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Article

Best Practices for Working with Students with Physical Disabilities  

April B. Coughlin

The Disability Studies in Education framework offers the best practices for working with, listening to, and addressing the strengths and needs of students with physical disabilities in schools. Areas covered include reducing barriers to physical and social access, utilizing expertise of students with disabilities to inform practice, reducing stigma while creating disability culture in the classroom, and assisting students with physical disabilities in building self-advocacy skills.

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Effective Practices for Helping Students Transition to Work  

Michael Shevlin, John Kubiak, Mary-Ann O'Donovan, Marie Devitt, Barbara Ringwood, Des Aston, and Conor McGuckin

People with disabilities have been among the most marginalized groups within society, with consequent limitations imposed on their access to many goods within society, including education, employment, and economic independence. Some progress is evident in the establishment of more inclusive learning environments, yet it is also clear that upon leaving compulsory education or further/higher education, young people with disabilities encounter significant barriers to accessing meaningful employment. Facilitating transitions to employment for people with disabilities should be informed by ambition and a belief in the capacity of these individuals to make a meaningful contribution to society and achieve a level of economic independence. The issues that are pertinent to young people who have a special educational need or a disability and an aspiration to transition to further/higher education require attention. Research and applied practice has demonstrated the utility of an innovative educational and work readiness program for people with an intellectual disability. Such work highlights the facilitating factors that may encourage a more ambitious reimagining of what may be possible for individuals who have been marginalized.

Article

Disability Studies in Education and Inclusive Education  

Susan Baglieri and Jessica Bacon

Disability studies (DS) is a transdisciplinary field of scholarly inquiry whose members seek to understand disability and disablement as cultural phenomena. Scholars who adopt disability studies in education (DSE) perspectives aim to understand how disability is conceptually configured in the research and practice that shape learning, education, and schooling. The DSE field strives to discern and theorize medical and social models of disability in order to promote critical examination of the cultural conditions in which educational practices are performed. The commitments and understandings that arise within DSE lead proponents to conceptualize inclusive education reform as a radical project, and call for the development of policy, teaching, and teacher education practices that acknowledge and resist ableism.

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

Effective Practices for Teaching Self-Determination  

Dalun Zhang, Yi-Fan Li, and Melina Cavazos

Self-determination refers to a set of skills that helps individuals with disabilities control their life and achieve better inclusive outcomes. In special education, self-determination is often conceptualized as an educational outcome, which recognizes the important role that education plays in the development of student self-determination skills. Consequently, a number of educational practices have been developed to teach students with disabilities these essential skills. Some of the practices focus on helping students to acquire and maintain these skills; others focus on developing a conducive environment that allows and encourages individuals with disabilities to apply and exercise self-determination skills. Research has provided empirical evidence to support the need for teaching self-determination skills to students with disabilities. A number of evidence-based practices have been recommended for schools and parents to use in teaching these skills to students with disabilities. Some of the strategies focus on creating conducive environments that provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to apply and exercise self-determination skills; others provide suggestions to families regarding what they can do to promote self-determination. A particular focus is on instructional practices because of the strong link between education and self-determination. Some popular instructional practices include teaching choice-making, self-management instruction, involving students in the transition planning process, and teaching self-determination skills through a self-determination curriculum such as the ChoiceMaker Curriculum, Steps to Self-Determination, Whose Future Is It Anyway?, Next S.T.E.P. Curriculum, Self-Advocacy Strategy, and Self-Determined Learning Model for Instruction (SDMLI).

Article

Forgotten but Crucial Aspects of Transition Planning for Inclusion  

Iva Strnadová

Transition planning can increase positive post-school outcomes and inclusion for students with intellectual disabilities. Kohler’s Taxonomy for Transition Programming 2.0 is a useful tool for all stakeholders engaged in transition planning for this population. Grounded in research, the Taxonomy highlights five key practices: (a) student-focused planning; (b) student development; (c) interagency collaboration; (d) family involvement; and (e) program structures and attributes. Student-focused planning, and especially the student’s active involvement in transition planning, tend to be forgotten when it comes to students with intellectual disabilities. While transition planning is oriented toward positive post-school outcomes in areas such as employment, independent living, and education, there are still two areas that remain largely ignored for students with intellectual disabilities—self-advocacy and sexuality education. Teachers, parents, and other relevant stakeholders need to provide more opportunities for development of self-advocacy skills, and for sexuality education. Kohler’s Taxonomy for Transition Programming 2.0 can serve as a useful tool when planning on how to integrate these two areas into transition-focused education.

Article

International Policies on Inclusion  

Bronagh Byrne

The education of children and young people with disabilities and the appropriate form this should take is an issue with which countries across the world are grappling. This challenge has not been assisted by the diverse interpretations of “inclusion” within and between States. The international community, in the form of the United Nations (UN), its associated treaty bodies, and its related agencies have taken on an increasingly critical role in working with countries to develop some kind of global consensus on how inclusion should be defined, its core features, and what it should look like in practice. The conclusions of discussions on these issues have emerged in the form of declarations, treaties, general comments, and guidelines, which countries across the world are expected to adhere to, to varying extents. Together, these constitute a set of international policies and benchmarks on inclusion in an educational context, informing and shaping contemporary national policy and practice. At its core is the underlying principle that children and young people with disabilities have a fundamental right to education without discrimination. Examination of international discourse on inclusion indicates that its meaning, form, and content has become more refined, with increasing emphasis being placed on the quality of inclusive practice as opposed to merely questioning its merits.

Article

Arts and Disability  

Anna Hickey-Moody

Art is a significant source of expression for people with a disability and it also represents them in important ways. The work of artists with a disability can augment viewer’s feelings about them, or, to put this another way, the work of artists with a disability can create social change. Not all of the artwork made by artists with a disability is “about” disability, and this separation between being an artist with a disability who makes art, and making artwork examining disability, is often a crucial distinction to make for those involved in the development of disability arts as a social movement. In light of this distinction, art of all kinds can provide us with powerful knowledge about disability, while also facilitating an important professional career trajectory. When art is made by an artist with a disability, and is about disability-related issues, the work created is usually called disability arts. When the work is made by someone with a disability but is not about disability, it may not necessarily be considered disability arts. This collection of work that is less concerned with identity politics is important, and is also worthy of independent consideration.

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

Effective Practices for Teaching All Learners in Secondary Classrooms  

Kate de Bruin

It is important to consider inclusive and effective teacher practices in secondary classrooms as distinct from other schooling levels and settings. Many years of inclusive education reforms have brought about increases in the numbers of students with disabilities who are educated in the regular school system. However, progress has been slower for secondary school students with disabilities, who remain more likely to be segregated from their peers and to receive a poorer-quality education, when compared to their primary school counterparts. This is because many barriers to student inclusion remain entrenched in the structure and organization of secondary schooling systems. These barriers often arise from seeing difficulties in learning and participating through a medical model and thus requiring diagnostic verification and specialist support, instead of seeing student difficulties in learning as arising from a social model of disability, in which student participation and progress are hampered by poor design or inflexibility in teaching practices and a lack of access to support. A large body of research exists to support the case for using a range of school-wide organization as well as classroom-based practices that effectively overcome these barriers, and provide high-quality and equitable academic and social supports to all students in the secondary school classroom. Those that foster collaboration and effective relationships between professionals and students, and that provide access to support on the basis of need rather than diagnosis, have been found to produce supportive environments in which diversity is valued, equity is maximized for all students, and social and academic outcomes are improved for all students.

Article

The Matter of ‘Evidence’ in the Inclusive Education Debate  

Christopher Boyle, George Koutsouris, Anna Salla Mateu, and Joanna Anderson

Understanding how best to support all learners to achieve their goals is a key aspect of education. Ensuring that educators are able to be provided with the best programs and knowledge to do this is perfectly respectable. But what is “evidence” in education, and at what point is it useful and informative in inclusive education? The need exists for a better understanding of what should constitute evidence-based inclusive education. Research with a focus on evidence-based practices in special and inclusive education has been increasing in recent years. Education intervention, by its very definition, should be tailored to suit individuals or groups of learners. However, immediately this is at odds with the gold standard of research intervention, that of randomized control trials; however, there are many advocates for evidence-based practice confirming to the highest form of research methodology. This seems laudable, and who could argue with wanting the best approaches to inform programs and teaching in all facets of education? Nevertheless, the requirements for research rigor mean that it is not practically possible to measure interventions in inclusive education so that they are generalizable across the many students who need support, because the interventions must be specific to individual need and therefore are not generalizable, nor are they intended to be. A narrow approach to what is evidence-based practice in education is unhelpful and does not take into consideration the nuances of inclusive education. Evidence of appropriate practice in inclusive education entails much more than robust scientific methodologies can measure, and this should be remembered. “Good” education is inclusive education that may or may not be recognized as evidence-based practice.

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

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

Differentiated Instruction and Inclusive Schooling  

Diana Lawrence-Brown

Differentiated instruction encompasses a wide range of responsive pedagogies, including individualized types and levels of curricula, teaching methods, materials, and assessment strategies. It has at its roots the impetus for effective inclusive schooling, providing supports directly within general education classrooms for students with the full range of exceptionalities (both significant disabilities and giftedness) and other diverse educational characteristics such as cultural and linguistic background and socioeconomic status. To effectively include students with higher levels of need, comparable levels of supports follow the student from the special education setting to the general education classroom. This enriched level of support in the general education classroom benefits not only students with disabilities, but the class as a whole. The legal and ethical bases for inclusive schooling are connected with various civil rights movements (including race, disability, culture and language, gender); it can be viewed as a response to segregated schooling (and denial of schooling altogether). Schools frequently remove students when traditional educational programs fail, adding on separate programs rather than rectifying the existing system. Such special programs have been routinely promulgated without substantial evidence of their effectiveness over supportive general education classrooms (either for segregated students or for their unlabeled general education peers). Important aspects of differentiated instruction and inclusive schooling include multilevel instruction; authentic and culturally responsive curricula, methods, and assessment; universal design for learning; assistive and instructional technologies; positive behavioral supports; and a collaborative team approach to instructional decision-making and delivery. Differentiated instruction and effective inclusive schooling are vital for equitable access to educational opportunities, bringing more responsive curricula, methods, and perspectives to increasingly diverse classrooms and schools.

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.