Friday, March 6, 2015

Interview: Special Education

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about special education. The post is set up in a question and answer format. These answers were last updated in 2013.  The source to many of these answers come from Teaching Students with Special Needs in an Inclusive Setting.

Define and describe special education. 

Special education is specially designed instruction provided by the school district or another local education agency that meets the unique needs of students identified as disabled according to federal and state eligibility criteria. 

Define differentiated instruction and explain its usefulness in meeting the needs of a diverse classroom.

Differentiated instruction is “the planning of curriculum and instruction using strategies that address student strengths, interests, skills, and readiness in flexible learning environments.” It is a “philosophy that guides your thoughts about, and actions with, children in the classroom” (167). Differentiated instruction is important because it tailors teaching to meet the needs of all the students in the class. Typically, teachers will teach to one set of students, but everybody in the class learns differently. Differentiated instruction meets all of the needs of the students in the class.

What is the teacher's role in the pre-referral process and why is it important? 

Teachers can initiate the referral process if they believe the students have characteristics that make them eligible for special education services. Teachers also participate in determining if the special education process should move forward.

How can teachers play an important part in transition planning for their students?

Teachers help set realistic goals in the transition planning.

Which models of co-teaching work best for you based on the SPED population that you feel most confident and comfortable working with?

Cooperative teaching is a model that provides support to general classroom teachers while providing the opportunity for students with disabilities to receive their instruction in general classrooms with their non-disabled peers.

What is different about students with disabilities at the secondary level in your opinion? 

Students at the secondary level have to worry about a transition plan, which is part of the individualized education program. It is for students aged 16 or older. The transition plan is an “outcome-oriented description of strategies and services for ensuring that the student will be prepared to leave school for adult life.” Students in an elementary setting may focus more on the basics, like reading and writing. Students at the secondary level have to look ahead, and may have to take classes on life skills, for instance. Secondary students with disabilities have to look beyond school and how they will make the best once they finish school. Meanwhile, younger students are focused primarily on their educational situations. 

Which historical events have shaped contemporary special education services?
  • Development of education for students with disabilities
  • Civil rights movement (Brown vs. Board of Education, Section 504, Americans with Disabilities Act, Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments)
  • Legislative basis (Public Law 94-142, Education for All Handicapped Children Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, No Child Left Behind
Which laws govern current practices for educating students with disabilities? 
  • IDEA: requires students be educated in least restrictive environments
  • ESEA: mandates access to the curriculum for all students 
Analyze your beliefs related to inclusive practices, taking into account contemporary knowledge and expectations about effective instruction and educational access, as well as parent perspectives.

I think inclusive practices are a good idea. It allows students to be in a regular education classroom, which may boost their confidence. It allows a student to befriend other individuals that they may not have normally gotten a chance to meet. Parents generally support inclusion; in fact, many prefer to have their child educated in a general classroom. A big reason is due to development of social skills.

Describe the categories of disabilities addressed in federal law.
  • Learning disabilities: dysfunction in processing information, typically found in language based activities 
  • Speech or language impairment: extraordinary difficulties communicating with others for reasons other than malnutrition 
  • Mental retardation: significant limitations in intellectual ability and adaptive behaviors 
  • emotional disturbance: significant difficulty in social-emotional domain 
  • Autism: lack appropriate social responsiveness 
  • Hearing impairment: inability or limited ability to receive auditory signals 
  • Visual impairment: disabilities that concern inability or limited ability to receive information visually 
  • Deaf-blindness: both significant vision and hearing loss 
  • orthopedic impairment: impair ability to move about or complete motor activities 
  • Traumatic brain injury: wide range of characteristics and special needs 
  • Other health impairments: disease or disorder so significant it affects ability to learn in school 
  • Multiple disabilities: two or more disabilities 
  • Developmental delays: significant delays in physical, cognitive, communication, social-emotional or adaptive development 
Other than disabilities, what other special needs may students have?

Students who are gifted or talented; students protected by Section 504; students at risk, such as slow learners and English Language Learners, or those in poverty.

Explain the roles and responsibilities of the individuals who may participate in educating students with disabilities.
  • General education teachers 
  • Special education teacher: professionals with ongoing contact in teaching students with disabilities 
  • School psychologist: responsible for determining a student's intellectual, academic, social, emotional, behavioral functioning, designing strategies, to address students academic and social or behavioral problems whether students have been identified as having disabilities or not 
  • Counselor: advise high school students, assist students with disabilities as they transition from school to post school options 
  • Speech language therapist: specialize in meeting student communication needs 
  • Social workers: help teachers and students address social and emotional issues 
  • Administrators: school principal, assistant principal, department chairperson, or team leader 
  • Paraprofessionals: most likely participating actively in the education of students with disabilities 
  • Also physical therapists, physical educators, nurses, bilingual special educators, mobility specialists, sign language interpreters, professionals from outside agencies, advocates 
Describe the process through which a student may become eligible to receive special education services.

Response to intervention is an approach for the identification of learning disabilities based on whether student learning progress improves or fails to improve after the student receives increasingly intense, research based interventions, with the latter indicating a learning disability.

What are the components of individualized education programs?
  • Present Level of Performance 
  • Annual Goals and Short-term objectives 
  • Extent of participation in general education 
  • Services and modifications needed 
  • Behavior intervention plan 
  • Date of initiation and frequency and duration of service and anticipated modifications 
  • strategies for evaluation 
  • Transition plan 
Describe the types of services that students with disabilities may receive and the settings in which they may receive them.
  • Special education: specially designed instruction services students receive 
  • Related Services: all the supports students may need in order to benefit from special education 
  • Supplementary aids and services: all means used to enable students to succeed in general education settings 
  • Regular classes 
  • Resource programs 
  • separate classes 
  • separate schools 
  • residential facilities 
  • home and hospital settings 
Discuss how parents participate in special education decision making and what occurs when parents and school district representatives disagree.

Parents are apart of the IEP. Mediation occurs if parents and students don't agree.

What is the role of general education teachers in the procedures and services of special education? What are their critical contributions to positive outcomes for students with disabilities?

General ed teachers have the most detailed knowledge if day-to-day classroom needs. They bring it to attention of other professionals if they believe a student has a disability. They work with special education colleagues to implement strategies into the classroom, and provide appropriate instruction.

What are the areas of diversity you may encounter as a teacher? 

In students: 
  • Ethnicity 
  • Primary Language 
  • Geographic Origin 
  • Age-specific 
  • Gender 
  • Language and Communication Style 
  • Religious Beliefs 
  • Socioeconomic status 
  • Sexual Preference 
  • Ability 
In families:
  • Single-parent families 
  • Blended families 
  • Multigenerational families 
  • Foster families 
  • Gay/lesbian families
What is the teacher's responsibility to dealing with diversity in the classroom?

Design a culturally sensitive classroom that provides students with a safe and accepting learning environment. Address issues such as
  • time 
  • space 
  • dress and foods 
  • rituals and ceremonies 
  • work 
  • leisure 
  • status 
  • gender roles 
  • goals 
  • education 
  • communication 
  • interaction 
What is the teacher's responsibility to the classroom and its students if the family's beliefs run counter to the teacher's beliefs?

Encourage parental participation by:
  • Establish trust with parents 
  • Empower parents 
  • Focus on improving communication skills 
  • Use a wide variety of communication options 
  • Be sensitive to cultural and language differences 
  • Ensure parents understand the nature of an inclusive educational programs 
  • Support parents in home interventions 
  • Provide reinforcement to parental efforts
Explain the six principles that are the basis of differentiated instruction.

Teachers considering differentiation of instruction should consider six principles:
  • Good curriculum comes first: teachers must ensure that the curriculum is interesting, important, and cogent.
  • All tasks should be respectful of each learner: teachers develop tasks that are interesting and their expectations should be for students to think and respond at high cognitive levels.
  • When in doubt, teach up!: stretch the students rather than protect them from learning
  • Use flexible grouping: based on specific learning needs, preferences, strengths, or interests of the students; time for small and large group discussion.
  • Assess students in many ways at many times: do not limit assessment; consider assessment as part of teaching
  • A portion of the student grade should reflect the student's growth: students should receive acknowledgment and rewards for doing their best. (168).
Explain and give examples of the five elements that teachers most often address when planning instruction.

The five elements of differentiated instruction are content, process, product, affect, and learning environment.

Content includes what the teacher plans to teach and how he or she will give students access to the materials and ideas. It is the approaches used to assist students in learning (169-170). An example of content includes providing “visual access through graphs, timelines and pictures,” and/or “auditory access through audiotapes, videotapes, and music” (170).

Process is the method that the teacher selects or designs in order to present the content and the method by which the students are to respond to the content. This is how students are acquiring the knowledge, understanding, and skills identified in the learning objective (170-171). Examples of process include tiered lessons, entry points, learning centers, cubing strategy, and tic-tac-toe menus (171-172).

“Products are those things that show what the student has learned and can be used as the assessment items through which students demonstrate the acquisition of knowledge, understanding, and skills being taught” (172). Examples include writing a paper, painting a picture, or constructing a timeline.

“Affect is how students link their thoughts and feelings in the classroom” (173). An example could include how one subject excites one student, but worries another.

“Learning environment is that way the classroom feels and functions” (173). Lecture is the most common type of learning environment, but peer tutoring, cooperative learning, and instructional games are also examples of learning environments.

Why is home and school collaboration so important for students with special and other needs? 

It is important because family involvement can have a great impact on the student. Collaborating with teachers and families allows them to work together and create the best strategies and environment for the student. This will lead to success, better attendance, positive attitudes, better grades, increased motivation, and higher test scores.

School collaboration is important because of better opportunities to monitor students for learning, better opportunities to monitor students for behavior, improved academic achievement for students with disabilities, and better access to the general curriculum for students with disabilities.

What specific strategies do you use for your inclusion population?

I use weekly vocabulary lists, paraphrasing and summarizing, RAP, KWL, strategic note-taking, mnemonic strategies, graphic organizers, as well as other strategies.

What type of impact do HI disabilities have on students at the secondary level? 

Some examples of high incidence disabilities are autism, emotional disorder/emotional behavior disorder, specific learning disability, attention deficit disorder/hyperactive disorder, speech and language impairment, intellectual disorders, and developmental delay. The social aspect may be impacted greatly at the secondary level. They may have more trouble being accepted by their peers. They may be more self-conscious knowing that they have one of these disabilities, thus having more trouble trying to fit in or be accepted.

Why are special education services so important for students with disabilities at this level?

It is important to have special education services for students of all ages. They need to receive the help they need so that they won't fall behind or get lost. They need an education that appeals to them so that they can be helped. Everybody has different learning styles, and it is important for those learning styles to be reached. It would be very unfair if students with disabilities were not receiving a free and appropriate education. In addition, students in higher grades use special education for transition plans. This will help them set goals and create plans about what is to come after they are finished with school. Without it, some may be lost.

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