American education is in a revolution. School used to be a place of equipping one’s self with all the needed education the parents have enrolled their children for. Now, the school has been a place where diversities are emphasized and ambitions are validated. There is more to it than a place to construct identity and climb the societal ladder. The role the school plays is decisive, through both the communications within the broader school commune and the strict milieu of the classroom.
The school plays a vital role in the development of students’ worldly grasps and morals of the society to which they belong (Grinnell, 1999). But schools have a design flaw; the typical five-and-a-half hour day, 180-day-a-year is too rigid, leaving many profoundly retarded, autistic or other special children to keep up (Farnham and Yarmolinsky, 2000). Mentally retarded children may be short of secure sites to play and may reside in problematical environs.
Many children, special or normal, are not physiologically or mentally ready for the sit-still, paper-pushing curriculum. Some children may not be doing well in school not simply because he is disinterested in learning but because he is bored, finds the curriculum very rigid, or for mentally retarded children, discriminated against (Kameenui, et al. , 1997). The kinds of bigot events that are most frequently accounted at a normal school where a mentally retarded student is enrolled are verbal harassment, name-calling, mockery, bullying, and exclusion.
Collectively, behavioral problems, lessened participation rates, and feelings of estrangement that stem from the incidence of discrimination against mentally retarded pupils in schools influence educational consequences. Education hinges on the normal continued presence of the profoundly retarded student and their ability to involve themselves efficiently in the classroom. In a xenophobic learning milieu, this equilibrium is upset and educational results are narrowed accordingly (Kameenui, et al. , 1997).
The callous reality is that the success of students and educators lies in the curricular particulars. Teachers and students working hand in hand, in a special classroom will grasp that there is no single best tactic to edify all students. The mindset is that there is an array of strategies that should be incorporated. One of such strategies is inclusion (Twiss, 1998). Inclusion has been hailed as a sensible and effective way to ensure that children with mental retardation or autism are afforded full opportunities to learn and to interact with other children.
It allows for the integration of these children into the mainstream of society and prepares them to be part of the community. Inclusion also allows other children to view this experience as normal. Children who are mainstreamed may attend some special classes, and their teachers in regular classrooms are assisted in developing educational programs to meet the needs of the student. However, inclusion has met with more conflicts as the umber of children to be accommodated has grown (Eby and Arrowood, 2004).
It is solely the educator who has a deeper insight into his or her learners’ needs ably enough to constantly alter the classroom environment as a reaction to such needs. Then again, educators may not have all the energy or time to develop all the prospectuses for all the different subjects they teach. Thus they should carry it out with proficient resources like a library from which they can design a curriculum they can call their own.
This permits teachers to be imaginative and to become cognizant of novel ideas, which can equally accommodate the needs of the mentally retarded and the normal students (Crockett and Kauffman, 1999). Although we avoid the singling out of the disabled children from the mainstream students, fact remains that they need special set of curricula or particularized instruction. Thus, an individual education plan must be developed for each child. Parents have the right to participate in this planning, but not all do.
There is the possibility that even the best-designed educational plans will not be carried out because of lack of time and resources. Teachers who want to be helpful may have large classes and heavy workloads that prevent individualized instruction in a special education class (Van Der Sijde, et al. , 1993). In addition to the textbook to be used as principal reference for the session, the lecture would include a number of aids that shall help the pupils understand various concepts successfully and enjoyably (Van Der Sijde, et al. , 1993).
Specifically, the lecture shall be carried out not without visual aids as some itself may be confusing in the absence of visual illustration. Using examples, strategies, and integration of the concepts may guarantee that key concepts or valuable ideas are not elapsed, or that these are not confused with other concepts instilled by the primary culture. On the other hand, the full attention and sensitive actions of the school administration, mentors, and most importantly, the parents make up the key solutions to the mentally retarded and autistic students (Grinnell, 1999).
Again, essential sets of courses and educational assets have to give importance to the diversity of the students’ population in school and of American society in an attempt to make certain that each physically disabled student can feel he or she integrate and go well with other students (Twiss, 1998). Special curriculum development is a charge that necessitates resources and people; it entails a capable team of gurus running through a thousand of hours thinking, writing, teaching in classrooms, and observing fellow teachers and profoundly retarded students.
The special curriculum is not a formula composed of the dos and don’ts in teaching at a certain level. Instead, it furnishes both an articulate lesson plan for the mentally retarded students, anchored in the finest thinking available in a particular domain, and resource that backs teachers in making improved, more contemplative, and well-versed decision about their mentally retarded students’ progressive erudition (Van Der Sijde, et al. , 1993).
For these special children’s protection, the federal government instituted Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which states that “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States…shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, 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…” (Daugherty, 2001).
This is the act otherwise known as the FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) act. The health conditions singled out to qualify a student as mentally retarded are: orthopedic impairments, deaf-blindness, mental retardation, traumatic brain injury, hearing impairments including deafness, speech or language impairments, health impairments, visual impairments including blindness, autism, emotional disturbance, multiple disabilities, and other specific learning disabilities (Daugherty, 2001).
Two of the typical legal cases that demonstrate neglected services that the profoundly retarded students should receive are inclusion and financial assistance. Among the often-controversial cases faced by children with learning disabilities and their families and communities is inclusion, also known as mainstreaming. Inclusion allows children that are mentally challenged to receive their education in regular public school programs whenever possible.
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990, states that every child with a disability is entitled to an “appropriate elementary and secondary education” (Eby and Arrowood, 2004). If parents sense their special children have been excluded, they may file a complaint of discrimination against the individual teachers, administration, or the educational institution.
Nonetheless, grievances gathered under Commonwealth and State Acts involving disabled children present only a single indication of the degree of discrimination in American schools (Daugherty, 2001). Educators, particularly those teaching in a special education class, were in the past not so equipped in demonstrating their respective subjects so that the curriculum was expected to do the whole lot for them. It should guide them almost unerringly on the lesson plans to make, when to do them best, and in a certain direction.
At one time, this was labeled the teacher-proof curriculum. It is solely the educator who has a deeper insight into his or her mentally retarded or autistic learners’ needs ably enough to constantly alter the classroom environment as a reaction to his or her needs. Hence, the teacher must cultivate his or her own core curriculum. At times, this view acknowledge that, since some educators are not yet sufficiently primed to teach, they may need ground-breaking curricula even for the time being until the officials have achieved the duty of extensive teacher development.
This is the idea of curriculum as an indispensable evil (Twiss, 1998). Developing a learning culture, which attaches importance to respect to children with special needs is essential to guarantee healthy relationships and an atmosphere beneficial to the learning experience. Education curricula that are anchored in the postulation that the customs of the normal group in society are the best and sole means to function have the end product of marginalizing students with mental disabilities and of thinning their contribution in and outcomes from education.
Core curricula and school resources must place premium on the assortment of the school population and of American civilization so as to make sure that all students can feel they fit in (Grinnell, 1999). Educators have to be able to utilize the virtue of compassion that students convey to the learning environment. Changes are beginning to happen in individual courses and programs but not significantly enough to reverse the general direction of the legal cases of exclusion, financial deprivation, and misinformation (Crockett and Kauffman, 1999).
On top of the legal cases of inclusion, discrimination, and special curriculum, another issue of the special children with mental retardation and autism is entering school without the benefit of two characteristics that have been found especially important to success, namely a good self-concept (meaning confidence in their own abilities) and a belief that they can control their destinies through their own efforts. Their feelings of learned helplessness are then likely to be aggravated by failure to keep up with the classroom work. The result is a vicious circle.
Many of these pupils, unequipped with the basic skills and physical advantage, will probably spend their adult lives in marginal jobs or on public assistance, and at a disadvantaged level that probably destines their own children to repeat the cycle (Daugherty, 2001). An active and colaborative participation in the child’s school and homeworks is also important. If the special child is struggling with his subjects, the teacher could help him out by studying with him, helping to understand the lessons and correcting any mistakes in his assignments.
This is the principle of Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT). But the parent or the teacher should not do everything for him though. The disabled child might get used to it and depend on his guardian, parents and teachers all the time. This is not good for his confidence and self-reliance. An occasional reward for a job well done also wouldn’t hurt and it increases the disabled child’s perseverance (Eby and Arrowood, 2004).