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Educating Special Needs Students

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Mental retardation, also known as intellectual disability, describes the condition where there are limits to a person’s ability to learn at an expected level. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines intellectual disability as a significantly impaired ability to grasp new ideas and to learn new skills. The intellectual functioning level of such an individual is below 70.  This reduces the ability to cope with tasks independently. The causes of intellectual disability in children are diverse. Some of the common causes are Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, fragile X syndrome, genetic conditions, radiation maternal stress, STI and AIDS, and attempted abortion. All of these happen before birth. Others happen while a baby is being born or soon after birth.

Other causes of intellectual disability occur when the child is older. They include certain infections, stroke, or serious head injuries.  Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of disability. Children living in poverty are more vulnerable to sickness and infections than those from the well-off families. This is so especially in infancy and early childhood. These children are less likely to receive adequate health care and be able to pay for basic medicines and school fees. Children with intellectual disability learn to talk later in life, find it hard to remember things, and have trouble solving problems. In addition, they have trouble understanding social rules, have trouble speaking, and do not see the results of their actions.

Autism was first described in the 1940’s, but little was known about the disorder until the 1990s. It is also referred to as developmental disability. Autism can be referred to as a complex development disorder of neurobiological nature that lingers throughout a person’s life. It accounts for issues and problems in skill set evolution from early years to adulthood. The identifying symptoms of autism include language, social conduct, and repetitive behavior, which start before a child is three years old.

Children with this disability may experience problems conversing and maintaining eye contact when talking to people. Some children with severe autism never learn how to talk. They may hurt themselves when they are unhappy, and this makes their lives quite challenging to manage. Autism varies widely in its severity and symptoms. Many a time, these symptoms go undetected in mildly affected children. Science has not managed to crack the exact cause of autism. Scientists have been challenged to identify a remote cause of this condition. However, much evidence support the idea that genes are one of the major causes of autism. It is believed that up to 12 different genes in may be to blame for autism to varying degrees (Chez, 2008). Research shows that environmental factors, like viruses, may also cause autism.

Autism presents a dilemma in the learning process of a school age child. An autistic child has difficulties in concentrating in the classroom setting. This condition adversely affects their mode of focus, communication, and interactions with other children of their age. They do not play interactively with other children because of their shortfalls. They are abnormally sensitive to touch, sound and other relative stimulation. Educating autistic children has continued to pose challenges to parents, teachers, and the society. The cost of educating children with autism is extremely high and poses a considerable challenge for their families. This is because each child needs intensive, individualized attention in order to cope with the neurological disorder. When a child with autism cannot communicate, it means he or she is unable to understand a teacher, or be understood by other kids (Chez, 2008). The process of learning requires interaction and absolute focus, elements unavailable in an autistic child.

Individuals with severe disability have been labeled as having profound mental retardation. These persons require on-going extensive support to be able to participate in integrated community settings. They require constant attention and care since they are unable to function independently. Individuals diagnosed with several disabilities have a combination of two or more disabilities. An example is mental retardation and cerebral palsy or deaf-blindness. Such combination causes severe educational needs that cannot be accommodated solely in special education programs. Specialized care is also fundamental to these persons. The barriers faced by multiply disabled children are often more complex and challenging than barriers experienced by singularly impaired children.

Children with disabilities are often condemned to a poor start in life. They are often overlooked, their capacities underestimated, and their needs are given low priority. Their abilities are underestimated creating a vicious cycle of under-expectation, underachievement, and low priority in the allocation of resources (Spooner, 2011). The environment they live in does not help either, as they present obstacles in many guises. Physical obstacles include barriers in public buildings, recreational and transport facilities. However, the last decade has seen vigorous championing of their rights.

The inclusion of children with severe disabilities is a matter of social justice and an essential element in the future of society. This is not based on goodwill but on integral element of expressing the realization of basic human rights. These children should be given a chance to develop to their full potential and participate in society. Schools must adapt structures to ensure that all children despite their race and disability enjoy their human rights without discrimination of any kind.

Most schools have already begun to reform their policies and school curricula to remove barriers to children with disabilities. Schools should develop specially designed individualized programs and services to address individual needs associated with the disability. The school heads must strive to provide support systems and equipment to disabled kids, like Braille lessons and sign language lessons. Other adaptive aids and equipment include typewriters, wheelchairs, head sticks, and communication boards. This enables them to be educated with non-disabled children to the maximum extent appropriate.

The parents and the schools handling children with a severe disability should encourage social activities like scouting and special sports. The Special Olympics program is an example of successful programs for persons with intellectual disabilities. This helps the children build their social skills and boost their confidence by focusing on their strengths and accomplishments. In addition, the program fosters physical and cognitive development (Spooner, 2011). Another area the schools might want to invest in is psychological counseling. The children and parents should be counseled on their special conditions and advised on how to take care of them. The counseling also helps the parents of the disabled children cope with the emotional problems that the children encounter.

There is also need for trained teachers in these schools who understand how to deal with each case of disability. Moreover, it is necessary to provide for ongoing teacher training for those who are not able to equip themselves with the skills required to handle the unique needs of disabled children.

In conclusion, schools can seek the attention of therapists, depending on the needs of the children. The therapists should work in conjunction with the school staff to offer the much-needed services. This is best implemented in the usual routine of the school program. This is when the children can be observed, and their progress monitored. The disabled children have enjoyed enormous support across the globe. Organizations have often championed for their rights. These children are no longer looked down upon; instead, they are a source of inspiration to the society. 

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