Special Education: Collaboration and Communication
In the past, special professionals have serviced children with disabilities. This type of special servicing was needed to optimize the socialization that children with disabilities were getting by being integrated into the structure of an existing educational mainstream. It was needed because the mainstream structure is designed to meet the socialization needs of the majority rather than the individual.
The” inclusion” philosophy is that classrooms, or the educational mainstream, must be restructured to meet the individual needs of all students, thereby accommodating individual differences. In such a set-up, I could advocate a process that involves a support system that would include reading specialists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, and psychologists. These specialists would come to the regular classroom instead of pulling the child out for services. I would advocate for a team-up in the monitoring and evaluation of these special children.
Another possible issue, which I can advocate for these special students, could be the provision of appropriate interactive activities such as cooperative learning. Cooperative learning as an educational goal structure here would involve a set of strategies that organizes students into small groups of five or six and gives them a task to constructively work with others. The child with disabilities can be part of the group, making a contribution according to the ability (Kirk, Gallagher & Anastasiow, 1993). Cooperative learning structures also provide opportunities for reinforcement and tutoring.
Similarly, knowing that reinforcement increases the chance of a behavior being repeated, children without disabilities can reinforce certain behaviors in children with disabilities. While helping children to learn, tutoring or direct instruction also provides an opportunity for close social interaction.
The learner gets instruction, and the tutor gains sensitivity to others, communication skills, and an opportunity to nurture. While the learner gains individual attention and an opportunity for cognitive growth, the tutor gains self-confidence and esteem. This would be more of a peer-to-peer set-up but one that would have to be properly supervised yet generate a healthy sense of fulfillment for everyone.
Meanwhile, some of the ways I could advocate on the families’ behalf is by empowering them to become involved in school and education when they vote. There is an important need to elect people to serve on the local school board to make decisions about educational goals, school facilities, budget allocations, personnel, student standards of achievement and conduct, and evaluation methods.
Obviously, this advocacy is indirect, but nonetheless influential. Another advocacy issue is to collaborate with the parents and empower them by implementing assignment monitoring and workshops that enable them to learn how to help their underachieving students. This program demonstrates that the school cares about the parents and the success of their children (Hyde, 1992).
The factors that may hamper efforts are conflict, confusion, lack of consensus in goals or mismatch in motivation or cognitive skills (Hess & Holloway, 1984). For instance, a mismatch in the way language is used in a special education set-up in school and the community can result in learning problems for the child (Heath, 1983). Moreover,
the school’s effectiveness as a socializing agent is affected by the community where the child lives, the child’s family’s socioeconomic status and attitude toward education, the size of the school, the size of the child’s class, the arrangement of the classroom environment, certain psychological characteristics of the child, the child’s peers and the type of program that is the educational environment for the child. These are some of the factors that could stop the ability to affect them.
Indeed, the key to complementary goals in a special education set-up is communication. The school and the community need to interact with the family so that goals for the child are complementary rather than contradictory. The school and the family need to constantly talk to each other about their attitudes regarding education of their special children.
Heath, S. B. (1983). Ways with words: Language, life and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
Hess, R.D. & Holloway, S.D. (1984). Family and school as educational institutions. In
R.D. Parke (ed) Review of Child Development Research. Vol. 7: The Family, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Hyde, D. (1992). School-parent collaboration results in academic achievement. NASSP Bulletin, 76(543), 39-42.
Kirk, S., Gallagher, J.J. & Anastasiow, N.J. (1993). Educating exceptional children (7th ed). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.