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Teaching Students with Disabilities

Today, the time is very challenging for all the people in the world working in any walk of life. This is due to a number of things. Some of the most important factors worth discussed here are general space findidngs, huge technological developments in almost all walks of life have specially made the entire course of life full of competition. The wave of this competition is felt all through the globe; people are now becoming more and more aware of these challenging multiplying with passing time.

With the arrival of such inventions as computer technology and the World Wide Web this wave of global competition has take high strides which has shaken the giant nations to their heels and awoken those who were in the past sleeping. If such advances and developments have contributed to the rising competition to the entire course of activity of the world, this has also made a lot of challenges to be favorable for the entire human being. One such easiness which has been made favorable in today’s time is the huge developments in the area of special education and especially for students with disabilities both physical and learning disabilities.

The present paper looks at the issue of students with disabilities and how they learn. This topic has been chosen with the scope in mind that in today’s time this singular area is becoming more and more challenging due to the increasing rate of students with disabilities throughout the United States of America (details follow in the designated section); this has given much thought to the policy makers as well as educators, parents, and students with disabilities themselves. Thus there is high need to identify this issue. As such the importance of this paper is so much with regard to policy making and educational development.

The purpose of this paper is to explore basis which have been established as per date in order to promote the technology developments that have been made in the area of teaching the students with disabilities. Once such basis have been established the paper intends to focus those areas which need critical attention in more developments. Students with Disabilities To look for the sufficient grounds as to clearly mark out the students categorized as disabled of those with some kind of disabilities is not an easy job both for the purposes of this paper and for a social makeup.

To understand in detail who students with disabilities are we will have to go out in the social system and see what actually happens in this classification of individuals disable in one way or another and how other individuals (in fact with no disability) react. Examining Kameenui at el. ’s Issues in educating students with disabilities (1997) tells us much more about students with disabilities. The students who cannot show a learning rate equal to those taken as who do not have a disability are taken as students with learning disability and thus are center of our discussion in this section.

According to Kameenui at el. the field of learning disabilities (LD) has gained huge attention in the latest period. It has growth unmatched and has come to accept major influence of special education and its related policy making. In special education LD is the largest category and is also in the category of the ones most problematic due to a number of issues, differing views, and crisis. The common reason for these issues arises from the fact that there are “seemingly straightforward” question which seems hard to be answered in the field of LD.

And the simple question is “What is a learning disability? ” (p. 03). Thus the field of LD is at a critical stage. Therefore, it is important to critically view what is meant by learning disability and who are the students seen as disabled to learning. Although it seems easy to take some students as mentally delayed and others with behavior disorders to bring forward the partners of LD, it is not so because students who are mildly delayed also experience problems of being defined.

As such, on the side of LD, it is highly decisive to decide who students with disabilities are. To make matters more controversial, we witness that the field of LD itself is taken with closed fists by researchers. Some think it no more than a fairy tale itself and refer to it “phantom category” (p. 04). According to US Department of Education (1994, cited in Kameenui at el. , 1997) LD is one field that catches considerable attention when it comes to challenges present to its conditions.

According to the statistics by the US Department of Education, the occurrence of students with disabilities is every increasing in a large number of states. These statistics tell us that “the LD population has increased about 150% to a level where it now represents almost 5% of all students in school and 50% of all students with disabilities” (p. 04). There is comparatively high regard for LD and students with disabilities because the field of LD has advanced much ahead of itself. There is lack of complete and joined meaning which makes the suggestion that LD cannot come to reach two serious aspects.

These two serious aspects are (a) a broad and clear sense of LD, and its explanation; (b) “a rational exposition of the reasons why a particular student is LD” (p. 05). As such these are the basis which make the understanding of LD and students with disabilities much more difficult and something that grabs a lot of attention which is, of course, serious on its grounds. Historical Considerations and Disabilities Looking at history to identify the appearance and development of LD tells us that it is well-documented field. For instance, Weiderholt (1974, cited in Kameenui at el.

) came to a concept of the historical stages of LD development with two aspects: (a) a series of development which defined historical periods of time; (b) a type of examination performed for disorders (p. 05). As such history goes as far back as 1800. However, it is only toward the close of the twentieth century that we find the taking in of LD as a field emerging from the area of special education. Thus it is here that we may find out who are students with disabilities that fall into the category of LD. Kameenui at el. define the inclusion of these students as learning disabled:

“From clinic-based treatment for aphasia and dyslexia, to classes for neurologically impaired students, to misclassification in special classes for MR and BD, and, finally, to a need for an educational focus-rather than counseling and guidance services — for underachievement, LD filled a void in the spectrum of special education” (p. 05). Moving along the same lines of our examination, Kameenui at el. tell us that there was a coming out of specially designed programs at that very period of time which gave way to a different look of teaching and assessing these students now come to be categorized as learning disabled.

These programs well documented the rising of the field of LD. Before this time, the students who came in the category of the learning disabled students got education with those who were actually the special students: “Previously, there were a variety of LD-like students requiring special education but no provisions except in either nonschool [sic] arrangements or inappropriate special education arrangements. The needs of such students were best met through what eventually became LD programs” (p. 05). Foundation to LD and Student with Disabilities Foundation of LD, to be particularly talking, was laid by the historical effort of A.

Strauss and H. Werner. It was their study of brain-injured students (exogenous or MR [mentally regarded]) that showed to the world that there was another field to emerge from the roots of special education. The authors thus made an endeavor to define a brain-injured student as the one “who before, during or after birth has received an injury to or suffered an infection of the brain” and such natural injury results to “deficits of the neuromotor [sic] system may be present of absent”; conversely, “such a child may show disturbances in perception, thinking, and emotional behavior, either separately or in combinations”.

The authors went on to shed more technical light on this very issue by marking out that “This disturbance can be demonstrated by specific tests. These disturbances prevent or impede a normal learning process”. (Strauss & Lehtinen, 1947, p. 4 [cited in Kameenui at el. , 1997, p. 07]). What is remarkably important in the study and definition by Strauss and Lehtinen is that their work laid the foundation of a criterion which took into consideration the behavior side of the students so that diagnosis and study of a biophysical occurrence was to be seen as something important in its own right.

Kameenui at el. (1997, p. 07) further comment on this change of perspective or approach in the paradigm of teaching to the special students as that “Within the context of this definition, brain injury became a rather broad and elastic category” which was to span “gross damage easily documented to slight damage not easily documented but presumed because of the presence of behavioral symptoms”.

Moving ahead, we find that it was in the year 1947 by the same authors (Strauss and Lehtinen) that the next predecessor happened which was “minimal brain dysfunction” (MBD). In this category what the authors brought forward was the observation that in smallest brain dysfunction, it is possible that intelligence level may not show a lowering in the student’s brain; however, the student might come to show a leaning in which their “behavior and learning may be affected by smallest brain injuries”.

(p. 07). Therefore, these works gave way to more studies, analyses, and examination; above all these past works laid the foundation of LD as well as these works provoked more and more research in the same direction which then came to be known as the one rightful in its place. Not only that these early efforts at defining and understanding learning disabilities laid the foundation of LD and more research, these works also raised the government to come into full action so that LD was legalized.

It was in the year of 1968 that the National Advisory Committee on Handicapped Children (NACHC) provided what was the basis for federal governmental definitions that “Children with special (specific) learning disabilities exhibit a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using spoken and written language” These disorders “may be manifested in disorders of listening, thinking, talking, reading, writing, spelling, or arithmetic” and it also included those students who were apparently handicaps in thinking, had any kind of brain injury, or smallest dysfunction, or dyslexia, developmental aphasia, and so and so forth. And ahead we see that US Office of Education funded an institute which was to work on the problems of definitions in this area which then started to blur.

What my point here is that this was the very point in time that students with learning disabilities were recognized and were given due importance under the head of LD. Kameenui at el. , (1997) also discuss a number of different definitions and a wrestling about governmental decision with regard to LD which, keeping with the scope of this paper, do not find enough space here and so are left. At this point in the paper, with broad research and test of who students with disabilities are, and when it becomes clear what LD is all about, it is an important observation to seriously examine the common social practices and behaviors which give us the other part of the picture.

According to the personal guess of the present writer it is highly important to understand how students with disabilities are treated in common social practices so that a careful approach toward educating them can be held. Thus in the following section I discuss this very issue. Disability and Social Structuring According to Shapiro (2000), in our social system, there is more to be witnessed with regard to our labeling and treatment of the people with some kind of apparent disability. In our normal course of life, attitudes of people with no visible disability is, in the words of Shapiro, is negative. The author tells us that disabilities are described in the common life environment as something which should be avoided because these are of bad influences.

According to the author there are definite cultural influences that have decided the way our society reacts to disability which is simply nothing but negative. He gives six examples of such reinforcement of negative social system which can also be listed here for our study of those physically disabled or special students. These are “Captain Hook with his evil prosthesis, “the sinister hump of Richard III, the pitiable crutch of Tiny Tim, the blind bumbling antics of Mr. Magoo, the comical speech of Porky Pig, even the pathetic pleas of poster children in their wheelchairs” (p. 03). Such support as such does to our social system toward disable people in a similar style as people think of African culture after watching Tarzan movies.

Therefore, children, from these visually attractive stories, learn early in their life that physical beauty is something that gives birth to virtue and goodness; whereas, a condition of disability gives birth to nothing but evil forces and the negative part of life. At this point of paper, it is important to note that if such attitudes exist in society, efforts to control negative awareness about disability may not work effectively on the legislative side of the court. The game should be played with equal enthusiasm on both sides. The more important steps toward physically or mentally not normal students must start from fact that equal opportunities for students with disabilities should be provided by the laws and service and that “school environments must be made increasingly receptive to those who make up this population” (Shapiro, p. 06, 2000).

However, underneath such efforts, there is dire need to change the underlying attitudes, traditional observations, of society on the whole for the persons with disabilities. Computer Technology and Teaching Students with Disabilities Although “Only recently have there been attempts to explore the potential contribution of computers to the social qualities of our lives”, there is a great deal being done to make easy learning through computer technology (Leask, & Pachler, p. 6, 1999). Information and communication technologies (ICT) is one term used in today’s literature. Students with disabilities come across problems and difficulties of almost all kinds when it comes to learning.

However, technology is the one thing in today’s time which is helping to minimize their chances of coming across many of these hurdles. With the use of computer technology for things like reading and writing papers, communicating with other people, and using the Internet to search, students with disabilities are now able to handle a bigger range of functions which they can perform without the need of somebody by their side. However, students with disabilities still speak of to a number of problems when they use computer. These problems can be pointed out in three purposeful categories: (i) problems to working out input for computer, understanding output, and interpretation of the supporting documentation.

Use of technologies like adaptive or assistive technologies (or hardware and software tools) have been made to make available practical alternatives to these regular functions; a range of detailed products, and approaches are being now used to effectively make these tools work for students with disabilities. In the following lines, I review these tools to analyze how computer technology is helping the students with disabilities. Hardware and Software Adjustable Technology for Students with Disabilities When the introduction of computers was made into higher education, it brought with it a typical group of problems for students with disabilities. Growths in adjustable technology, yet, have helped to overcome most of these problems at first faced by students with disabilities.

In fact, the development in high technology promises new ways of learning for students with disabilities while they are getting higher education and are busy at the workplace after education. However, a grip of the matters involved and the capital available to decide the course of such matter is necessary for making sure that equal access for students with disabilities to higher education is made possible (Knox at el. , p. 144, 2000). WWW or The World Wide Web The World Wide Web (WWW) is one source of high guarantee which can be used to change teaching and curriculum. Today, the WWW is being referred to as great source of learning for the students with disabilities.

This computer-based technology has high benefits to give to these students although “hopeful and important developments, the present state of Internet-based accommodations for students with disabilities can still prove daunting” which needs a careful move toward this issue. The WWW is mainly straight to disconnection, not from intention or malice, but merely because of the deficiency of consciousness on the side of a number of web site makers. Web site outlook demands an understanding what are the needs of students so that the best ways to put up with these needs can be worked out. A kindly planned web site can bring teachers nearer to students with disabilities by making possible the flow of communication without such grand processes as taping, brailing, and the interpretation of the sign language.

Waddell (1998) sketches out ADA ease needs for web pages and makes reality-based suggestions for building web sites which are easily available to the students with disabilities. Additional sources which will help in making reachable web pages are put into effect by the federal government and can be found on such sources as http://www. cast. org/bobby/ when doing a search on the search engine. Those who are visually weak may use screen reader software to proficiently find the way around a site which is designed to be reachable. Yet, while faced with frames, small push buttons, and moving pictures, these students might not be capable of accessing the desired information. Thus use of screen reader can facilitate such activity by students with disabilities.

A web site that contains class syllabus or outline, lessons leaflets, and manuals can be easily approached by a screenreader. Therefore, the WWW is taken as an integral part judging students today. Computer and Visually Impaired Students With the use of computer, a great deal has been achieved for students who have visual impairment. For such students special tools can adapt the display or printer output on a computer-based learning program. Computer-produced signs, both text and animated material, can be increased on the monitor screen or printed in large size; therefore, it allows students with short vision to use normal word processing, worksheets, e-mail, and other software functions which was not possible when computer-technology was not present.

For students who have some visual problems, the capability to control the color of the screen or adjust the front position and background colors is as well of high importance. For example, individual software can turn over the monitor from black on white and to white on black for students who are sensitive to light. In addition to this, anti-glow monitors can also make reading easier for such students. Output-voice software systems are also available for the students who have some kind of low vision. (Burgstahler, n. d. ). Real Time Captioning for the Hearing Impaired Real time captioning is frequently cited as “text interpreting”. It, in fact, is a latest advance which has made lectures and classroom conversation reachable to students who show hearing problems.

This growth is particularly obliging for hearing-impaired students who have not learned sign language (that is, students that have experienced a latest loss in hearing) or in condition in which there is a scarcity of the readers of sign language. Immediate captioning tools comprises three components which are a computer, a device for translation and transceiver, and monitor for display. These tools can be changed into a moveable system with the help of a laptop computer and an LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor. In this example, a transcriptionist takes the student with disabilities to class and types the discussion or class lecture which afterwards emerges on the monitors perched in front of the students. Computer-assisted note-taking takes into consideration likewise apparatus and a transcriptionist, who is obliged to be capable to rapidly concentrate and rephrase lectures.

Both of these systems carry advantages and disadvantages and ought to be picked up based on the personal needs of the target students, though it is possible that prototype language detection and transcript output apparatuses under improvement might one day put back the requirement of someone who copies. These methods will get the shape of a little hand-held computer and will be able to recognize language and convert it into text. The builders of such programs tell that a number of the methods will also contain the capability of producing output of voice of text which is fed into them by stylus or keyboard. Real time captioning and computer-aided note taking do not necessitate any additional time or attempt from that teaching staff, and present an optional way to offering lectures on the web (Knox at el. , p. 144, 2000).

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