The title of this particular channel surprised me, because it works under the assumption that most public schools actually have adapted to research on special needs students, when I am not certain I can fully-or even partially-agree with this claim.
While working on my Masters in Special Education, I have spent time in various public schools with all types of special needs students, and I find it hard to succumb to the idea that public schools have truly made their environments accessible to the learning of a special needs student.
Yes, teachers now have aids who often sit next to a particular child during a particular class and remind the child to take notes, or move him to a different room and give him a math test with only 50% of the questions, but how much of this is adapting to the child’s needs, and how much of this is simply a different way of forcing the child to adapt to the public school’s needs?
Daily, the special needs student is given two options when mainstreamed in a classroom: 1) sit with an aid and continually be reminded to follow the rules or 2) be taken into another room by the aid and do a fewer-questions version of what the rest of the class is completing together. How much of the actual teaching in the classroom is being devoted to the accessibility of learning from this special needs student? Generally, not much, if any. Teachers are often so overloaded with 22 other students and the impending doom of state tests that they are unable to take a step away from a mainstream curriculum and adapt it, change it, mold it, so that learning becomes accessible.
In fact, how many teachers in a mainstream classroom are truly prepared for the special needs student? A high school guidance counselor recently admitted to me that none of her teachers had any idea how to teach a child with autism-and not only that, but she asked me to sit down and explain to her autism beyond the fact that it makes some children flap their hands. If this sounds unbelievable, let’s think farther. As newer research has been showing that autism now affect 1 out of 150 children, does this display a high school that is prepared to effectively teach our special needs students? A 4th grade teacher at another school sent a student with autism out of her classroom for misbehavior after he mistakenly wrote “is not” at the end of his science notes. Is this a teacher that understands autism and other language disorders? That is capable of teaching a child with autism? That has adapted her teaching methods to research on special needs students? Or is this a teacher that has created a curriculum and a certain code of behavior for her students to follow, and expects her special student to simply learn that code-albeit with the help of an aid-but with no other concessions from the teacher.
Certainly this is not a case of simply bad guy (teacher) vs. good guy (child): teachers are not prepared for special needs students in college and graduate school, they are prepared for average, atypical students; additionally, states require a certain score from a certain amount of testing that often take away from the time in which a teacher might devote to teaching a lesson that may be more accessible to learning, e.g., visual, kinesthetic, repetition.
The educational system has done a good show in providing aids for students and allowing special needs students to remain in a mainstream classroom. This show is perhaps another way of simply forcing the child to adapt to the classroom, rather than adapting a classroom method of teaching for the child, however, it is the first step in reaching our children. We must begin to ask ourselves two very important questions: How long we are willing to linger on this first step? And at what costs will it take us to move along to the second step of actually making our classrooms learning accessible for our special children?