The two exceptionalities that stood out to me are developmental delay and emotional disturbance. Developmental delay (DD) is defined as not being able to or slow to meet milestones in one or more areas of development expected for that age. These categories include communication, motor, cognition, social-emotional, and adaptive skills. Slow development may be independent but is often associated with a specific diagnosis. Under IDEA, states determine the definition and qualifications for developmental delay, at which point the child is determined as eligible to special education after being assessed with proper tools (Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, 2011). Meanwhile, emotional disturbance is a condition that is characterized by inability to learn, lack of interpersonal relationships, inappropriate types of behavior under normal circumstances, and general pervasive depression or negative mood. The NICHCY identifies six types of emotional disturbances including anxiety, bipolar, conduct, eating, OCD, and psychotic disorders, but others can apply. It is one of the most difficult exceptionalities to identify, diagnose, and then manage in the classroom. Behavior modification and positive reinforcement are some ways that these disturbances can be dealt with but requires a close collaboration between teachers, parents, and mental-health professionals (Special Education Guide, n.d.).
The concept of teaching students with gifts and talent (or gifted) is complex, particularly in the context of culture. Unfortunately, many times the current system is aimed at recognizing and developing students that are English speaking and middle class. This leads to under-representation of some demographics. Gifted students by definition are those that posses certain abilities that are highly valued within a particular society or culture (Cohen, 1988). Unfortunately, values and talents that may be highly valued in their respective cultures of origin, may not be recognized under U.S. standards. The debate is ongoing on what is considered gifted, is it the IQ, the percentile of intelligence or some other characteristic. However, notably there is a major cultural split in attitude between western and eastern perceptions of identifying and developing gifted. Western society accepts the genetic influence and selects only the select few as gifted for intervention. Meanwhile, in Eastern societies, all children are seen as having equal potential, with environmental influences ultimately determining talented students (Freeman, 2015). However, the subjective judgment of teacher is the most common means of identifying gifted, so there may be cultural bias. Teaching approaches and expectations to these gifted students also differ significantly based on cultural differences, making it a challenging aspect to navigate in diverse classroom.
Under the federal law Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1990, all schools receiving financial support from the government must provide students with non-discriminatory access to special needs programs. It also required schools to create the IEP for students found eligible for special education and procedural safeguards. Under IDEA, all students should be provided with an opportunity to learn in a least restrictive environment (Brandman University, 2020). This concept applies to general education teachers, suggesting that to the best extent possible SPED students should receive their education with their non-disabled students, and not be removed from class even with supplemental aid. Therefore, general ed teachers must accommodate SPED students and provide an inclusive environment. Meanwhile, IDEA also establishes Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) which is a right that educational and other services are provided to handicapped persons’ needs. Along with IEP, special education teachers have the responsibility of developing educational and other parameters for SPED students to meet their needs at the same level as the non-handicapped students. The multitiered systems of support (MTSS) is a framework meant for schools to identify and aid struggling students. It is based on the student, focusing not just on academics but personal, behavioral development (non-academic).
MTSS offers a much broader scope in comparison to response to intervention (RTI). RTI is similarly a model for identifying and addressing the needs of students, but with a focus on academics. Both systems use a three-tiered approach. The first tier is the general population and includes the whole classroom. Upon evaluation or evident struggle may be moved to tier 2 which is small group-intervention, attending the lesson with the rest of the class but receiving targeted support. Finally, tier 3 is intensive individual support, where students require small group or individual lessons in addition to general classroom. RTI can be used as part of the MTSS or they can be used separately (Cunningham, n.d.). Tier 3 is respectively more associated with special education, as it a method to identify whether a child has specific learning disabilities that may make them eligible. Special education teachers play various roles in different tiers of these models, as they contribute to planning, support implementation, evaluation, assessment, and analysis of performance. In order to be successful, the MTSS and RTI models require collaboration between the general and special education teachers (Leonard, 2012).
An IEP is a complex process but a critical cornerstone for formulating an education plan and objectives for each child with disabilities. It is important as it helps all stakeholders in the child’s education to collaborate to improve the educational outcomes. These may include instructors, parents, administrators, service personnel, and sometimes the students themselves. Although IEPs are not legally required, but it remains the most universal system and plan for assessment and aid with SEN needs. Parents typically have the right to participate in IEP or any other decision-making meeting regarding their child’s educational program, including special education eligibility, assessment, and placement. Parents also have the right to consent whether a child is placed in special education and challenge any assessments (U.S. Department of Education, 2000). Overall, it is important to involve parents in every step of the IEP process, as it helps to keep the education on track and maintain transparency, as well as because parents are a critical part of following IEP plans at home by playing a supportive and instructional role themselves.
One of the lesser-known theorists but whose work I admire is Howard Gardner and his educational theory of multiple intelligences. The theory suggests that there is no one general intelligence, but instead multiple ones. Gardner developed inclusion and identified eight types of intelligences which are linguistic, spatial, musical, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, naturalist, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. The theory which was first developed for cognitive psychology grew in popularity in education. Although individuals may have all of the intelligences, their proficiency varies, and like one is more dominant than others (Yavich & Rotnitsky, 2020). However, these intelligences are not synonymous with learning styles, but does support the same principle of challenging an educational system that indicates everyone can learn the same material in the same way. This theory underlines my philosophy of teaching, that there should be multiple approaches to teaching and presenting material as to address the different intelligences. I disagree with modern curriculums that overemphasize linguistic modes of teaching, with some logical-mathematical moments, but never going beyond that. Eight intelligences inherently provide 8 different means to teach a subject, and I believe instruction should be diverse whenever possible. This diversity allows to appeal to multiple intelligences and learning styles, expand the horizons and capabilities for all students, and contributes to analytical and creative thinking.
Brandman University. (2020). 4 Special education laws and policies every teacher should know. Web.
Cohen, L. M. (1988). Meeting the needs of gifted and talented minority language students: Issues and practices. NCBE, 8. Web.
Cunningham, B. (n.d.). What’s the difference between RTI and MTSS? Web.
Freeman, J. (2015), ‘Cultural variations in ideas of gifts and talents with special regard to the Eastern and Western Worlds’, in Dai, D.Y. & Ching, C.K. (Eds.) Gifted education in Asia. pp. 231-244. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development. (2011). Contemporary practices in early intervention: Developmental delay and IDEA primer. Web.
Leonard, J. A. (2012). Changing roles: Special education teachers in response to intervention model [Honors Thesis]. UCONN. Web.
Special Education Guide. (n.d.). Emotional disturbance. Web.
U.S. Department of Education. (2000). A guide to the individualized education program. Web.
Yavich, R., & Rotnitsky, I. (2020). Multiple intelligences and success in school studies. International Journal of Higher Education, 9(6), 107-117. Web.