Accommodations in the Classroom

“The number of children and youth ages 3-21 receiving special education was 6.5 million… 35% had specific learning disabilities.” (Carr) Schools make accommodations to aid these students. My research topic discusses the type of support given to children with deficits and I chose this topic because I am interested in and curious about the ways their needs are accommodated. In Temple Grandin’s chapter “From the Margins to the Mainstream” in The Autistic Brain, she gave advice about how people with an atypical way of thinking can better themselves. My research question is “How do mentors/teachers help students with disabilities and how can the support benefit the kids?” My answer is: Mentors or teachers must abide by the laws that protects the rights of children (who have disabilities) to be in a classroom, looking for ways like using visual supports to assist them and knowing the child that they will spend countless hours with.

There are laws, for instance Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, that protect the rights of people who have disabilities. In Section 504, it states “…no otherwise qualified handicapped individual shall, solely by reason of the handicapped be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance” (Earl). This law allows any person with a disability to be involved in any activity s/he wants and to be able to participate if s/he wishes. Individuals who are handicapped (in need of extra support) should not be denied to take part in any program/activities, or be discriminated against. ADA is similar: “(ADA) reinforced the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act by requiring that all public facilities, services, and communications be accessible to persons with disabilities and that auxiliary aids and services be provided unless an undue burden would result” (Source #4). ADA requires public facilities to provide accommodations for people with needs. This way they are aided without the presence of a helper. In a sense, they are being responsible for themselves, and are able to use the accommodations provided in public so they won’t have struggles. It is provided for kids in schools, and teacher/mentors ensure that they guide them in class. “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act makes sure that kids who have deficits have the right to be in the same classroom as to those who don’t, learning general education.” (Lee) The IDEA act demonstrates equity among all students, ones who have specific learning disabilities and who do not. For instance, they give students space when they are overstimulated so they’ll find relief. For example, disabled students who have ADHD need a designated area to let out their hyperactive energy. This way, the school will know the services they need to provide for the student to be well taken care of. All laws have one intention: to provide equity for people (all ages) with disabilities and a chance to take part in society without the feeling of being an outcast or “abnormal”.

Furthermore, an example of a way teachers assist students with disabilities in the classroom is through the help of visual supports. Visual supports help a student, especially one who has autism, thrive in class. “Visual Support Help by: Allowing students to focus, making abstract concepts more visually concrete, allowing students to express their thoughts, bringing routine, structure and sequence, reducing anxiety, and serving as a tool to assist with transitions” (Ferry). A way they can help is, for instance, if students have a severe language impairment, visuals can help the student connect with others. This type of support helps give the student a sense of responsibility and independence by allowing the kids to manage and comprehend their own tasks. A visual schedule, a type of visual support, is based on a “first-then” strategy where the student can transition independently. It can also have various social interactions inputted to assist the student in communicating with others. They can see what work needs to be done, in what order, and color coding or labeling benefits them greatly because it stands out to them (Ferry). Visual supports are a perfect example of ways that teachers or mentors help disabled students. It lessens their anxiety level meaning that the students won’t have struggles and develop any challenging behaviors. In Temple Grandin’s chapter, “From the Margins to the Mainstream”, she stated how in the world there are different types of thinkers. Visual supports serve the picture thinkers, one type of three thinkers (pattern, picture, and word-fact thinkers) Kids who were diagnosed with autism have trouble communicating and interacting, so visual supports benefit them immensely, and they use them to navigate throughout the day.

In addition, a mentor or teacher must acknowledge a student’s needs by understanding the child they will be spending most of their time with. The more the teachers know their student, the more they can adapt their teaching to their needs. As teachers change the way they teach in order for the student to understand better, that will “provide equal access to instruction and assessment”. (Lee) Special ed students are not given a special advantage in class, and are treated equally like the other students. The classroom is staffed with a regular teacher and special ed teacher. First and foremost, in order to create a safe and welcoming environment, ground rules are set. The purpose of this is to “create a sense of order and help establish an inclusive and safe learning environment.” (How to Support Special Needs) This ensures that the student won’t experience any negative events, and that students who are not disabled learn to appreciate and praise individual differences. This also encourages diversity in the classroom, which cultivates an environment where a handicapped child feels safe and at peace. Teachers, on the other hand, base their lesson plans off of IEPs, where they learn more about the student. Not only that, but IDEA gives the parents a role in indicating how the school should take care of their child (How to Support Special Needs). In this way, teachers and parents communicate and can contribute to having a reliable plan to accommodate the child. Teachers can suggest ways parents can help their child at home. Both parents and teachers know the child very well, meaning that they can work together to see how to support him/her greatly. They can develop multiple teaching methods that will aid the student. This demonstrates great communication between the adults, the people who guide and push the child to do his/her best, which will prevent any problems from surfacing or becoming worse. Teachers and mentors first understand the student, getting to know who they are, and then they are able to know what they can do to building on what they can already do.

Teachers and mentors acknowledge laws that help protect the rights of children who have disabilities, to have a better understanding of not only the child but the type of support they should give. This doesn’t mean that mentors/teachers ignore students’ learning disabilities, but rather that they won’t take pity on their labels. These laws and acts do not center the disabled people’s deficits, but instead focus on ways to support them. At first I thought that these types of helpful gestures were made because society saw people who are disabled as less and pathologized them due to their “condition,” but now I understand that this is not the case. They did not want to change people with disabilities so they can be like everyone else, but they want to guide them, by building on the skills that nature gave them. They are similar to us, actually; they lack things we have and we lack things they have. What I mean by this is that though they might need extra support in class and in public, their skills do not change. People who have autism, for example, struggle with social interactions but their mind can focus on the minutest details that we who have a “typical” brain neglect. They have impressive skills, like Temple Grandin who invented a more humane livestock handling systems, though she had an atypical way of thinking (her having autism). Moving forward with this information I gathered from our research, I have improved my perspective towards disabled individuals. Though they have limits, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of anything that I can do.

MLA Citations

Carr G., Peggy.  The Condition of Education. National Center for Education Statistics, May 2016, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cgg.asp. Accessed 21 March 2017.

Ferry, Melissa. 5 Visual Support Tools for the Special Education Classroom, Friendship Circle, 12 January 2012, http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2012/01/12/5-visual-support-tools-for-the-special-education-classroom/. Accessed 5 March 2017.

How to Support Special Needs. PhD in Special Education, 2014, http://phdinspecialeducation.com/how-to-support-special-needs-students/. Accessed 5 March 2017.

Lee M.I., Andrew. How IDEA Protects You and Your Child. Understood, 2014-2017, https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/your-childs-rights/basics-about-childs-rights/how-idea-protects-you-and-your-child. Accessed 2 March 2017.

Stevenson, Tiffini. Assisting Students with Disabilities: A Guide for Instructors, The University of Iowa 2017. https://diversity.uiowa.edu/policies/assisting-students-disabilities-guide-instructors. Accessed 5 March 2017.

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