Balancing General and Special Education Services

Historically, special education services delivery was on a pull-out model. This means that the child was removed from the general education classroom for separate instruction. It may be the child was in a self-contained classroom (all day placement) or in a resource classroom (maximum of half-day placement).As a result of lawsuits, most districts have shifted from pull-out to inclusion models for everything except speech and language, occupational and/or physical therapy, and specialized assistance for the hearing or visually impaired students. These remain pull-out because the instruction is individualized and intense for short lengths of time, usually 1-3 times per week for 15-30 minutes a session.In the inclusion model, students receive the same instruction as their general education peers. Sometimes the special education teacher or assistant is in the classroom with the child to assist instruction and/or task completion. Most of the time, the student remains in the general education classroom and is expected to behavior and work as all other students.Advantages and DisadvantagesBoth models of special education services delivery will succeed and fail for different reasons. Some children need the full-day pull-out model because they cannot handle the changes and demands of a general education classroom. They may be able to handle the instructional demands, but their behaviors may be out of control and/or hazardous to them and/or others in the room. They may lack the foundations in reading, writing and/or mathematics to do any work in the general classroom; instructional content is often limited to low-level instruction and work assignments, because the available materials simplify the content.The partial day pull-out model allows more intensive instruction in targeted subject areas where children need extra assistance or instruction. Since it is only partial day, students mingle the rest of the day with their peers. Unfortunately, their social interactions may be affected, because others often do not understand what special education services are and will tease the students who leave. The ridicule of thoughtless peers affect many who give up hope of ever being in the general education classroom.Inclusion allows students to receive instruction, especially in upper elementary grades where children learn about science and social studies. While having the advantage of more socially-appropriate interactions among students, inclusion has some drawbacks for instruction. Many children are slower to develop than their peers. They may have language deficiencies or cognitive delays that affect their ability to understand the instruction and do their assignments. Even with adult assistance, the instruction usually is not modified in any way so they understand what they are learning. An example is that, in some states, all students must take physics or chemistry to graduate; these are not appropriate classes for children with mild to severe disabilities.Inclusion instruction keeps going, no matter whether or not a child is ready for the next level of instruction. Many children end up doing assignments that mean nothing simply to get them out of their face so they can move on. They are not being educated but being housed for the convenience of administrators who make the decisions.Considerations for Services DeliveryThe IEP team, including parents, need to consider many factors when they design the implementation plan: time of day, content instructional periods, services providers’ schedules and availability, the child’s ability to perform in a group setting (behavior and/or mastery of prerequisite content), level of supports needed for the child to perform, medication schedules, equipment/technology availability, and so on.In the pull-out model, it is possible for children to receive too many services. They become dependent upon the adults for structuring their world and providing motivation to complete tasks; learning becomes optional. In the inclusion model, it is possible for children to receive too little services. Their ability to understand the content and processes may be limited and there is no “going back” to prerequisite skills that were missed or incompletely mastered. Adult time, room capacity, and schedules impact instruction and work behavior. In either model, the adults’ expectations for the students may be low and limit the child’s own goals and expectations.Finding the Right BalanceThe goal for receiving special education services should be for the child to develop the skills that will enable him/her to perform in the regular classroom. Keeping a child in a special education setting too long can be just as damaging as removing them from services too early. Just because the child may be eligible does not mean it is in the child’s best interest to continue protecting the child. The child must develop an internal awareness of being able to be like others, to receive instruction and complete tasks like others do. The child must develop a work ethic and pride in accomplishment; these are attitudes and skill necessary for him/her to be a productive employee as an adult. Ensuring success is just as damaging as setting a child up for failure.

Can Parents Be Too Involved With Their Child’s Education?

Being involved in your child’s education is obviously a good thing. But, some may wonder if ever there can be too much of a good thing. Can parents be too involved with their child’s education? While this, like anything else, should not be taken to the extreme, parental involvement in a child’s education is generally considered a good thing.Research has shown that parents who are involved actively in their child’s education perform better when it comes to reading and math. Along with getting higher grades, parents’ involvement also leads to increased motivation in their children and better family lives. This being said, parents don’t have to run for an office at the PTO or the school board. A few hours of quality time spent with your child to help with his homework or doing an after school activity together makes a big difference. Below are a few points that parents who are or want to get involved with their child’s education will find helpful.PTOBeing involved through the PTO opportunities in your child’s school can keep pertinent issues within closer reach. PTO organizations help parents be a part of what takes place at school, as well as keeps them informed of recent issues and developments. There will be meetings and events to not only discuss the issues, but also to have fun with the children while they learn. Many PTOs host events such as family math nights.Will the Kids Be Annoyed at Parental Involvement?Some kids may become annoyed if parental involvement in education is at a high level. I think this may be more common with high school students than students in middle or elementary schools. Many kids enjoy parental involvement and it gives a boost of confidence to them to see how much their parents care.Educational ConflictsBecause methods used to solve math concepts can differ from what parents were used to as kids, it can sometimes be difficult to help kids with math. However, this should not stop parents from helping their children and being involved. There are ways to get around this, such as online tutoring help where parents and students can spend 45min-1 hour together with the tutor by putting him on speakers. The parents can observe the child learn this way. Then, when it comes time to help later on, they will know how.Benefits of Being Involved in a Child’s EducationWhen parents are involved with their child’s education, there come many benefits to both the child, as well as the parent. Children who have involved parents will likely have a better chance at succeeding than those whose parents are not aware of what is going on or whether their child is struggling. An aware parent can provide help to the child wherever it is needed. Ways to help your child with his math problems.This type of involvement in a child’s education can lead to better grades, as it is much harder for a child’s difficulty with concepts to slip under the radar. Also, involved parents can observe their children’s interests and use those to make learning time a fun time, rather than a chore. Technology can also be used in a constructive way to help your child.HomeschoolingHomeschooling is a great example of how parental involvement gives a boost to a child’s morale. I have been to various homeschooling conventions and my observation has been that homeschooling children are more open with what they are studying and have a higher level of confidence than other students who always shy away from even talking about the M (ath) word. Could this have something to do with the involvement of their parents? I would assume so. With this method, parents can be fully aware of what is going on with their child’s education, as they are the ones doing the teaching and planning.

Children’s Books And Educational Toys – Can They Still Be Fun And Have Educational Value

It was no contest. Given a choice between a ball and a book, my son would never have cracked a book binding. Giving him educational toys was a lot like giving him medicine. He didn’t want any part of either one. Fortunately, things have changed a great deal in the 20-odd years since he was a youngster. Educational toys, just like children’s medicines have come a long way. Children’s medicines taste good enough that tiny tykes will resist taking them only a little and learning toys have become a lot more enjoyable. For example, today there is great educational software for the family PC.Now, that isn’t to say that you can walk into a toy department or a top quality toy store such as Toys R Us and randomly start slinging items labeled ‘educational toy’ in your shopping cart. You must take care when selecting educational toys. Fortunately, the ‘educational’ aspects of the toy can be kept well hidden behind the fun the child derives.Toys such as jigsaw puzzles, word games, Disney games, word puzzles and other learning toys are great cognitive educational toys. These toys require that the child use his or her imagination. They develop creativity. They make the child think.These games and educational toys have another, more important, aspect. They are fun. The child has fun while learning to use his or her imagination and reasoning skills. Children learn through play and these toys are the tools of play. They are the tools of learning.The key is selecting cognitive development skills and educational toys that are appropriate for the child. For example, teaching a three-year-old to read or do multiplication may seem like a cool idea for your little prodigy, but it is much better to make sure the child is having fun reciting the alphabet and counting numbers with the help of interactive Disney toys, books on tape and other such toys. When the learning play is fun, the child will progress at his or her own pace with only minor supervision from you. Frustrating the child by expecting too much, too quickly will actually retard learning.Jigsaw puzzles are another example of great educational toys. They teach the cognitive skills of learning the relationship between sizes and shapes. They also teach fine motor skills in putting the pieces of the puzzle together.The second key is to tie educational toys and learning to the child’s current interests. These interests change as the child develops. Learning is much more fun if it is associated with something that has already captured the imagination of the child.Educational toys do not have to be about thinking and learning. The second category of educational toys is those toys that develop physical skills such as coordination and fine motor skills. Babies begin learning coordination with a rattle. Legos are great toys for teaching the fine motor skills required to assemble the blocks.It is much easier to encourage most youngsters to play with toys that help teach physical skills because stored energy and growing muscles demand stretching and movement. Given the opportunity, what four-year-old won’t ride a tricycle miles and miles around the dining room table or up and down the front sidewalk? While riding the trike, the youngster is developing strength and coordination, both of which are important for future development.The various ball games that children enjoy are important for the same reason. They help the youngster develop strength, agility, speed and coordination. They also go one step further. Because most ball games are team sports, they teach concentration, teamwork, good sportsmanship and strategy. These are all important cognitive and emotional skills that will be necessary for the child to develop into a well-rounded and productive adult. So, Mom, the next time your youngster picks up a ball and begins playing with it, you might look at it as a valuable educational toy.One of the most important toys in your child’s playroom is you. You need to spend some time, enough time, playing with your child to help supervise play with educational toys. You need to spend enough with your child that you can monitor his or her interests, ensure that the educational toys they are playing with are appropriate and encourage them to have fun with those games.Educational toys are fun as they teach. They are different than schoolbooks and school assignments. Educational toys do not mean tedium and drudgery. Educational toys are designed to teach or develop the child.This brings up a final point. Another important benefit of parental supervision is the ability to keep track of those toys and games that do little to help develop either your child’s cognitive skills or physical skills. There are some games and toys on the market that are so complete that they do all of the work for the child. The child does not have to be creative or exercise growing muscles or developing coordination. In fact, these games can actually be counterproductive by promoting lethargy and laziness.