The author has chosen the Castleberry district, which is located in Tarrant County, for this paper. According to Snapshot 2018 district detail (n.d.), there are 3,904 students in the district that are divided among its seven schools. They are overwhelmingly Hispanic at 78.9%, with whites constituting the majority of the remainder at 18.1%, 1.5% of the population being African American, and another 1.1% being biracial. However, as Snapshot 2018 district detail (n.d.) adds, the teaching staff in the area are overwhelmingly white at 71.3%, with 22.6% of Hispanic educators and 4.4% African American ones. The gender distribution of the school population is unclear because the information is not mentioned in the Texas Education Agency’s snapshot. The district was chosen as the destination of the author’s visit before the forced cancellation because it differs significantly in its racial and ethnic makeup from the location that the author last visited.
A substantial number of children in the district have special needs, which it attempts to satisfy to the best of its ability. Snapshot 2018 district detail (n.d.) lists 8.9% of the total learners in the category, compared to the 5.9% of gifted children, 23.1% in career and technical education, 35.5% learning in bilingual and ESL environments, and 35.6% being standard English learners. The specific distribution of the conditions that have created these special needs is not mentioned, possibly because the snapshot is concerned with other aspects of the educational process. However, many different varieties of disabilities are likely represented in the district. Due to the author’s inability to visit the district due to current events, they will conduct a more general analysis of the methods employed to educate children with special needs.
It is critical to engage children in the learning process fully, regardless of whether they have special needs. The Down Syndrome Education Int. (2017) provides the example of doing so via a program that adapts to the child’s needs, emphasizing the visual elements for easier comprehension. Through continued repetition of simple exercises, the teacher can observe the student’s progress and share the enthusiasm that emerges when they make progress. Concerning other varieties of impairment, the Council for Exceptional Children (2020b) suggests captioning all materials to accommodate deaf children and making sure to design educational materials so that they can be accessed without the need to see them. Educators must remember the various contexts in which students will have to review their materials, particularly in the current distance-based environment.
It will often be necessary to modify the instructional process to accommodate the needs of a particular student. The Down Syndrome Education Int. (2020) demonstrates the usage of Numicon tools to teach mathematics to children with the condition. Additionally, as mentioned above, the Council for Exceptional Children (2020b) suggests captioning for hearing impairments, and text-to-speech functionality could benefit those with vision-related issues. Concerning cultural differences, the Council for Exceptional Children (2020c) suggests accommodating various ethnicities naturally, as demonstrated by the image at 7:24, as well as the assignment at 43:46. However, the author has not seen how linguistic differences are accommodated, which was part of the reason why they chose a district with many ESL learners. The author has also struggled to find gender differences in the education of children with special needs.
Facilitation of Teacher-Student Interaction
The videos indicated that the teacher should create an inclusive atmosphere where the children with special needs can integrate with other students. To do so, they have to encourage the children to understand and accept each other by explaining the various traits they have. For example, one teacher had to convince children “that [the student with special needs] wants to communicate, and he doesn’t have any other way to do it” then possibly hurtful physical contact (Down Syndrome Education Int., 2020, 1:02:53). Concerning education, the teachers tended to focus on questions that would be in the ‘remembering’ category in Bloom’s taxonomy. The See and Learn Numbers program, as described by Down Syndrome Education Int. (2020), is an example of this type of questioning. Repetition appears to be highly significant for children with learning difficulties, and educators should emphasize it and observe student progress.
Robust feedback provision is necessary for the education of children with special needs. The Down Syndrome Education Int. (2017) supplies specialized record sheets for matters such as number words, which feature information such as when the words were first practiced, imitated, and said independently by the student. However, such a high degree of detail only applies at an early age, as later on, the knowledge that is taught expands to degrees that cannot be codified on paper. In terms of negative feedback, it is critical not to give preferential treatment to anyone, particularly when the child in question misbehaves. As educators from the Down Syndrome Education Int. (2020) notes, “the children in their classes won’t allow that to happen” (50:58). While educators have to assist children in their learning carefully, they have to identify issues and explain to students that these behaviors are not permissible.
Facilitation of Instruction
Overall, the teachers appear to attempt to incorporate students with special needs into the education process as much as possible. Council for Exceptional Children (2020a) provides a set of basic rules for Zoom classrooms, which include constant eye contact, but note that children can refuse to use a camera if they want to. The need to see each other is a part of the concept known as withitness, which involves regular monitoring and immediate reactions. It is also necessary to consider the wait time, which is known as the period between different activities. The wait times can be used to improve the student’s integration with the other children in the classroom. There were no examples of wait time in the videos that the author has reviewed, but ideally, it would involve reviews of the information just learned, whether with the teacher or with the other children.
The usage of individualized learning objectives is critical for the successful education of children with special needs. The See and Learn Numbers program described by Down Syndrome Education Int. (2017) relies heavily on individualized goals. It can adjust based on the child’s capabilities and progress in a format that is easy to understand and record. Concerning the environment, adjustments were mostly unnecessary in the case of children with Down’s syndrome in the video by Down Syndrome Education Int. (2020), as can be seen at 33:50. However, as noted by the Council for Exceptional Children (2020b), specific accommodations will be necessary for blind and deaf children. With that said, the organization was mostly concerned with distance learning, where physical environments are irrelevant. Lastly, a floor plan of a learning environment is included in this paper.
Throughout this field experience, the author has learned more about the current practical approaches to education for children with special needs. As described by Heward et al. (2017), these students are integrated into the general curriculum instead of being left behind. The same is the case in the various environments reviewed, such as those described by Down Syndrome Education Int. (2020), where the children with special needs are part of a class. Another approach that was recommended by Heward et al. (2017) was to regularly measure student performance through direct methods and adjust decisions based on the results. Down Syndrome Education Int. (2017) applies this approach in its program, providing specific forms and instructions on how to adjust the instructions. Educators should not leave children with special needs behind, but they should also not expect them to perform as well as the other children without oversight.
Overall, the author has learned considerably from this experience, discovering many approaches that they will use in their future practice. They will try to include children with special needs in classes socially and promote acceptance by other children. They will provide course materials that are designed for maximum accessibility, with captions and audio where necessary. Lastly, they will try to incorporate contemporary tools and the latest technologies to assist in the education of children. Concerning COVID-19, the group call procedures that are used in general education can apply to children with special needs, as well. However, teachers must be mindful of the accessibility guidelines described by the Council for Exceptional Children (2020a, 2020b, 2020c). Privacy and accessibility in all aspects are essential for the success of online education.
- Burden, P. (2016). Classroom management: Creating a successful K-12 learning community. Wiley.
- Council for Exceptional Children. (2020a). CEC quick takes – what to know about student privacy [Video]. YouTube. Web.
- Council for Exceptional Children. (2020b). CEC quick takes – what to know about accessibility [Video]. YouTube. Web.
- Council for Exceptional Children. (2020c). Teaching special education online during COVID-19 [Video]. YouTube. Web.
- Down Syndrome Education Int. (2017). Introducing See and Learn Numbers [Video]. Vimeo.
- Down Syndrome Education Int. (2020). Educating children with Down syndrome at primary school [Video]. Vimeo.
- Heward, W. L., Alber-Morgan, & S. R., Konrad, M. (2017). Exceptional children: An introduction to special education. Pearson Education.
- Snapshot 2018 district detail. (n.d.). Texas Education Agency. Web.