Tag Archives: special needs

Education Standards/Special Needs Survey Results

Our July survey posed the question:

How do you think the idea of education standards applies to students with special needs?

Three response choices were offered:
• The fact of having special needs—whether disabilities or special gifts or talents—should not affect expectations for meeting the standards.

• It should be expected that some students with special needs will exceed the standards and some will fail to meet them.

Other (please specify) Either a lot of people were on vacation this month, or not as interested in the topic as in May and June, because there were far fewer replies.

Of the 83 responses we received:
• 18.1% voted for the first response—that all students should be held to the standards.

• 74.7% voted for the second response—that some gifted and special needs students would be expected to exceed or not meet the standards.

• 7.2% voted for Other


The reasons given for choosing “Other” were as follows:

1. Instruction should be tailored to fit the specific needs of individual students. Standards should be specific to individual needs.

2. It truly depends on what is defined as ‘special needs’. Students should be expected to meet the standards set out, however, this does not mean that accommodations should not be made.

3. First, understanding that in order to qualify for special education, a student must fall a minimum of 2 years behind their classroom peers, requiring them to be tested using the same test as the classroom peers that they are already behind is simply a means of ostracizing and humiliating them even more – meaning the probability is higher that they will drop out of school.

4. The standards must be tailored to measure strengths that might be missed by the regular standards.

5. The answer is probably the second option. The reality is that our education system generally does a lousy job of meeting the needs of children with special needs and, from the view of a parent of child with special needs, the current education standards are pretty useless when it comes to helping these children learn. My child is almost 14 and reads at about a 3rd grade level. Her elementary school used 9 different reading curriculums in 4 years – all in the interest of meeting “standards”. She has her challenges but chasing standards have hindered her education and development at a huge personal cost to her and an enormous financial cost to me.

6. The fact of having special needs should not affect expectations for meeting the standards IF accommodations have been made for the student to be able to physically and mentally complete the work. The standards don’t change, but the methods of delivery change.

Comments and suggestions for future survey topics welcome!

Standards/Special Needs Interim Survey Report

With 11 days left in July for our survey only 32 people have responded to our July survey which asks:

How do you think the idea of education standards applies to students with special needs?

and refers to both students with disabilities and gifted students. For our May and June surveys, we had nearly 300 responses, so there are still a lot of folks who have voted before who haven’t yet voted this month.

As of this morning, this is how the voting stands:

• 78.1% (25 people) voted for: “It should be expected that some students with special needs will exceed the standards and some will fail to meet them.”

• 18.8% (6 people) voted for: “The fact of having special needs—whether disabilities or special gifts or talents—should not affect expectations for meeting the standards.”

So, overall, the voting is more or less 3 to 1 in favor of considering the standards as not actually being a universal standard. Interestingly, I checked on the day after
the survey was posted and with only 4 votes, the ratio was the same: 3 to 1.

• 3.1% (1 person) commented and said: “The fact of having special needs should not affect expectations for meeting the standards IF accommodations have been made for the student to be able to physically and mentally complete the work. The standards don’t change, but the methods of delivery change.” (typo correction)

So this is a contingent vote for the position of standards being universal.

The question raised by this comment of how accommodations are applied to testing whether the standards have been met is an important one. Because the national standards assessment situation is different from the classroom instructional situation and (likely) the classroom assessment situation, educators have remarked over the years that the accommodations that are allowed to be used during national standards assessments (those that are characteristically used with the student) may not apply or be sufficient.

We welcome other thoughts on this issue.

And if you haven’t yet voted, please do so here.

Special Education Overview

The United States Department of Education has an Office of Special Education Programs to help those individuals from birth to 21 years of age with disabilities. These programs help fund, support and lead the special education efforts in our communities across the country. The need for these programs is on the rise. With increasing awareness of special needs and disabilities as well as learning disabilities we now have more resources than ever to fit the needs of individual students.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities states that:
  • 2.9 million students are currently receiving services in special education for their learning disabilities.
  • Most people with learning disabilities have the disability affect their reading ability.
  • 44 percent of parents that saw warning signs of learning disabilities in their children waited at least a year or more to take the signs seriously.
  • 38 percent of kids with learning disabilities drop out of school.
  • Students with learning disabilities are more at risk for substance abuse due to their lack of self esteem and trouble with their schoolwork.
There are thirteen different reasons (general) that qualify a student for special education services. These are: learning disabilities, autism, brain injury, deaf/blind, speech and language problems, visual impairments, hearing issues, multiple and cross over disabilities, orthopedic problems, mental retardation, serious health issues, behavior disorders (or emotional), and multi-sensory impairment.

Learning Disabilities

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a learning disability as: “any of various conditions (as dyslexia) that interfere with an individuals ability to learn and so result in impaired functioning in language, reasoning, or academic skills and that are thought to be caused by difficulties in processing and integrating information.”

We find in our society that there are many differing levels of learning disabilities. One person may be severely dyslexic and another may just be mildly dyslexic. This can be said about most learning disabilities. We also know that many people may struggle in learning things but may never be diagnosed with an actual learning disorder.

The key with learning disabilities is to identify them as early in life as possible and then to seek out the right kind of help. The National Institute of Health showed that 67 percent of children who were at risk for reading problems became avid readers when given the right help in the early grades of their education. This is proof of the progress that can be made if parents, teachers, and other caretakers just watch children carefully and try to identify where the child may need extra help.

Here are some signs to look for at different ages so that you may get a child the help that they need:

Preschoolers:

  • trouble relating to friends of the same age
  • has problems pronunciating words clearly
  • vocabulary isn’t growing quickly
  • has fine motor skill difficulties
  • has trouble following directions
  • has trouble with routine
  • is easily distracted or seems “busy” all of the time
  • speaks later than most children his/her age
  • has trouble rhyming words
  • difficulty in learning preschool subjects like shapes, colors, letters, and numbers

Kindergarten to 4th Grade:

  • can’t seem to grasp learning to tell time
  • seems clumsy or accident prone/uncoordinated
  • mixes up number sequences and math symbols
  • depends on memorization and has a hard time with new concepts
  • has difficulty with spelling words (root words, prefixes, suffixes)
  • regularly transposes the same letters (b/d)
  • seems very impulsive, does things haphazardly
  • does not grip pencil or other writing utensils well

5th Grade to 8th Grade:

  • Avoids reading aloud
  • Reverses letters in words
  • Strange pencil grip
  • Does not like and/or has difficulty with handwriting
  • Trouble recalling facts
  • Does not make friends easily
  • Trouble with word problems
  • Has difficulty picking up on other’s body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions

Grade 9 to Adulthood

  • Difficulty spelling, does not seem to show improvement
  • Slow worker
  • Difficulty summarizing stories, concepts or facts
  • Has trouble filling in the blanks
  • Does not grasp abstract concepts
  • Hard time remembering in general
  • Seems not to focus on information details or misreads information

If a parent/teacher or someone close to an individual picks up on these warning signs they can get them the help they need. Teachers are valuable resources as are school counselors and tutors. There are people who specialize in learning disabilities that you can find within your community. Just remember, most of these learning disabilities can be worked with if the individual gets the help that they need. Schools can help you put together an IEP (Individualized Education Program) that will be of great help.

Vocational Rehabilitation

With unemployment rates reaching near record numbers it is becoming more difficult for people with an education, training, and skills to find employment. Now imagine how difficult it would be if these people did not have these advantages. What about those who also have physical disabilities or learning disabilities? Even when our country is not suffering financial difficulties it can be very difficult for people with disabilities to find a way to support their families.

Vocational Rehabilitation services are available all across our country to help assist people with disabilities in getting the education, skills, and training they need to be able to support themselves and their families. There are many great vocational schools available. If you are disabled or unemployed I would encourage you to find out if you are eligible to get assistance from your local vocational rehabilitation offices.

Read our most recent article to learn more about vocational rehabilitation.