What does this term mean? What things do we consider when we talk about learning difference… disability… and divergence.
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What does this term mean? What things do we consider when we talk about learning difference… disability… and divergence.
Group three users can be found listed on the groups page
Learning disabled technically means that students score in the normal range on an IQ test, but score significantly lower on academic achievement tests. An example of a learning disability is dyslexia, where students have fully functioning intellect but their brain can mix up or turn around letters or words when reading and writing, making it difficult for them to learn. A non-example of a learning disability is a learning issue such as mental retardness, where students score lower than the normal range on both IQ tests and on academic achievement tests.
My main question about learning disabilities is: "Is the classification process in determining a student's disability fair and unbiased?" The definition of it is solely based on test scores, but, we know from previous classes' discussions that testing is highly controversial in its practice and in the content and skills it may test. For example, it has been suggested that past IQ tests have been culturally insensitive to minority groups, and thus is why many African-Americans have been labeled mentally retarded due to low IQ and achievement test scores instead of an accurate assessment of learning disabled, all due to culturally inappropriate IQ tests.
Learning disabilities are very real, sometimes traumatic disabilities for our students, and it possibly can cause lower self-confidence in who they are as students in comparison to others. But, many of my students who are LD are some of the hardest working students in the classroom, and I believe its primarily because they have identified their disability and the skills needed to accommodate for it. Teacher knowledge of the learning disability and information about how to differentiate for the student is imperative in ensuring student success.
I too worry and am very concerned about the possibility of biased tests that our students take to potentially diagnose them with a learning disability. After doing all that we can as teachers to ensure that our student’s problems are not stemming from visual, hearing, and or environmental factors, we are leaving it in the hands of these IQ tests and screeners. My initial gut feeling tells me that these tests have to be fair and accurate - because if not, they are doing a huge injustice to our children! Students with learning disabilities are more likely to drop out of High School and I worry that not everything is being done to help them learn. If a school is not providing proper assistance and help to these students, not only is it against the law, these students will be held back and labeled, quite possibly, for the rest of their lives.
Another question that I worry about is, how do we know that the students we teach aren't suffering from "poor” or “bad teaching" at their previous schools? I can do all I can to try to catch a child up to grade level, but it is not an easy task, and most often, it is hard to decipher the following: Is this student suffering because they never learned basic skills or is it something deeper than that?” Can the student’s previous "poor or bad teaching" turn into a potential learning disability? Or is a learning disability something you are born with that might not necessarily present itself until years later?
Emily, thank you for the technical definition of Learning Disabilities. My question, as educators and influential people in society lies more in the social implication/meaning of "learning disabilities". I was doing a little bit of research about what "learning disability" means and came across The Learning Disabilities of America site. They have an entire section dedicated specially for teachers and had a link to this article: "Social Acceptance of Students with Learning Disabilities: In spite of the enormous efforts put forth by families, the skilled special educators, and mental health professionals, the individual with a learning disability has one final challenge to meet in life: Social Acceptance." You can access the full article there ( http://www.ldaamerica.org/aboutld/teachers/index.asp ). In our previous courses we have discussed learning disabilities in our classrooms in very teacher-centered terms (differentiating, planning, accommodations, documentation, referrals, etc.) but not so much in terms of the social/emotional aspects of the affected student. What does it mean in our hallways to be learning disabled? More often than not the label has negative emotional and social implications for our students while we are trying to have a positive impact on their growth and development educationally. While the system we use to determine who is and is not learning disabled may be flawed, the social system surrounding what it means to be learning disabled is even more so. Parents and students alike should not be opposed to diagnostic testing for fear of what being labeled learning disabled could/would mean outside of the classroom.
Liz, I think that the social implications you bring up are an extremely important aspect of the conversation, particularly because, as you mentioned, most of our course work thus far has discussed learning disabilities in terms of how they affect us as educators as opposed to how they affect our students.
The stereotypes about special education students that existed when we were in school still exist now. (Unfortunately, I'm confident I'm not the only of us who has had to mediate a situation where a student was being made fun of because they receive special services.) And I'd argue that the stigma attached to special education students will continue to persist as long as we continue to label our students in such rigid terms.
As an education community, we need to begin to look at student needs as though they exist along a gradient, as opposed to in neat "needs services" and "doesn't need services" categories. I think of all the students I have taught over the past two years who, although they did not have the "special education" label, benefited from this or that classroom accommodation. I have likewise had students who, without a special education diagnosis, have benefited from small group remedial instruction led by a member of our special services team. These kids were able to get the extra, specialized help they needed without a cumbersome (and, in many cases, alarmingly subjective) diagnosis hanging over their heads, perhaps indefinitely. If we're able to operate in so many shades of gray, is it even necessary to label the child that happens to be a bit further along the spectrum? Is there a reason, besides of course ease of funding, to draw a hard dividing line? It seems that it would be so much more effective for our students academically, intellectually, and socially, if funding was not attached to specific kids but to the needs of school populations as a whole…
A bit utopian, perhaps. But I think the only way to eradicate the social stigma of being a special ed kid is to make it so it's impossible to tell who is and who isn't… to dissolve the hard definitions and just help our kids, wherever they stand on the spectrum of need.
I just want to shout out a huge, "I second that" to Jess's comments about thinking of our students in "shades of gray" instead of in categories. I also want to add to the discussion with a story that sort of combines the testing and emotional/social needs parts of the conversation.
I was one in an IEP meeting for an 11th grade student who had just been retested so that her IEP could be updated. The mother of the student, several of her other teachers, the special education director and the woman who had conducted the tests were present. It was the portion of the meeting when the tester was explaining the results to the rest of us. At one point during the explanation she paused and said, "she's clearly very smart" in reference to the student. There were some confused/concerned looks around the table, but no one said anything. A few minutes later the tester made the same comment again. This time, the mother spoke up and politely said, "excuse me, but what do you mean by smart" The tester, who now looked confused herself replied, "I just mean she's not, you know, dumb or anything". I was stunned and confused, and clearly so was the mother of my student.
I share this story for a couple of reasons first because I think it speaks to our need to be careful with language when dealing with special needs students and families. Words like "smart" and "dumb" seem pretty loaded to me and it seems like, as educators, unless we can really explain what we mean by using a certain loaded term, we should probably avoid it. I am also wondering if there are some technical definitions of smart and dumb that this mother and I are unaware of, or is anyone else has had any experiences like this. Please let me know what you think about this - should I have said something to someone about that tester?
I want to wrap up by saying that I think the way we deal with the parents of special needs students, and for that matter the parents of any student is especially sensitive. We should make every effort to make them our allies and labeling their children or disrespecting them will certainly hurt us in that area.
Wonderful post here Jessica. It is unfortunate that intelligent children with learning disabilities do not "fit the mold" and end up, to some extent, outside the normal social groups. I think that's why places like The Lab School are so wonderful, not only becuase of the quality of instruction, but the fact that they celebrate the divergence and intelligence of these children. However, I find myself with the very real problem with a seperate school is just that, continuing to socially isolate these students. Its too bad we can't provide quality programming within schools. What would teachers need to really address the needs of a children with LD in his or her classroom? A deeper set of skills sure, but also a different type of dedication to his or her work.
To respond to your questions, Dr. Belson, I think that the deeper set of skills teachers would need to really need the needs of their LD kids is the "easy" part. (Or "easier," anyway.) Finding enough teachers dedicated enough to their jobs to effectively meet the needs of all of their students is the hard part… especially with the various other demands that are placed on teachers, especially in high-needs schools. The administrative paperwork, meetings, lack of discipline support, etc, sap so much energy out of classroom teachers (or they have out of me, anyway) that there is often not as much as you'd like left for what's really important, i.e., planning an effective lesson that is going to reach all of your students.
I think that, in order for this to change, districts need to carefully examine the myriad demands they place on their teachers and determine what demands outside of classroom time they could alleviate teachers of. I have seen far too many talented teachers beating themselves into the ground because of their workloads… and it is rarely preparing for class that is what's stressing them out.
I would also like to jump in and fourth (not second) what Jessica has said about teachers not being so quick to label students as learning disabled, but instead providing every student with the extra, specialized help they may need. I think its wonderful that your school and The Lab School, as Dr. Belson mentioned, are two great examples of schools that work to meet the specialized needs of every child. I remember from another posting how you mentioned student writing samples are saved every year and passed on to the next teacher. I think this is an excellent way to cooperate between years and really educating the whole child throughout their experience at your school. With the high turnover rate throughout all of DCPS, and changing leadership at most schools (the Principal at my school seems to change every year) how do you propose more schools collaborate on the same productive level? That is, what are some ways more schools can set up collaborative practices that work to assist students throughout their entire elementary, middle, or high school career? I know most elementary school have cumulative reports that follow the child from year to year. Why don't we have such extensive reports (outside IEPs) that enable teachers to start off knowing the special needs of their students? It took me too long each year to find out the specific needs of my children and what specialized instruction worked best for each child. At the beginning of this school year, I met with the teachers of my former students to explain the needs of my former students and what tools worked in my experience teaching each child. At the end of this past year I had planned to write a personalized report for each child so that their teacher in the next year would have a head start on specializing instruction for them. However, many of the teachers in my school were being excessed and they never let anyone know who was going to have a job the next year. I don't mean to complain about the ever-changing structure of DCPS, but I was curious if anyone had another suggestion for how we could not only get more dedicated teachers, as Dr. Belson suggested, but also create more substantial collaboration between grades and between schools so that students progress wouldn't be a yearly thing but more of an educational career matter.
In Sally Smith's book, No Easy Answers, she talks about how teachers should include socialization teachings within every single aspect of their instruction. She specifically refers to this concept in reference to teaching students with special education needs, but this concept can be expanded to any teaching within lower-income communities where learning how to maneuver within a the world that exists currently, as well as learning how to change its social injustices, is important for all of our students. Thus, I think that teachers need to be very, very explicit and clear when teaching directions for a task, such as breaking each direction down into clear directives, modeling the task, reviewing it, and making sure the students understand the purpose behind their work. Particularly this is important when asking students to work in groups and giving such directives for socialization: teachers should be clear about the norms and directions and model appropriate behavior, language, and tone.
Sally Smith, the founder of the Lab School, talks about in "No Easy Answers" how teachers should include socialization instruction in every aspect of their classroom. Even though Dr. Smith was referring specifically to instructing LD students, this type of instruction also benefits our other students who must learn the way to maneuver in the world that exists currently, as well as have the power to one day change the social justices that exist (Bigelow, 5). In order to support our LD students in an inclusive classroom as well as benefit all students, teachers should carefully plan out directions and tasks in order to include learning strategies that get students to socialize with each other; i.e. jigsaw, think-pair-share, triads, etc. Being very clear in short, direct instructions when teaching students to do a task is very important in ensuring our LD students' success - academically and socially. Modeling appropriate behavior, language, and tone and setting purposeful norms should be included in this clear instruction.
I agree Emily, I think of the example of one of my friends Andrew Bloc told me when he applied for a teaching job, that they asked him about how he would handle ELL or SPED students, and he said (with a straight face), "I believe good ELL or SPED teaching is simply good teaching for any student." While that sounds really cheesy, I think it's true. Students with disabilities are still students first, and often the way we interact with them or should reach out and get to know their real learning styles and such is what we should be doing for all students. It's just a little more compelling when there's a legal requirement behind it. I actually lost points in our other online course on my lesson plans because the accommodations I listed were in the view of the teacher no different than what I should be doing all along for any class of students even with our special needs.
I think the hardest thing for me was that, according to the national association of special education teachers, they describe that an IEP should be list the instructional goals for a student as well as the accommodations or services they are to receive. At best, I would get the student's reading level, and checklist of random accommodation, all of which said things like those Emily listed, no matter what sort of disability the student has. Clearly there has to be a better way to prepare teachers than giving a checklist of "preferential seating" or m favorite "simplified instruction." How is that helpful?
I agree with you Dr. Belson, that it is frightening or concerning that some schools, mine included, can't always give students with special needs exactly what they need to best fit their educational goals. However, I just completed Train Go Sorry and I am really thinking about how important deaf culture is to deaf people. The students at Lexington absolutely loved their school, their teachers, hearing and not, the entire Lexington community and what it had to offer them. Through the book, were given a better look into James' life and he was really afraid upon graduation from the Lexington school, to venture out in the "real world". A place where not everyone knew him, or knew how to communicate with him. That being said, he felt very fortunate to have the Lexington community be his support system and family. Perhaps these other schools that our students with special needs get sent to become like their 2nd families as well. Perhaps they create their own culture - one that they are very happy with. I think, that even though it is sad that not all schools can provide every student with what they need - that if the student and his/her families wants to seek education elsewhere, schools will help families find a better place for them; a place that will give them the skills and confidence to go out into the world and be proud of who they are.
I agree, teachers in all schools, who want to be successful with students with special needs do need to have dedication and the will to make sure they are doing all they can to best teach these students. A deeper set of skills too, but a practical suggestion might be a smaller class size - so that the teachers can give more attention to students with learning disabilities, while at the same time, not neglecting students who are not LD.
I'm totally responding to my own question but I'm about to finish No Easy Answers by Sally Smith and she's just brought up the smaller class size concern. She states: "All over the United States test scores are going down, discipline problems are soaring, children are not learning to read and write properly, yet not one school district is drastically reducing class sizes in order to give children and teachers a fighting chance to succeed. Why? Because citizens and their representatives decide that money must be allotted elsewhere" (Smith, 250).
That is so frustrating!
A quick sidenote — if both the IQ tests and achievement tests are biased towards or against a particular student group, could it be possible that these are still accurate means of testing such students? A learning disability is diagnosed by a significant difference between the IQ scores and the achievement tests. Presumably, the IQ scores are higher, and would suggest scores that are higher than what the achievement tests actually show.
If cultural biases depress IQ scores but somehow don't affect achievement scores, then learning disabilities would be less frequently identified (the gap would be smaller). If cultural biases depress achievement scores but not IQ scores, learning disabilities would be more frequently identified (the gap would be larger). If cultural biases either depress or don't depress both IQ and achievement scores equally, then there would be no effect on the diagnosis of learning disabilities. My main point is that cultural biases in the tests alone cannot necessarily account for the increased diagnosis of learning disabilities within a given population of students.
I have always had a hard time with the term “learning disabled” because I was diagnosed as LD as a child. Not only did I go through childhood feeling stupid because of my differences, but frustrated because the term is applied to anyone who can’t function in the classic pubic school setting. I remember my first grade teacher teaching the class to read with ditto sheets, which I still stink at, being “held back” in first grade, and almost failing fourth. That’s when my parents opted to put me in private school. These for the first time I had no disability, I was just a kid in the class. I did have some serious behavior issues through middle school but academically was able to skip eighth grade and catch up to my peers in high school. I continued to have behavior issues and mediocre grades (I was a wild teen) but I wasn’t disabled, nobody knew, and what a relief that was. Then I went off to college despite what many had anticipated and for the first time, and mind you with the least supervision, got the best grades of my life.
The point of my story is two fold. To begin with, it does greatly affect the students self esteem when they are labeled and failed, despite whatever good intentions or punishment strategies (in the case of failing) are intended. Secondly, it is senseless that students who are, in mind often, quite creative and talented told that they are “disabled”. The word disabled means that you are not able do something and all LD students can learn, they are “average or above average intelligence”. Lets admit, not everybody gets is from going over work sheets, sitting quietly unable to discuss their ideas, unable to draw, or dance or do what ever it is they are good at.
One of the biggest differences that made me successful in private school is that our creativity was encouraged. We took all different types of classes that focused on the “whole person”. Mind you I graduated from a high school that’s catch phrase was school for the gifted underachiever but we were encouraged to think, I believe that’s what’s most important. Public school curricula often talks about critical thinking but the curriculums are so preprescibed are they really pushing our students to think or regurgitate?
I agree with all of posted comments. In dealing with some "learning disabled" students, I often think about some of the world's great artists, thinkers and inventors who had terrible early academic careers, such as Winston Churchill, Auguste Rodin, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. Also, I think performances on tests reflect poor earlier schooling, sleep deprivation, poor nutrition and a host of other things.
I'm an incredible cheerleader for these kids, constantly boosting their egos everyday.
Here's a link to an article that discusses how black males are over represented as ADD or ADHD. One physician is quoted here as saying that often abuse, depression and stress are misdiagnosed as ADD.
Learning Disabled is a load term. Even those in the field of education that understand that it does not mean "dumb" or even "slow" are afraid of labeling children as disabled. As a mother of African American children, it is a fear that I had before birth - Would my children have learning difficulties? This is a two fold problem- my child's disablity could be overlooked and they not get the help they need or they could be labeled unneccessarily and be trapped in the special education system.
One of the articles in our package entiltled, The Dispropartionate Placement of African American Males in Special Education Programs: A Critique of the Process discusses the disproportionate amount of black males labeled as Learning Disabled and often placed in special education classrooms or programs. Not only are students more likely to be labeled as learning disabled but they are most likely the be removed from the regular education classroom.
In 2005, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled the parents of learning disabled students who felt as if the school was not meeting their child's need had the burden of proof and not the schools. This was a great break for schools and school systems but a blow to parents of learning disabled children. Many parents do not know exactly what their children need or how to prove that need. Parents are forced to become not only advocates for their students but researchers as well. Parents and students especially those with little education like many African American or minority parents are left sunking in the world of education. Many African American parenets are to negotiate the world of special education and because their school experiences were not the best, they may not know how to work the system for the best of their child.
Angela, I think you bring up an important point about the role of parents in the Special Education process. There is certainly a large Special Education system within public school systems today and it seems like children are given a great advantage when their parents understand the system and can then use the system to their child's advantage. However, as you've pointed out, many parents are at a disadvantage because of their own lack of education or lack of time to advocate because of other commitments. I think this underscores the idea that schools exist to serve whole communities, which includes parents as well as teachers. I don't think that my school has ever done this, but I think it would be helpful to have a series of workshops to teach parents about their rights - both in general and with regard to Special Education.
To switch gears a bit, I've included a link to a summary of a long-term study of secondary students with learning disabilities (link: http://www.schwablearning.org/articles.aspx?r=790). There is a lot of interesting information, but I found some things particularly striking:
We have spoken a lot about the roles of educators and parents in helping a learning disabled child to accommodate for their disability but there are also a great number of mental implications for the child. Liz Mickduff shared above her feelings and the conflicting emotions that took over as she was diagnosed with LD and I feel in light of this that it is important to recognize that not all children are empowered to understand that their learning disability simply changes the way that they learn, it does not, as Liz noted, prevent them from learning. I have taught many classes that have inclusion students without an inclusion teacher and I would like to talk about two examples from one of my largest inclusion classes. In my class of only 23, 14 of my students were diagnosed with learning disabilities and as expected there was a startling range of self esteem beliefs that stemmed from that diagnosis. On the very first day of school Keith approached me after class and explained that he had a learning disability and that he needed me to try to use colors and be very organized on the board when I was explaining new Algebra II material. He was very clear on this day and noticeably through out the year that he would try his best and he might get frustrated and need to stop but that he would always come back to try again. And he always did, always. I could not have asked for a more dedicated student. In the same class I had a student, Davon, who did not have the same perspective on his disability. He knew that he had an IEP and he knew, by this time through years of experience, that because he was not getting his inclusion hours, that no matter how low his F, he would still pass the course. Davon was, by far, one of my greatest behavioral and educational challenges of my first year of teaching. He refused to try, perhaps because he had tried and failed for so long, and spent his time doing anything but.
I mention these two cases to make clear that there are, as Jess put it, shades of self esteem that a learning disabled child, just like any other, can have. Each has a history, they may have been empowered to accept and learn with their disability or they may have been taught through failure to work the system so that they are not left behind. As a teacher you must be cognizant of the story behind each child for it is through their motivations that you can find a way to teach them. Davon's weak spot was that he believed that he would fail. It took me all year but with short term behavioral and learning objectives I helped him understand that he didn't need to lean on the crutch that my school had given him. Yet it was a battle, for both he and his mother did not at first value his education but rather the diploma he was sure to receive in the end. In order to prevent situations like Davon's from occurring, how should we make sure to present information in IEP meetings, especially the first one? What types of mental support systems need to be in place for learning disabled students?
I really liked Caitlin's two examples, because I think they highlight one of the really challenging things for me with working with special education students. Working out that balance and negotiating the physical condition with the mental or social interaction was never easy. I had on average five students per class with an IEP, and though I would never know it until at least six or seven weeks in, I would often suspect. Clearly this is an illegal practice and some kind of negligence, but what I did find was that there were students who were often very far behind in class, and others who had real disabilities which made it harder to retain material or catch up, and others who had behavior problems in which they completely understood class material but either sit still long enough to stay focused on learning.
Because I had many Spanish I classes, I had a somewhat unique vantage that there was no content specific achievement gap in my classes. Clearly some students had more effective study habits, attended class more regularly, worked more on task or had a better attitude towards the material or were more organized, but no one could come in saying "I have real problems with foreign language classes, I've always struggled with it." That aside, I always felt like I was at risk for getting sued if I said the wrong thing, but knew that there was no way I was accommodating all kinds of special needs. If anything, I wished I had a bigger learning gap and less of the other issues, my background is in Spanish, not in psychology, I'd be really curious if someone who had gone through a traditional school of ed was prepared for these challenges.
I posted a response on another post about the topic of disabled(ness) and it's social impact on a child's identity. As a sociology major, much of the debate about what is "normal" and what is not "normal" is based on social rules that take little into account the views of minorities and sub-altern perspectives. The concept of "learned disabilities" was an interesting notion to me. I recently read an article about "Codas"(sp), individuals who can hear and have the capability to speak but choose not to and function in sing language and in the norms of the Deaf community. The article spoke about a case that involved a hearing child born to two Deaf parents. The child could hear and had the ability to speak but responded only to those cues that her Deaf parents had taught her. For example, their house was equipped with special telephones, door bells, and fire alarm systems that worked on a system of lights. When someone called, rang the bell, or when the alarm systems went on, a corresponding set of lights would indicate this to the Deaf parents. At one point, the light system failed. When someone called, rang the bell, or the fire alarms went on, the light system would default back to the traditional sound and bell alert system. While the Deaf parents could not hear this, their child, a Coda, could and was very much aware that there were noises at different places in their household. The Coda did not however, respond to the ringing bell, phone, or blaring alarms. The Coda child had not been socialized to respond to those indicators. The child instead only responded to a boiling tea pot and it's spouting steam. The Coda child could not hear the steam whistle but was very much trained to respond to steam. This then prompted the child to check the alarm, phone, and bell light system. Socialization has a lot to do with the way we perceive that people are "supposed" to function. Sometimes these are based on narrow views of how society works and often people are held responsible to perform up to standards that might have little relevance to their condition.
Luis, I think your example of "Codas" is an interesting one and I wonder how its implications may translate to learning disabilities. First of all, it shows the extremely adaptive nature of people's behavior and thinking. Because the child in your example had a variety of other "accommodations" in place, it was almost as if the child didn't need to hear. I wonder how this relates to Caitlin's example of Davon above whose IEP accommodations meant that he didn't have to try in his classes. Is it possible to have too many accommodations or too much leeway for students with disabilities? How do we ensure that the students are still held to high expectations and that their learning disabilities don't become, to use your phrase, "learned disabilities?"
To provide some initial answers, Terra, I think in many - not all situations - it may be beneficial to not have such great distinctions between special ed teachers and classes and general ed teachers and classes. To build off of the excellent points made by Jess and Liz, I think if students are not set apart and if the idea of accommodations becomes ubiquitous, then maybe school can stem the tide of embarrassment and shame. Furthermore, it might send a message that they are being held to the same high standard and are capable of the work.
For this to work, of course, it means several things. First, it means that general education teachers need to be more educated on special education law and practices. I have been fortunate to work with some excellent special education teachers who were truly skilled in their craft. Yet if I were to imagine the ideal general education teacher, why should they not have the skill and knowledge to handle a wide set of learning modalities and differences. If such a knowledge is in fact too much for a general education teacher to take in, perhaps learning disabilities, as done in the Wikipedian articles, could be broken up into different sectors and as part of teacher training you had to specialize in a particular area. If I were to be honest without myself, I have not always done my due diligence when dealing with special education students in my general education classes. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that I knew I always had the special education teacher as a safety net. It is too easy to take a unique and challenging child who might require you to modify your teaching and place them in a special education class. Obviously, there will be cases of teachers just getting by and shirking their responsibilities. But, I believe, for a lot more teachers it will require them to dig in and find creative solutions, ultimately making them better teachers.
Now, I know that the inclusion model is becoming the preferred choice for students, which is similar to what I just spoke of above. Unfortunately, the school I worked at the last two years did not use it that much. For those teachers who work with an inclusion model, is it successful? Is it essentially the same thing I wrote above? Am I just behind on the times?
Cary, you bring up an exellent point. I worked in a inclusion setting and found that there were multiple times when I wasn't even aware of a student's IEP until the middle of the year (in my first year teaching, not my second). Now, leagally I was responsible for meeting those needs, of which I was completely unaware. However, my school did absolutely nothing to train me or to educate me about my student's special needs- that was left to me. So yes, an inclusion model can work but training, educating and informing general education teachers must takeplace, and in my opinion should be provided by the school or district. I don't think specializing in any one area would really benefit the school or students (what if no one specializes in one area, and 5 teachers specialize in the same) but the team work associated with inclusion is what (in my experience) makes it so successful. To have all of the general education teachers, the social worker and the special educator all in one room, even if it is only once a quarter to discuss, strategize and plan for a student with special needs gives that student consistency, fairness and support in a way that no one (specialized or other) teacher could. Just my experience!