Accommodating Disabilities in the Regular Classroom
Much attention is being focused on meeting the needs of students with disabilities in the regular classroom. IDEA requires availability of a continuum of placement options. It also requires that:
"to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities ... are educated with children who are not disabled, and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be attained satisfactorily." IDEA Sec. 612 (5) (B).
The following are characteristics of school systems where successful inclusion has occurred.
- First, the teacher must believe that the student with a disability can succeed.
- Second, school personnel must be committed to accepting responsibility for the learning outcomes of students with disabilities.
- Third, school personnel and students in the class should be prepared to receive a student with disabilities.
- Fourth, parents are informed about program goals.
- Finally, special education staff are committed to collaborative practice in general education classrooms.
Accommodations to physical location and services may be required to make the school setting accessible to individuals with disabilities.
- The physical location of the building should be accessible to individuals with ambulation aids or wheelchairs.
- Services such as health, physical, occupational, or speech therapy should be available.
- The facilities and equipment (playground or computer lab) must be able to meet the student's needs.
Personnel attitudes and policies are also important in serving children with disabilities. It is imperative that the principal and administration thoroughly understand the needs of students with disabilities.
- Development and training about disabilities and instructional methods should be given to staff.
- Awareness activities should be conducted periodically for staff and students.
- Appropriate policies and procedures for monitoring individual student progress, including grading and testing, should be in place.
- Adequate personnel, including aides and support personnel, should be available.
- Special educators should be included on the instructional or planning team, where regular teachers, special education teachers, and other specialists collaborate.
Higher Education with Disabilities
When ADA legislation passed, most academic institutions focused attention on making their facilities accessible to individuals with disabilities. An Office of Disabled Student Services (DSS) is also available at most institutions of higher education. It provides tutorial assistance, attendant services, and assistive devices. DSS can also work with professors to educate them about the needs of disabled students in the classroom. Services can include arranging alternative testing times or conditions, and providing the professor with injury specific disabilities.
If you are seeking college level education, contact your State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation to ask about tuition and fee assistance at local colleges and universities. You might also meet with a financial aid officer at the school to inquire about grants, scholarships, or loans. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides tuition assistance for qualified individuals who have served in the U.S. Military.
Go For It!
The pursuit of education in primary or secondary school is important for all individuals, notwithstanding disability.
A recent study looked at educational participation and accommodations for 53 children with spinal cord injury or disease. Even though many participants required human assistance and assistive technology, classroom performance was average or above average. Although cognitive injuries may be particularly challenging for students, IDEA, DSS, and other student services are available to assist with the challenges.
The authors of the study encouraged educational institutions to continue accommodating students with disabilities and to nurture performance levels that are realistic for future work and community settings.