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Article

Dyslexia: Conceptualization, Assessment, and Intervention  

Julian G. Elliott

Scholars, teachers, clinicians, and the general public have puzzled over the nature and consequences of severe reading (decoding) problems for more than a century. With the advances of genetics, neuroscience, and psychology, we know much about the underlying nature of reading disability. However, we still have much to learn, and fierce debate continues about whether there is a subgroup of poor readers who can, or should, be called dyslexic. This issue has become highly contentious, as gaining the label can bring significant benefits in terms of resourcing, various forms of test and classroom accommodation, and more positive and understanding responses from others. Many clinicians argue that special cognitive tests are needed to identify and diagnose those with dyslexia. These may take the form of general tests of IQ, or measures of more specific cognitive or executive functioning. Despite their popularity, the evidence for the utility of such measures is low, and many of the processes examined are often problematic for all poor readers, not merely the subgroup deemed to have dyslexia. A further difficulty concerns intervention. There is no strong scientific support for the notion that intervention programs designed to improve underlying cognitive processes (e.g., memory processes) can successfully improve the reading accuracy of those who struggle to acquire literacy. Similarly, interventions geared to improve visual or motor functioning have not proven successful, despite often vociferous support from adherents. The only approach that has strong scientific support takes the form of an educational program that utilizes systematic, structured phonics teaching as part of a broader literacy curriculum. This finding applies equally to those who have been diagnosed as dyslexic and those poor readers who haven’t. For this reason, it is unclear how a dyslexia diagnosis helps to inform the nature of subsequent intervention. In establishing effective forms of intervention that can cater for any child who struggles with their reading, it would appear most efficacious to utilize what is known as a “response to intervention” approach. This requires early identification of, and intervention with, all those who are making limited progress. Intervention should only utilize those approaches that have strong scientific support. The nature and extent of additional educational support should be determined on the basis of the progress that is made when additional help is given. If insufficient progress has resulted, it may well be necessary to increase and intensify the intervention. Such an approach helps to ensure that all struggling children are helped at an early stage, and no one is missed because of an absence of parental advocacy or a lack of family resource that can cover the cost of diagnostic assessment.

Article

Evidence-based Practices for Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities  

Rubina S. Lal and M. Thomas Kishore

Learning disability (LD) is a broad term to refer to disorders related to listening, speaking, reasoning, reading, writing, and mathematical calculation. Though the term LD is used to refer to individuals with intellectual disabilities in some countries, the authors use it in this chapter to refer to “Specific Learning Disabilities.” Students with LDs will typically have average or above-average intelligence. Significant features are problems in language-processing skills and a mismatch between the student’s intellectual ability and his or her academic performance. Hyperactivity, attention deficits, and socio-emotional adversities have been associated with learning disability, but cannot explain it. Since people with LDs do not have physical manifestation of the condition, it often goes unnoticed during early childhood. The problems become evident only when the child enters school, where the academic and social demands they face are far greater than their individual learning ability. Comprehensive assessment of the core skills in the areas of reading, writing, reasoning, and mathematics should be done using multiple measures, both standardized and nonstandardized. The assessment process may need inputs from a multidisciplinary team. Qualitative and quantitative data from the assessment is required in order to select suitable teaching strategies for students with LDs. There are several approaches for identification of an LD, but a discrepancy between intellectual ability and academic achievement as a key indicator seems to be widely followed; and the Response to Intervention (RTI) method is specifically popular in educational settings. The RTI is a research-based assessment and teaching method of ascertaining how a student responds to interventions in core curricular areas given in group and individual sessions. Use of RTI reflects a paradigmatic shift from the discrepancy model, which allowed the student to fail before interventions were made. While enabling the identification of students in need of services through individualized education program, RTI is an instructional model designed to improve the academic performance of all students in the class, with varying levels of instruction to suit their individual needs. The psychoeducational approach is also popular as a means of assessing LDs among educators because it allows linking of cognitive and psychological processes with the acquisition of core academic skills which in turn will help in providing comprehensive remediation. There are several effective intervention strategies for enhancing reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. Some of the strategies are universal and some are specific to the targeted language. Intervention programs vary with reference to the age and grade, and use of information and technology. However, all programs depend on teachers’ abilities and on a supportive school environment. Teachers’ knowledge about nature and needs of students with learning disabilities, and their ability to use research-based teaching methods are crucial to ensure positive learning outcomes for such students. Appropriate curricular input at preservice training level, mentoring and support of newly inducted teachers, and ongoing professional development are key factors for building teacher competency. School management has an important role in creating the necessary infrastructure and resources for effective assessment, intervention, and evaluation of students. Administrators must support the use of appropriate and culture-fair assessment tools, research-based teaching strategies, documentation, and importantly, collaboration among the members of the educational and multidisciplinary teams. However, much of the literature comes from English-speaking countries. Since LDs are a language-based problem and there are multiple languages across the globe, there is a lot of scope for documenting evidence-based practices from non-English-speaking settings.

Article

Teaching Efficacy and Inclusive Practices in Asian Countries  

M. Tariq Ahsan and Md. Saiful Malak

Since 2010, understanding teacher efficacy for effective inclusive practices has consistently been prioritized by inclusive education researchers. However, a leading-edge conceptualization about the type and degree of teacher efficacy essentially required for teachers to make a classroom inclusive is unclear. Specifically, a set of comprehensive evidence-based components of teacher efficacy is an intense demand of the contemporary age of inclusive schooling. The evidence generated through research regarding effective inclusive teacher efficacy in various contexts of the world indicates that some generic universal trends in variables that have an impact on teaching efficacy are perceptible along with some contextual factors that influence teaching efficacy for inclusive practices. Specifically, research studies conducted with a focus on Asian countries identified some unique contextual variables (i.e., gender, class size, etc.) that have contrasting findings on developing teaching efficacy for inclusive practices. Considering such common and distinct research-evidences a mechanism on enhancing efficacy for teachers and professionals is essential to better practice inclusive education.

Article

Examining the Cost of Special Education  

Joanne Banks

Internationally, debates about how students with disabilities are resourced in mainstream education are complex. Spiraling costs have resulted in many funding systems calling for ‘cost control’ or systems of accountability for how funding and resources are distributed. Although inclusive education policies have created closer links between general and ‘special education’, the funding mechanisms underlying these systems still tend to remain administratively separate. The reasons for this are often historical but also relate to the consistently higher cost associated with resourcing students with disabilities compared to their peers in mainstream education. The increase in the number of students with disabilities now means that many countries are struggling to keep these costs within budget while maintaining inclusive education practices. A tension exists between those who think that students with disabilities are under-resourced, with a possible crisis emerging as schools try to cope with the increased demands, and others who argue that inclusive education cannot be achieved by simply increasing funds. The latter group focuses on the quality of leadership and the teaching staff in schools that brings about inclusive practices. The type of funding mechanism is important, and is closely linked to inclusive education. Research shows that the way in which funding and resources are allocated to students with additional needs in mainstream schools can impact the prevalence of students with a disability and inclusive practices in that school. There is little or no consensus on the most inclusive or cost-effective funding model. As a result, reform of existing models continues across different national contexts. This high level of activity is often related to a growing awareness by governments of the financial incentives and disincentives of various funding models, concern over the rising costs of special education, and the need to fulfill policy commitments to inclusive education. Internationally, funding is allocated in various ways. Input funding has traditionally been the most common funding model used, in which students with disabilities or their parents receive individualized funding according to the type of need or level of support required. The increasing prevalence of students with disabilities in mainstream education, associated rising costs of resourcing these students, and the high administrative burden of individual assessment, diagnosis, and support have led to the use of various systems that replace the sole use of input funding in mainstream education. Throughput funding is now the most commonly used funding model and is often used alongside a smaller input system. In the throughput model, block grants are provided to schools or local authorities based on certain weighted characteristics, such as the sociodemographic profile of the school or area. The output funding model, based on student achievement or learner outcomes, is often part of a funding formula in which student achievement is recognized. Each funding model has advantages and disadvantages and all claim to support inclusive education. Often forgotten in this funding debate, however, is the cost and role played by other forms of provision, such as special classes and schools. This is despite an increase in this type of segregated provision in countries with otherwise inclusive education. Critics of the continued use of segregative settings argue that they serve as an escape route for students with disabilities in systems that are struggling to implement inclusive practices in mainstream education.

Article

Bringing a Humanistic Approach to Special Education Curriculum  

Michelle Parker-Katz and Joseph Passi

Special education curriculum is often viewed as an effort to provide ways for students with disabilities to meet specific academic and socio-/behavioral goals and is also heavily influenced by compliance with multiple legislative policies. Critical paths forward are needed to reshape a special education curriculum by using a humanizing approach in which students’ lived experiences and relatedness to self and others is at the core of study. Intentional study of how students and their families draw upon, develop, and help shape local supports and services that are provided through schools, along with community and governmental agencies and organizations, would become a major part of the new curricular narrative. However, the field of special education has been in large part derived from an epistemology rooted in science, positivism, and the medical model. The dominance of these coalescing epistemologies in educational systems has produced a myriad of structures and processes that implicitly dictate the ways special educators instruct, gather data, and practice. Core among those is a view that disability is synonymous with deficit and abnormality. What emerges is an entrenched and often implicit view that the person with disabilities must be fixed. In adopting a humanistic approach in which we value relationships, the funds of knowledge families have helped develop in their children and the identities individuals shape, and the linkages of persons with multiple community networks, the groundwork could be laid for a new curricular narrative to form. In so doing, the field could get closer to the grounding principle of helping all students with disabilities to thrive. For it is in communities that people can thrive and choose to participate in numerous life opportunities. In such a way curriculum is integral to lived experience, to the fullness and richness of lived experiences—lived experiences that include the study of academic subject matter along with the development of social and emotional learning.

Article

Effective Practices for Helping Students Transition to Post-Secondary Education  

Jenn de Lugt

Globally, more and more students with disabilities are choosing to continue on to post-secondary education following high school. Nevertheless, in comparison to their non-disabled peers, young people with disabilities are persistently underrepresented in this area. As with students without disabilities, a post-secondary diploma or degree will enhance opportunities for employment, both in terms of options and income. Bridging the gap between high school and post-secondary education can be daunting for most students, but with the added complexities associated with disabilities, the challenges will be intensified. Hence, a supportive and efficacious transition between secondary and post-secondary settings is not only helpful, but essential. For post-secondary education to be inclusive, it must be accessible. To be accessible, the transition must support the student by taking into account their strengths, challenges, interests, and goals, while considering the post-secondary environment. Successful transition plans must be student-centered, collaborative, begin early, and include measured and specific steps that are individually designed to help individual students bridge the gap. Key elements and considerations include: (a) assessing the environment and the fit; (b) developing the student’s self-advocacy skills; (c) tailoring accommodations based on the academic, social, and independent living skills of the student; and (d) supporting the student emotionally and mentally through the transition and beyond. Additional considerations include the use of assistive technology, mentoring programs, and familiarizing the student with the environment in advance of the change. Although often considered the panacea for the many academic and organizational challenges faced by students with disabilities, assistive technology is most beneficial if introduced early; this allows the student to experiment, select, and become familiar with it before leaving high school. Mentorship programs and supports, both formal and informal, should be given careful consideration as effective means of facilitating the transition. In addition to the academic and social challenges, the disruption of routines and the unfamiliar aspects of the post-secondary environment can be particularly daunting for students with disabilities. To negotiate and mitigate these aspects it might be beneficial to create opportunities for the student to become familiar with the post-secondary institution before going there. By easing and supporting the transition of students with disabilities in these and other ways, some of the barriers they face are ameliorated. Affording equal opportunity for students with disabilities to progress to post-secondary education and the subsequent workforce is not only just, it is a moral obligation and essential to an inclusive society.

Article

Developing Inclusive Schools in South Africa  

Petra Engelbrecht

In South Africa, new legislation and policies on inclusive education in the post-apartheid era since 1994 have placed a strong emphasis on equity, equality, and human rights, as defined in the South African Constitution. As a result, a White Paper on building an inclusive education and training system was published in 2001. It acknowledges the failure of the education system to respond to the barriers to learning and development experienced by a substantial number of learners, including diverse learning needs caused by, for example, language, socioeconomic, or gender issues as well as disabilities. This policy document describes inclusive education as being based on the ideals of equity and equality and as a result recognizing and respecting learner and learning diversity within mainstream schools. As stated in the policy, in practice this means identifying and removing barriers in the education system to ensure that the full range of diverse learning needs are met in mainstream classrooms as well as providing support to learners and teachers in addressing barriers to learning and development. Research studies on the implementation of inclusive education in South Africa, however, are finding that despite the development of a wide range of implementation guidelines since 2007, complex interrelated issues continue to complicate the development of successful inclusive schools. These issues include a continued divergence of views of inclusive education with a continuing strong belief in special education and separate educational settings by most teachers, therefore leading to a resultant lack of clarity regarding the implementation of inclusive education at the level of local practice in schools and classrooms. These differences in the understanding of inclusive education and its enactment in diverse school contexts also bring the question of power and agency into South African debates about inclusive education: who should decide which version of inclusive education should be the goal of the development of inclusive education in a specific school district or a specific school. Furthermore, contextual issues including the lack of financial and human resources, for example effectively trained teachers, effectively functioning district educational support teams for schools in specific school districts, lack of textbooks, and overcrowded classrooms, play a dominant role in the development of effective inclusive schools.

Article

Evidence-Based Practices for Working with Learners with Speech and Language Disabilities  

Juan Bornman

Communication is about working together to create shared meaning. It usually requires at least two people (one acting as the sender, and one or more acting as the receiver), uses a particular code (which may involve either conventional or unconventional signals), may take linguistic or nonlinguistic forms, and may occur through speech or other modes. In the classroom context, spoken language is typically the preferred mode of communication and the primary medium through which teaching and learning takes place. For learners with speech and langue disabilities, this is problematic. Communication does not develop in a vacuum. Cognitive and social routes are both important and therefore evidence-based practices (EBP) that impact on both need to be considered. In an attempt to delineate evidence-based strategies from assumptions or commonly accepted practices that have become “teaching folklore,” three aspects should be considered: (a) the best available research evidence that should be integrated with (b) professional expertise (using for example observation, tests, peer assessment, and practical performance) as well as (c) the learner’s and his/her family’s values. EBP thus recognizes that teaching and learning is individualized and ever-changing and therefore will involve uncertainties. Being aware of EBP enriches service delivery (in this case teaching practice) and enables teachers to support their learners to achieve high-quality educational outcomes. Research has shown that high expectations from teachers have a significant influence on the development of academic skills for children with speech and language disability. Teachers should therefore be empowered to understand how they can set up the environment in such a way that responsive, enjoyable interaction opportunities can be created that will enable learners to develop a sense power and control which are important building block for learning. They also need to understand the important role that they play in shaping behavior through the provision of consistent feedback on all communication behaviors and that communication entails both input (comprehension) and output (expression). Four teaching approaches that have some evidence base for learners with significant speech and language disabilities include: a) communication passports: this is a means through which idiosyncratic communication attempts can be captured and shared enabling everyone in the learner’s environment to provide consistent feedback on all communication attempts; b) visual schedules: a variety of symbols (ranging from objects symbols to graphic symbols) can be used to represent people, activities, or events to support communication. Visual schedules signal what is about to happen next and assists learners to predict the sequence of events, to make choices, and to manage challenging behavior; c) partner training: as communication involves more than one person, communication partner (in this case teachers) training is required in order to ensure responsivity; d) aided language stimulation: this classroom-based strategy attempts to provide a strong language comprehension foundation by combining spoken language with pointing to symbols, thereby providing learners with visual supplementation.

Article

Principals’ and School Leaders’ Roles in Inclusive Education  

Barbara Pazey and Bertina Combes

The United States and other developed countries have acknowledged and supported the rights of students with disabilities to receive an appropriate education for decades. The role of the principal and school leader in overseeing educational programs and ensuring these entitlements become a reality for students with disabilities has taken center stage. Discussions related to principals and school leaders fulfilling the roles of leader and manager on behalf of students with disabilities linked the complementary disciplines of general and special education leadership. The leadership approach they adopted led to debates surrounding the concept of inclusion and the provision of an inclusive education on behalf of students with disabilities. Current definitions of inclusive education are typically linked to concepts of equity, social justice, and recognition of the student’s civil right to be granted full membership in all aspects of the educational enterprise. The processes involved in creating an inclusive school environment require principals and school leaders to examine the values and beliefs that influence their own thinking and behaviors before they can communicate a vision of inclusion. Principals and school leaders must be willing to act in concert with others to create the type of school culture that unanimously and positively responds to difference so every student can achieve full membership and feel welcomed and valued.

Article

Influence of Medical and Social Perspectives of Disability on Models of Inclusive Education in the United States  

David Connor and Louis Olander

Ideological disputes about what human differences constitute disabilities undergird two very distinct positions that are known as medical and social models of disability. The positions significantly impact how inclusive education is envisioned and enacted, with proponents of each model holding fast to what they believe is “best” for students. Related areas of significant dissension among the two viewpoints include: (a) the concept of disability and “appropriate” placement of students deemed disabled, (b) the purpose of schools, (c) the nature of teaching and learning, (d) a teacher’s roles, (e) the notion of student success and failure, and (f) perceptions of social justice and disability. These interconnected and sometimes overlapping areas convey how medical or social models of inclusive education can vary dramatically, depending upon an educator’s general ideological disposition toward disability or difference.

Article

Inclusive and Special Education in Asia  

Maya Kalyanpur

Any analysis of inclusive and special education in Asia, past and present, must account for the immense variation in what constitutes Asia and recognize that finding patterns in the development of inclusive and special education across this vast continent is difficult. The variations relate to geographic topography, historical experiences, and cultural values, as well as to contemporary socio-economic and political conditions. For example, although both Oman and Timor Leste struggle with issues of accessibility and providing services in remote areas, Timor Leste’s mountainous terrain presents very different challenges from Oman’s desert conditions. Similarly, the different cultural influences of, say, Hinduism in Nepal, Islam in Jordan, and Buddhism in Cambodia have significant implications for attitudes towards disability, while differences in economic development between Japan and Bangladesh, for instance, have rendered the former a donor of international aid that sets the inclusive education agenda and the latter a recipient of both aid and agenda. While efforts to identify patterns in inclusive education globally have also attempted to define the nature of development in Asia, these analyses do not always account for the unique intra-continental variations. Overlooking these variations in socio-political and economic contexts becomes problematic when attempting to find solutions towards providing culturally responsive and culturally specific services appropriate to these unique circumstances. Additionally troubling is the more recent development of a geopolitical climate which assumes that inclusive and special education could and should, in fact, be the same, whether in Bangladesh or in Japan. Embodied by international aid agencies, such as the World Bank, the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), these expectations have been captured within global policies, such as the 1994 Salamanca Statement on Inclusive Education, the 2008 UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and more recently, the 2015 Millennium Sustainable Goals, and furthered through UNICEF’s and UNESCO’s curriculum packages and professional development training on inclusive education. There is a nascent body of scholars in some Asian countries that is beginning to identify indigenous alternatives, which, if allowed to thrive, could contribute to the development of an amalgamated structure of services that would be more appropriate to the individual contexts.

Article

Effective Practices for Collaborating With Families and Caregivers of Children and Young Adults With Disabilities  

Shridevi Rao, Nadya Pancsofar, and Sarah Monaco

A rich literature on family-professional collaboration with families and caregivers of children and youth with disabilities has developed in the United States. This literature identifies key barriers that impede family-professional relationships including deficit-based perceptions of families and children with disabilities, narrow definitions of “family” that limit the participation of some members such as fathers or grandparents, and historical biases that constrain the participation of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) families. Principles for building collaborative relationships with families include honoring the strengths of the family, presuming competence in the child and the family, valuing broad definitions of “family,” and understanding the ecology of family routines and rituals. Practices that help facilitate family-professional relationships are building reciprocal partnerships with various caregivers in the family including fathers as well as extended family members, adopting a posture of cultural reciprocity, using a variety of modes of communication with families, and involving families in all aspects of the special education process such as assessment, planning, prioritizing of skills, and identification of interventions. Pivotal moments in the family’s journey through their child’s schooling, including early intervention and transition to post-school environments, provide opportunities to build and strengthen family-professional relationships. Each of these moments has the potential to involve families in a variety of processes including assessment, planning, and articulating the goals and vision for their child/youth. A focus on strengths, collaborative partnerships, and family agency and voice is at the core of strong family-professional relationships.