2002 Conference Proceedings

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Mary Sagstetter
MaryKay Walch
AbleNet Inc.
1081 Tenth Ave S.E.
Mpls, MN 55414-1312

Is our society well on its' way toward providing opportunities for all students to learn in our public schools? Do all students have access to the regular public schools? Unfortunately, the answer to both questions is "no". For 2,200,00 students with disabilities many challenges and barriers that prevent access to general education still exist despite three decades of judicial and legal decisions that clearly mandate inclusion of students with disabilities into our schools. In this paper, the author will suggest why those mandates are not being observed and what we can do as educators to focus on available strategies that will enable students with disabilities to learn, communicate and participate in the general education setting.

Persistent attempts throughout history to include all students in the mainstream of education have existed. By the mid 1970's, several educational rights cases were brought to court in states all over the country. Court decisions in Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia in 1971 and 1972, respectively, established the right of all students labeled as having a disability to a free and appropriate education (Nichy, 1996). This made it much more difficult for students with disabilities to be excluded from public schools and denied and an education (Stainback, Stainback, & Forest, 1989).

In 1975, Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children was passed and1990 the name was changed to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This law made a free and appropriate education accessible for all students.

In 1988, Congress addressed the need for technology assistance by passing Public Law 100-407. This law is known as the Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act (Tech Act). It addressed providing funds to develop statewide, consumer-responsive information and training programs designed to meet the assistive technology needs of students with disabilities.

Then in 1994, Congress reiterated its intent to enable students with disabilities to be included into society through technology by incorporating that technology needs must be addressed in every Individualized Education Plan (IEP). In the future, all IEP's were to be written with consideration of assistive technology to assist a student with disabilities in gaining access to the educational programs.

By 1997 the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) required that each students' IEP address the issue of "meeting the child's needs that result from the child's disability to enable the child to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum."

With all the court cases, mandates and laws that have been passed over the years, one would assume that society is well on the way providing opportunities for all students to learn within the regular education setting and have access to the regular curriculum. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There are many challenges and barriers that need to be addressed so individuals with disabilities can gain access to the general education curriculum.

Intent is inclusion, reality is that individuals with disabilities are still receiving services primarily in the special education setting. Why is this?

Nationwide approximately 2,200,000 students have mild/moderate to severe/profound disabilities. Public schools are increasingly overcrowded and short staffed. Current research indicates that the national special education student/teacher ratio is 16:1. Compounding this is the high turn over rate of special education staff (22% of all new teachers, nationally, leave the profession in the first three years). These staffing realities create numerous challenges to providing quality instruction and learning opportunities to students with disabilities, whether in self-contained or included settings.

Lack of training and support of both educators and paraprofessional staff is determined to be one of the barriers for individuals with disabilities not being provided an education in the regular classroom setting. According to Werts et al., 1996, teachers often report discrepancies between the supports they need relating to staff, training, and support from a team of professionals and the supports they receive. In a 2001 study, by Giangreco, it is reported that, "in reference to including and teaching student with disabilities, less engaged teachers were described by respondents as those ' who don't want to ', ' don't think they are supposed to', or ' don't know how to'.

Current literature pieces have voiced concerns relating to paraprofessional and their responsibilities for educational support for students with disabilities. Brown, Farmington, Knight, Ross and Ziegler (1999) expressed concerns that the students requiring the most support appear to be supported by the person with the least training and knowledge of how to work with a student with unique educational needs. Other research indicates that that paraprofessionals are acting as the primary instructor for individual with disabilities and result is causing detrimental effects.

Educators are legally responsible to include children with disabilities in the regular educational setting. What are some of the resources and how can we obtain the information to make this occur?

Adaptations and modification strategies have been used for many years to ensure student learning in educational activities. These adaptations and modifications can make the difference between a student merely being present in the classroom or being actively involved in the daily activities of school life.

Several resources are available for identifying the abilities of students with disabilities and then matching the potential assistive technology to the student to enable them to reach their maximum potential. Listed below are just a few of these resources. The list is by no means exhaustive, yet it is a place start to ensure students the opportunity to an education in the general education setting.

SETT- This framework that aids in gathering, organizing, and analyzing data which can be used to make collaborative assistive technology and programming decisions. The framework gathers input from all perspectives (student, environment, tools and tasks) and considers, first, the student's unique needs and abilities. (Zabala, 2000)

QIAT- Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology Services. This set of guidelines supports thoughtful development, provision and implementation of assistive technology for students with disability in all environments of a student's life. (University of Kentucky, 2001)

MAPS- A collaborative team approach to planning for the daily supports and students will require in the educational. It takes into account that the student is a whole person with unique characteristic and focuses on the strengths and how to use those strengths to build an inclusive program. (Stainback, S. & Stainback, W.,1990)

WATI- Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative. Information to assist school districts to develop or improve their assistive technology services by viewing Wisconsin statewide process and procedures. Includes best practice information, sample assessment forms and a variety of resources to promote inclusion. (Reed, 1995)

If a student with disabilities is unable to participate in a general education activity as it has been originally planned, changes may need to be made to include the student in the activity. What would that look like in the general education classroom?

It is possible to include all students in any activity. Students with disabilities can participate and learn in meaningful ways in the regular education as supported by the research. Stainback and Stainback (1990) offer the example of a map reading activity. One student may be called upon to discuss the economic system of the country, another student may be requested to identify a color on the map and yet another may simply be requested to hold a corner of the map being displayed. Another student may simply activate a voice output communication aid to give additional presentation information, ask for questions or comments, or to quiz the class on the topic.

In this session, the author will introduce an activity framework to ensure every student is included in the regular education activities. The framework provides educators with the opportunity to consider the state standards, the intended outcome for the activity, the student objective and to identify at each step of the activity how assistive technology can be incorporated making it possible to include all students in any activity.

Suggested References:

AbleNet Inc., (2000) Research Information. Mpls.MN

Annual Report to Congress (2000) Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Brown,L., Farmington,K, Knight,T, Ross,C.& Ziegler,M. (1999) Fewer paraprofessionals and more teachers and therapists in educational programs for students with significant disabilities. In Giangreco, et al.Teacher Engagement with Students with Disabilities: Difference Between Paraprofessional Service Delivery Models. Journal of the Association For Persons With Severe Handicaps. Vol.26. Number 2. 75.

Downing, J., (1996). Including Students with Severe and Multiple Disabilities in Typical Classrooms. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Company.

Giangreco, et al., (2001). Teacher Engagement with Students with Disabilities: Difference Between Paraprofessional Service Delivery Models. Journal of the Association For Persons With Severe Handicaps. Vol.26. Number 2. 75-86.

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities. NICHY (1996). Severe and/or Multiple Disabilities. Academy for Educational Development and the Office if Special Education Program of the U.S. Department of Education. Washington, D.C.

Reed, P. (2000). Assessing Student Needs for Assistive Technology, (on-line(. Available: http://www.wati.org

Stainback, S., Stainback, W., and Forest, M (1989).Educating All Students in the Mainstream of Regular Education. Baltimore, MD: Paul H Brookes.

Stainback, S. & Stainback, W. (1990) Supports Networks for Inclusive School: Interdependent Education. Baltimore, MD: Paul H Brookes.

Zabala, J. (2001) SETT (on-line(.Available: http://joyzabala.com/

Zabala, J. (2001) QIAT. (on-line(.Available: http://joyzabala.com/

Werts et al., (1996). Supports and resources associated with inclusive schooling: Perceptions of elementary school teachers about what they need and availability. Journal of Special Education, 30 187-203

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