It boggles my mind to think not too long ago schools could deny a student from attending just because they have a disability. My generation was very fortunate to begin schooling during the time when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, formally known as Education for All Handicapped Children Act; Public Law 94-142, had already been implemented. This law was enacted in 1975, and has been revised several times. Before 1975, students with disabilities were denied access to education. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act; Public Law 94-142 provided free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) for children with disabilities in a least restrictive environment (LRE). In 1986 the Act authorized programs for early intervention for infants and toddlers with disabilities. In 1990, Congress reauthorized this Act to be called Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA continued to require schools to provide a free, appropriate and public education in the least restricted environment. It also added transitional services for students going from high school to post-secondary education, as well as adult living. IDEA focused on access. In 1997, it broadened the definition of access to not only physical access, but also access to the general education curriculum.
The Individuals with Disability Education Act requires all of the students with disabilities to have a laid out individualized educational plan, also known as an IEP. Teachers, both special education and general education, students’ parents/legal guardians, schools’ speech language pathologists and audiologists all come together in an Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) meeting where they determine if the student is eligible for special education and also where they create the student’s individualized education plan. An IEP states certain goals each student needs to meet. Also, it includes any accommodations or modifications each student gets in the classroom. Most students will need accommodations. These do not change what a student is supposed to learn; they are all about access and how a student learns the material. Some examples of accommodations are: presentation – gives different ways for students to access information/materials; response – gives different ways for students to give responses to assignment; setting – changes the environment; timing/scheduling – extends times/due dates. Some students with more severe disabilities will require modifications. These change what a student is expected to learn. A few examples of modifications are: completes part of the assignment, curriculum expectations below grade level, alternate curriculum goals, or alternate assessments.
Horace Mann stated, “all people should receive the same level of education” (Brackemyre, n.d.). However, we now know that this is not an efficient way to teach students. All students, whether they have a disability or not, learn differently. A teacher wants to set up his or her classroom in a way that will bring out every student’s strengths. One best approach is the Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which according to Barrett is “based on the philosophy that there is no one way in which individuals learn and that lessons, curriculum and classroom configuration should be designed, from the outset, with the needs of diverse students in mind” (2013). UDL has three guidelines to follow when setting up instructional goals, methods, materials and assessments – 1) Provide multiple means of representation; presenting the material in different ways, such as reading instructions out loud and have them follow along with written instructions, 2) Provide multiple means of expression; allowing the students to demonstrate what they know in different ways. For example, if the assignment is to write an essay, a student could, instead of turning in a written hard copy, turn in a verbal essay, 3) Provide multiple means of engagement; creating an environment that keeps the students engaged. Another great approach is the differentiated instruction (DI) approach. This is a “process of modifying instruction and assessment, as needed, to meet the learning needs of a particular student” (Barrett, 2013). Teachers can create lesson plans or assessments several different ways based on the individual student’s interests, abilities and knowledge.
It was heartbreaking to watch the video of Norman Kunc showing what his life would have been like growing up in the 60s if he had been sent to an institution. The only thing holding back my tears was knowing that his parents did not follow the doctor’s advice in institutionalizing him. Kunc was able to go to school and continue on to get a master’s degree in Family Therapy. It was horrible how people with disabilities used to be treated. The perceptions of people with disabilities become better over time; however, it was very, very gradual; they were seen as sub-human. Non-disabled individuals thought they needed to cure those who were disabled. At one point in time, individuals who were disabled were basically removed from society and were denied any human rights.
I found the multiple intelligences (MI) very interesting. This follows the pattern that a one-size-fits-all approach is not an appropriate or efficient way to teach and assess students. The strength of MI is that it shows how diverse students can be when learning in a classroom. Howard Garner proposed the theory of eight different intelligences.
- “Verbal-linguistic intelligence refers to an individual’s ability to analyze information and produce work that involves oral and written language, such as speeches, books, and emails.
- Logical-mathematical intelligence describes the ability to develop equations and proofs, make calculations, and solve abstract problems.
- Visual-spatial intelligence allows people to comprehend maps and other types of graphical information.
- Musical intelligence enables individuals to produce and make meaning of different types of sound.
- Naturalistic intelligence refers to the ability to identify and distinguish among different types of plants, animals, and weather formations found in the natural world.
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence entails using one’s own body to create products or solve problems.
- Interpersonal intelligence reflects an ability to recognize and understand other people’s moods, desires, motivations, and intentions.
- Intrapersonal intelligence refers to people’s ability to recognize and assess those same characteristics within themselves” (Multiple Intelligences: What Does the Research Say?, 2013).
One weakness of this theory is that it can lead to teachers putting students in specific categories. From what I gathered after reading this article, the point of the multiple intelligence test is to show that all students learn differently, but that does not mean “strength in one area [predicts] weakness in another” (Multiple Intelligences: What Does the Research Say?, 2013). Teachers can use the students’ results to determine what modifications or accommodations are needed, and figure out the best way to help students learn in diverse ways.
Barrett, L. (2013). Seamless teaching: Navigating the inclusion spectrum. Teaching Tolerance, 52(43), 53-55.
Brackemyre, T. (n.d.). Education to the Masses: The Rise of Public Education in Early America. U.S. History Scene [blog post]. Retrieved from http://ushistoryscene.com/article/rise-of-public-education/
Multiple intelligences, what does the research say? (2013, March 8). Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-research