Commonsense Methods for Children with Special Educational Needs

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These three principles should guide the teaching of students with intellectual disability. Specific difficulties Attention: Individuals with intellectual disability appear often to have problems in attending to the relevant aspects of a learning situation. This tendency to focus on irrelevant detail, or to be distracted easily from a learning task, is potentially a major problem for the child with intellectual disability when integrated into mainstream programmes without close supervision.

The teacher will need to think of many ways of helping a child with intellectual disability to focus on a learning task. Without adequate attention to task any student will fail to learn or remember what the teacher is trying to teach. Intellectual disability and autism 23 Memory: Many students with intellectual disability also have difficulty in storing information in long-term memory Hallahan and Kauffman This problem may, in part, be linked with the failure to attend to the learning task as discussed above.

It may also indicate that the lower the intellectual ability of the student the greater the amount of repetition and practice necessary to ensure that information and skills are eventually stored. Many students with intellectual disability do not develop effective learning strategies to aid memorisation, so the message for the teacher is to provide even more opportunities for guided and independent practice in every area of the curriculum. Very frequent revision and overlearning also need to be key parts of the teaching programme for students with intellectual disability.

Generalisation: It is typical of many students with intellectual disability that they have major problems in generalising what they learn Meese ; Taylor et al. For any learner the most difficult stage of acquiring new learning is that of generalisation. In order to master information, skills or strategies a stage must be reached when the student can apply that learning to new situations not directly linked with the context in which it was first taught.

Many students with intellectual disability are particularly weak in making these links for themselves; they may learn a particular skill or strategy in one context but fail to transfer it to a different situation.


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Language delay in children with intellectual disability One of the main characteristics of children with moderate and severe intellectual disability is the very slow rate at which many of them acquire speech and language. Even the child with mild retardation is likely to be behind the normal milestones for language development. Some individuals with severe and multiple disabilities never develop speech—for them alternative methods of communication may need to be developed e. Language is important for both cognitive and social development.

Language is important for cognitive development; without language one lacks much of the raw material with which to think and reason. Language is the main medium through which school learning is mediated.

Positive social interactions with other persons are heavily dependent upon effective language and communication skills. Language stimulation will continue to be of vital importance for these students in mainstream settings. While language is best acquired naturally—through using it to express needs, obtain information, and interact socially—for some disabled students a more direct instructional approach may also be necessary Beirne-Smith, Ittenbach and Patton Where possible, naturally occurring opportunities within the school day and at home are used to teach and reinforce new vocabulary and language patterns.

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Two obvious benefits of placing a child with intellectual disability in a mainstream class are immersion in a naturally enriched language environment and the increased need for the student to communicate with others. Many students with intellectual disability require the services of a speech therapist; but improvement can be very slow indeed with the intellectually disabled population.

This is because the individuals receiving help may not appreciate the need for it and may therefore have no motivation to practise what is taught. Social development of students with intellectual disability The presence or absence of social skills in students with intellectual disability tends to be related to the extent to which they have had the opportunity to socialise in the home and other environments.

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Commonsense Methods for Children with Special Educational Needs

Within the family, the social interactions between a child with intellectual disability and others are likely to be mainly positive, but the same assumption cannot be made for contacts within the community and at school. Although community attitudes towards people with disabilities are changing, there is still a likelihood that the child with intellectual disability will have experienced difficulty in making friends and gaining acceptance— particularly if he or she has some irritating or challenging behaviours Snell Intellectual disability and autism 25 and Brown In such cases he or she may experience rejection and teasing from other children.

Taylor et al. Intervention is needed to eliminate the negative behaviours and replace them with pro-social behaviours. If the student with a disability is to make friends and be accepted in the peer group, social skills training must be given a high priority in the programme. Strategies for developing social skills are described in Chapter 6. While stressing the need to increase social interaction with others, students with intellectual disability male and female also need to be taught protective behaviours to reduce the possibility that they become the victims of sexual abuse.

They may not really comprehend right from wrong in matters of physical contact and are therefore at risk.

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For their own protection they need to be taught the danger of going anywhere with a stranger, accepting rides in a car, or taking gifts for favours. They need to know that some forms of touching are wrong, and they also need to know that they can tell some trusted adult if they feel they are at risk from some other person. These matters must be dealt with openly in schools and also stressed as important by parents.

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Teaching approaches for students with intellectual disability The main priority in teaching children with intellectual disability is to make the curriculum reality-based. It has already been mentioned that for both cognitive development and for the acquisition of skills, these children need to experience things at first hand, and have others help them interpret these experiences.

If they are to learn important number skills, for example, they should learn them not only from books, computer games and other instructional materials but also from real situations such as shopping, stocktaking, measuring, estimating, counting, grouping, recording data and comparing quantities.


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  7. Reading skills should be developed and practised using real books, real instruction cards, real recipes, real brochures and real comic books, as well as through graded readers, games and flashcards. Brennan In addition to reality-based learning, children with intellectual disability also need some high-quality direct teaching.

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    Direct instruction is based to a large extent on behavioural views of learning applied behaviour analysis. Correct responses or skills are modelled by the teacher. Students imitate the response or skill. Guided and independent practice lead to mastery and automaticity. The approach is very teacher-directed with the content to be taught broken down into very simple steps to ensure high success rates. It has been found that direct instruction using these principles is extremely effective for students with disabilities, particularly for teaching basic skills and functional academics Reddy et al.

    In some contexts the teaching programme also involves the recording of baseline data what the student could do before the direct instruction begins and daily measurement and recording of the progress made. In instances where daily measurement of student responses is taken, the approach is sometimes referred to as precision teaching. Lessons that employ direct instructional methods aim to use a fast pace of teaching with as many successful responses from the students as possible in the time available. There is heavy emphasis on practice, but lessons are made enjoyable and entertaining Hallahan and Kauffman Direct instruction is among the most frequently researched teaching methods and has consistently proved that it is more effective for some types of learning than the student-centred, independent learning approaches.

    Make all possible use of cooperative group work, and teach the child the necessary group-working skills. Use additional helpers to assist with the teaching aides, volunteers, parents.

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    Involve parents in the educational programme when possible. Most importantly, do not sell the students short by expecting too little from them. Intellectual disability and autism 27 In recent years, much emphasis has been placed on trying to increase the self-regulation and self-monitoring strategies of students with intellectual disability, using cognitive methods and metacognitive training. While this approach is proving very useful for students with mild disabilities it is very difficult indeed to employ cognitive training with low-functioning students for reasons that will be discussed in connection with autism.

    The teaching of self-regulation is discussed in Chapter 4. Sensory stimulation for students with severe and multiple disabilities In the case of young children with severe and multiple disabilities, sensory stimulation is important. The approach is being adopted in a number of special schools in Europe and Australasia and is designed to provide both sensory stimulation and relaxation for severely or profoundly disabled individuals.

    The approach is therapeutic and educational, using structured sensory environments containing lights, textures, aromas, sounds and movement. It is reported to have particular benefits for individuals who have emotional and behavioural problems combined with their intellectual disability, and also for helping autistic children. While Snoezelen rooms are unlikely ever to be developed in mainstream schools, teachers in preschools do need to note the potential value of sensory stimulation for young children with intellectual disability.

    Students with autistic spectrum disorders Children with autism remain among the most difficult students to place successfully in mainstream classrooms Turnbull et al. Those with severe autism are usually functioning intellectually at a level too low even to cope with the demands of an adapted curriculum. Coupled with lowered intellectual functioning are the added problems of poor social development and significant communication difficulties Pierangelo and Giuliani ; Wing In US only about 12 per cent of children with diagnosed autism receive their education in mainstream classes while the majority attend special schools or centres Smith The same percentage would apply in Australasia and Britain.

    However, most higherfunctioning students with Asperger Syndrome attend mainstream schools, as will be described later.

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    Many exhibit self-injurious behaviours. Current thinking on the nature of autism embodies the notion of a continuum of autistic characteristics, implying that there is no clearly defined single syndrome Wing Included at the upper level within this continuum are all the atypical children who are difficult to diagnose and do not necessarily conform to the typical pattern of autism. To be diagnosed as autistic a child must show symptoms of abnormal social and interpersonal development before the age of 3 years, and must meet at least 6 of the 12 criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders APA The list helps to delineate in more detail the key areas of abnormal development typical of children with autistic spectrum disorders.

    The characteristics described in the DSM IV are evident in autistic children identified in all parts of the world and do not appear to be culturally determined Wing Although autism has been found to occur in children at all levels of intelligence, a degree of intellectual disability ranging from mild to severe retardation is found in the majority of cases. As many as three-quarters of children with autistic disorders have IQ scores below 70 Sue et al. Autism is a low-incidence disability with approximately 4 to 10 cases per 10, in the population.

    The lower figure represents the more severe cases; the upper figure includes those children with mild autistic tendencies. The ratio of males to females is 4 to 1. Autism is actually one of several disorders referred to under a general category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders PDD. These developmental disorders impair verbal and nonverbal communication and social interactions.

    Many different approaches have been used to control or reduce the negative behaviours often associated with autism.

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