclusion working, working well!!! I have observed a program that has approximately twenty-five moderate-severe special education students at a high school prove inclusion works!!!
An Adaptive P.E. teacher took initiative with a regular P.E. teacher and decided together to create their current Peer Buddy Program.
The special education students dress out with some help, go to P.E., do the same sport as the regular education students are currently doing, and are enjoying the success of that for the first time. The two teacher work together to create what they call the Peer Buddies. The Peer Buddies are regular education students that have applied to be a buddy for one special education student in this P.E. class. The peers are responsible for their buddy. Buddies help keep their special education student on task, help them with the sport and technique that is being worked on, explain instruction again when necessary, and most importantly they are forming relationships. It is the peers regular P.E. time that they would complete for graduation credits. There are three other P.E. classes going on, just as there would always be four classes out for P.E. at any other given period. The peers also are required to respond to different questions weekly as part of their grade. It is amazing to read some of what the regular education students are learning from this experience. I believe there are some careers being formed out of this but, more importantly we are changing how a new generation sees special needs people. This new program has been a huge success for all the children!
Before the Peer Buddy Program, the same special education students had P.E. twice a week, did not dress out, did not participate in sports with the regular education students, and had only the Adaptive P.E. teacher teaching. The special education students were not very excited about P.E. time. Now they love it and are very happy to be “like the rest of the kids at school”. If could change how we provide services to children with disabilities, I would have full inclusion, all people working together, and teachers and students supporting each other.
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If I could change one thing about the way services are provided to students with special needs would be that once a student is diagnosed, services should begin. I would make sure that the student was evaluated as soon as possible to see what areas the student need help with. This is a particular topic that has come up recently in my classroom between the program specialist and I. One of my first grade students trips a lot and falls on the ground. He bumps into the wall and sometimes falls by tripping over his feet. In my eyes, he clearly needs physical therapy to strengthen his muscles. His balance is clearly way off and I wish this would have been something that would have been taken care of a long time ago. I spoke with his last teacher recently and she noticed that he would always trip over other students and always noticed he had terrible balance, but never got around to requesting a physical therapist to come in and observe him. His coordination is off and he needs physical therapy so that he isn’t so accident prone. This is just one thing that I would change when it comes to special education services. At my elementary school, our services providers are always collaborating on ideas and work together as a team. The physical and occupational therapist always work with me to figure out what the student may need or how we can work together to improve the deficit. I enjoy this about the service providers. They do exactly that: they provide the proper service for the student. I wish it the evaluations could be done faster, but I understand they have a lot of students on their case load to work with.
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It is easy to point out things that are wrong with the special education programs and the services that we as a society provide for special needs children as a hole. It is very difficult, however, to suggest changes that would benefit the system. I believe that one of the main changes that should be implemented is more training and education for current teachers; both in the special education field and in the regular classroom. Sometimes we all need a refresher course about methods that are the most helpful. I also feel that moving towards inclusion for the most part and having a separate learning center specifically designed for more focused one on one time would be helpful. With the change of including special needs children more time in the regular classroom new issues may arise. These would include issues with regards to how the other children would react to the special needs children in their class. I think that educating the other children about special needs children is also an important part to ensure the most success of their integration into the classroom. I believe that a lot of times the potential of a special needs child is hindered by our own beliefs that they cannot perform at the same level as the others. These children can feel that and perform accordingly sometimes; this becomes an issue of the self fulfilling prophecy. If there is a mind frame change to expect more from these children may increase their performance. I also believe that children with special needs should have an extra aide in the classroom at all times. This may reduce the stress and workload of the main teacher, but most importantly it provides a point of contact for children with special needs. This person can keep specific attention to these children and provide extra help in completing the tasks. I have seen that this works first hand, when I volunteer at the learning center in my town. This is a special education class and while the teacher does her lesson plan I walk around and keep the children motivated and on task if they are falling behind.
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I think the current trend in education is to streamline the services to students with disabilities. A team effort has been implemented to include parents, general education teachers, special education teachers, speech language pathologists, school psychologists, occupational therapists, administrators, physicians, regional center social workers and community members for transition services. I realize that the theory of what should be done is a lot different to the application of what really is done in the field.
I have heard and witnessed many teachers refusing to implement accommodations to their classroom lesson plans and behavior management systems to provide for students who need extra time, preprinted notes, frequent breaks, reduced homework loads, quiet areas to regroup, etc. I do not know how to retrain people who have been in the teaching field for 30 years and think what they have always done will still work for all students. If it were in my power, I would clean house and replace the teachers who refuse to evolve and try new techniques or refuse to change their mindsets.
Administrators need to become more involved in the day to day activities of student life. I have worked at many schools over the past decade, and administrator involvement seems to be the area that makes a huge difference in not only teacher moral but student services being met on an efficient and timely manner with priority. Someone needs to organize the services and make sure everyone is following through on what the current I.E.P. states those services, objectives and goals are to be. Parents have enough to do at home and should not be required to do school personnel duties. That leaves the special education teacher to be the team leader and stay vigilant for the students on their case load. Is it more work for me to make sure everyone else is doing their job, yes, but that is what I am signing up for. Student success will be the reward I need to keep going.
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From researching online, reading the material in the literature book and watching the video it became clear that many regular teachers either have fear of inclusion or don’t want to make the necessary changes in the classroom to accommodate children with disabilities. So if I could change the way we provide service to children with disabilities I would recommend first that every teachers take courses in special education to better educate themselves, whether they are specializing in the course or not and help them gain the knowledge needed to understand each individual child’s needs. Second each school and classroom in the United States would be partaking in the inclusion program. People are often time in fear of what they do not know and sometimes are afraid to change in the world. If educators become knowledgeable on the topic of special needs they will be more incline to want to include them and make the changes in the classroom to fit the child’s needs. Another thing I would change is how “Regular students” view children with disabilities, one way to do this is by not separating them and educating the regular students. See the children with disabilities already feel like they are secluded from the rest of the world and on their own and all they want to do is be treated like humans not like charity cases. So if the school systems just do away with the special education system and the general education system and make just one united system, there may be less division between the teachers and the students. Everyone one from parents to students and educators has to work as a team to ensure the best education is provided.
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I believe our school system needs to be more personal when dealing with special need children. The system has a lot of political instructions that need to be followed that I feel takes away from physically and emotionally learning about the child we are trying to educate. We all know that educating a disabilied child is extremely different, so why do we treat it as the child has done something wrong with excessive meetings with people who do not know anything about the child or his/her needs. Once the IEP is in place and years of learning about the child, finally the IEP is helpful in eduacting the child to fit their needs. Just because a child is deaf or has DS doesnt mean he falls right into some category, each child may be functioning or less depending on the situation. We have the principle who looks over the paperwork and the process and he/her has spent no time or very little with the student knowing their limitation, strengths, weaknesses. Even the speech therapists who comes in once a week has little experience with the child. We need to make the process of educating our special need students more hands on and direct. I feel the more we truely know about the student the better we can plan for their education.
Having aids for the children that need someone with them all the time is an important job. I believe we do not take this job to the seriousness that it needs. I have been in classrooms where a certain child has had 4 different aids over the course of 6 months. This may be rare but it should not happen to that extent. Almost every special needs child has trouble with a new routine and a new environment. How hard do you think it is for them to cope with having a new aid so often. How is the child suppose to feel safe, secury, and loved. We need to have a better process for how we hire individuals who work with special needs children.
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Inclusion is a big topic in special education. If I could change the way that we provide services to children with disabilities, I would recommend for the inclusion process to be a lot smoother that what it is at this point in time. There are many teachers that are hesitant or not properly prepared to have special needs children in the regular classroom. I understand that it is not an easy task to teach a regular education classroom along with special education children. A teacher cannot do this all by him/herself. There needs to be at least one to two classroom aids to assist the teacher. The classroom aids need to stay in the classroom the whole year so that the child with disabilities can learn to trust and accept the teacher and the aids. This will give the children a sense of security as well as a routine. As far as preparing the teachers, each student that is getting ready to become a teacher should also take several special education courses to be well aware of what is expected of them when practicing inclusion in their classroom. Aside from taking extra special education courses, teachers should also have an ongoing requirement to attend conferences, classes or any special training that will enhance their special education skills. School districts should also give teachers a bonus every year for being able to teach both regular education and special education in one setting. Any little extra compensation that can be given to teachers is a big help. Teachers are one of the hardest working people in the working industry.
Natasha Kandis Garcia
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One thing I would change about how we administer special education a service is not pulling them out from their regular education classrooms immediately after their diagnosis. Instead, I would leave them in their regular classroom and provide support for the regular education teacher. The services the child needs can be provided while they are still in the regular education classroom. Then, we could progressively pull the student into the special education classroom or resource room, as needed. I feel that there are many children in special education full time that do not belong there. I have learned that once they are in a program and we try to “mainstream” or “include” them in regular education it becomes very difficult. It is true that special education and different labels hold a stigma still today. Teachers often don’t want a child in their classroom because they feel the child is going to be too difficult to manage in their already large classroom. However in my opinion, they are just afraid of what they don’t know. If you think about it, sometimes these students have been in a regular education classroom for an amount of time, and the teacher was able to function to an extent. Obviously there was difficulty, but with identification of the issues and strategies to make them better, why not try to work on these issues in the safe and familiar setting of a regular education classroom, with their peers. So, I would try to make the option of a self contained classroom more of a last resort than a catch all. Another change I would make would be to ask regular education teachers to send their students who are always done first with their assignments or do very well academically to come and be peer tutors in the self contained special education classrooms. Hopefully, this will be another explanation of instruction as well as allow the students who are self contained to have access to grade level peers.
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After reading the assigned readings, viewing the videos and attending an observation class for the special needs students with disabilities I would want to give more advantages for the disabled students. For teachers and the school professionals to try to give the children with disabilities more opportunities to succeed, better, and be able to further their education. The one service I would recommend changing to provide better services to children with disabilities is allowing them to be able to interact more in general education classes with their peers who don’t have disabilities. The students with disabilities get to spend some or sometimes even none of their time in regular general education classes and I would like to see this change for them. I believe that the students with disabilities should be able to interact with their peers in regular classes and get the same education their peers get. And being able to interact with their peers who don’t have disabilities could even help the students with disabilities by them being able to see how their peers interact in activities or group activities that involve learning. This will show them what they could be capable of doing and giving them motivation to succeed and get better in their learning skills. Being in a regular classroom is very important to a students with disabilities learning process because they will get to learn objectives that are not taught in their classroom, they get to expand their learning and gain more knowledge from the teachers and students who help them in the regular classrooms.
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Jennifer Kozar If you could change the way we provide services to children withdisabilities, what would you recommend? One of the things that I would recommend is more teaching supportand training for the teachers that are providing the daily routine and activitiesto teach children with disabilities. Many teachers today are hesitant when itcomes to teaching students with disabilities. These hesitant can be from thelack of knowledge needed to provide the best teaching strategies possible. Theycan also be from the lack of knowledge of the disability. If teachers could beprovided with the disabilities that their students have in advance to beingplaced in their classroom, then they can research it and develop a plan tomodify their daily instruction to the needs of all the students. Another thing I would recommend is for teachers to take smallsteps to teach children with disabilities. Some teachers feel they are on avery tight schedule and do not have time to break down an assignment forstudents that may not understand it like students without disabilities. Justtaking a few minutes out of their schedule could help a student with disabilitiesto better understand what is being taught. Providing the disabled student withmaybe a picture of step by step instruction of the lecture that is being taughtcan provide advance knowledge of the lesson for that student and free up sometime of the instructor. This way the teacher can teach the lesson with minimal interruptions.I feel these two recommendations are a good starting point for the way weprovide services to disabled students.
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If I could change the way special education is provided, I would change it by mainstreaming students into the general education population. Studies have shown that the current programs we have in place are not working. Many students feel ashamed of being labeled and are embarrassed by their SDC placement. Students who are pulled out to work with an RSP teacher feel embarrassed as well. By the time these students reach high school, they are suffering from low self-esteem. Many times these students feel like they don’t belong with the general education population. Our main goal as educators is to teach our students to be successful and productive members of society. If they don’t feel like they belong with the general population, by the time they leave school, then we have been unsuccessful. Other students can also benefit from full inclusion: the general education students can learn to be more accepting of others. I think we underestimate the power of peer influence. I keep thinking about the movie, “Educating Peter.” Peter seemed to learn so much from the other children in his class. He saw the other children as models of proper classroom behavior. He was able to learn how to make and keep friends. I think we have cut children short of some amazing experiences by hiding them away in a separate class. Of course in order to make full inclusion a reality, we must first work on educating teachers, both special and general, on how to collaborate with one another. Many teachers have become so comfortable with they way things currently are, they are unwilling to change. We need to come together as educators for the success of all our students
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If you could change the way we provide services to children with disabilities, what would you recommend? If I could change one thing about how we provide services to children with disabilities it would be to provided more support and teacher training for regular education teachers. One thing I have noticed about regular education teachers is that they have mixed feelings about students with disabilities. Some teachers do not know what to do with them in their classroom. I find this a struggle when working with the regular education teachers of my RSP students. I provide support for my students for certain amounts of time per day. However, they are not receiving any support from their regular education teacher. Just because they do not have a special education credential does not mean that they should not be educated in the field to ensure that their students are successful. All teachers should be required to attend training to receive support about students with disabilities that may be in their classroom. This extra support would allow them to better educate their students and not feel so overwhelmed with more work. Maybe if teachers received more support for educating students with disabilities then they might have more positive feelings about these students. It is bad enough that students with disabilities are treated differently by other students, they should not be treated differently from their teachers as well. Students with disabilities deserve and equal education just like every other student, and they also deserve to be treated with respect by peers and teachers. By educating and supporting regular education teachers, students with disabilities can receive the education, respect, and care that they deserve.