In 1975, the U.S. Congress enacted Public Law 94-142, or the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. This landmark law required all publicly-funded schools to provide evaluations and equal access to education to physically and mentally disabled children. The Act was revised and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990. Other countries, such as Sweden, had already recognized the importance of promoting educational equality among students of varying intellectual capabilities, and soon other nations began to follow suit with new legislation to address special education.
When I was in elementary school, special education students were present, but not much seen. Their classrooms were located in another part of the school, tucked away in a wing near the gymnasium. They seemed a bit mysterious, and our only glimpses of them were during lunch or at recess. The segregation started to fade in middle school, when special education students started increasingly appearing in mainstream classrooms, sometimes trailing aides, sometimes not. Now, of course, inclusive classrooms are the norm in many school districts. As a result, the typical classroom teacher now encounters children with a wide range of abilities, including those with special needs. Despite the challenges raised by their disabilities, special needs students can, and often do, thrive in the inclusive classroom. Lessons may need to be modified for their needs, and learning disabled students generally need more time to complete tasks.
Inclusive education can present significant challenges to teachers, particularly if they lack the presence of a special education teacher or aide in the classroom. Communication between the regular classroom teacher, special education teachers, and parents is key in order to ensure that everyone has the same expectations for the student and his/her learning environment. Most studies point out the benefits of inclusive classrooms to both special needs students and regular students, particularly regarding improvements in social skills, compassion, and tolerance.
My selections this week all focus on lessons or activities to be used with special needs students with varying abilities. Throughout the week, we’ll be featuring many more lessons and other special needs resources on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so please be sure to check in.
Connecting Letters and Memory
Subject: Language Arts
Grade: 1-6 Special Ed
This lesson plan is for those students who have difficulty in recognizing the oral letter to the visual letter. Some students may know the alphabet song but still may not know the letters by sight. This lesson is offered by Teachers.net, which offers lesson plans, job postings, and other resources for teachers.
Water, Weather, and the World
Subjects: Language Arts, Math, Science, Life skills
Grade: 1-12 Special Ed
This is a multi-sensory thematic unit which closely examines water and its properties; pollution and conservation; weather and safety; and water’s impact on the earth through hands-on scientific exploration and experimentation. This unit is intended for low functioning students with special needs, however, teachers for kindergarten through second grade may find this information appropriate for their students. This integrated curriculum unit will span many subject areas such as math, language arts, daily living skills, and art. This unit is a product of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, an educational partnership between Yale University and the New Haven Public Schools designed to strengthen teaching and learning in local schools and, by example, in schools across the country.
Real Estate Project
Subjects: Writing, Reading, Math, Life skills
Grade: 6-8 Special Ed
This unit on real estate is intended for special education students in grades 6-8, but can be used with regular education students as well. The unit addresses reading, writing, math, technology, and life skills. This resource was produced by the Regional Educational Media Center (REMC) Association of Michigan, which provides media and technology resources to educators in Michigan.
~Joann's Picks - 1/13/2011~