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Mental Retardation Education, Research Paper Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1697

Research Paper

Introduction

Studies dedicated to mental retardation have a long history, though not always showing the signs of evolution and progress. It is known that in ancient times kindness and pity were sometimes substituted with cruelty, separation and homicide, while the later attention to people was drawn on the basis of considering them deficient, stupid, disabled and idiotic. The worst is that the terms and attitudes were used by both average citizens and scholars, which impeded the realization of the nature of that mental disability and prevented the further progress in meeting the unique needs of people with mental retardation. The modern age is marked by the democratic movement towards in-depth analysis of the mental retardation causes, classification, and generation of supportive measures that would enable impaired individuals to function normally in the modern society. Not long ago the individuals with mental retardation symptoms had to be placed in specific institutions for medical help and assistance. It was not until the end of the 20th century marked by the vast and intense movements for the civil rights, that the right of disabled people (mentally disabled students as well) to have equal access to education was recognized. However, the fact that students with mental retardation (MR) need special education programs, facilities, curriculum adjustments and accommodations is evident. Hence, the task posed for the modern special and regular education (the latter is very much concerned under the modern tendency of inclusion in education) is to find the optimal ways to meet the needs of MR students, to identify their unique differences and face them constructively, as well as integrate students with MR into regular classrooms, wherever applicable, with no serious consequences for both MR and regular students. The creation of comprehensive special education teams including the regular and special education teachers, school administrators and policy-makers, the MR students’ parents and relatives, as well as community members is essential at the modern stage of providing sustainable educational environment for MR students. To understand the key directions of research and actions, the opinions of key stakeholders of the SPED team, regular and special education teachers, will be compared on the basis of some fundamental MR students’ education and treatment issues.

Interviews with Regular and Special Education Teachers

Law. There is hardly any regular teacher who would not name the IDEA and ADA as the basic laws providing equal access to all aspects of human life for disabled individuals. ADA was adopted in 1990 and served as the major breakthrough for disabled individuals in the USA in terms of employment, health care, sports, education, recreation etc. The IDEA adopted in 1997 was another milestone in provision of equality for the disabled, specifically in terms of education (Taylor, Richards, & Brady, 2005). These two acts govern the provision of adequate accommodations and resources for disabled children in educational establishments, the formation of their IEPs and meeting their unique curricular needs.

However, the knowledge of special education teachers on the legislation in terms of education for MR students is much wider; they tend to name such projects as the 1950s’ Philadelphia project or the Early Education Project as the first attempts to provide MR students withy educational resources. They also name the Public Laws 94-142, 98-199 etc. as the steps towards the recognition of MR students’ needs for education, as well as provision of resources for education (transition training programs, extended preschool programs etc.) (Taylor, Richards, & Brady, 2005).

Identification of Mental Retardation. As Inciong et al. (2007) note, and the majority of regular classroom teachers confirm, the majority of educational establishments still label MR students with the diagnosis discussed on the basis of their IQ test results. They usually apply the adaptive behavior measurement scales as well to conduct preliminary identification of MR students as well (Taylor, Richards, & Brady, 2005). However, the special education teachers are used to conducting a much vaster amount of work on identification and diagnosing of MR and its severity. They underline such processes necessary to make a complete, ultimate diagnosis as noting the existence of limitations within the context of the communicative environment of the student that are typical for peers and do not affect them in the way they do with the MR individual. In case the adequate comparison shows the deviation in mental development, then the diagnosis acquires validity (Inciong et al., 2007). In addition, the special educator has to assess the cultural and linguistic diversity existing within the particular community, including differences in communication, sensory, motor and behavioral factors. It is often the case that unified standards do not fit a certain group within which some lower or higher standards of the aspects enumerated are considered a norm. Such implications may seriously change the interpretation of the diagnosis (Inciong et al., 2009).

Definition and Classification of Mental Retardation. The issues of identification, classification and terminology concerned with MR students are very much similar to labeling, so extreme caution in classification and attribution of specific conclusions to MR students is needed. MR students are usually considered as having an intellectual disability or a developmental disability (Taylor, Richards, & Brady, 2005). Definition of having MR is a complex issue because of much disagreement on what criteria can be included for diagnosing and defining the MR state, but the most common features known are that MR is a disability characterized by the limitations in intellectual functioning, adaptive behavior that are revealed in the social, conceptual, and practical adaptive skills, and that MR’s onset occurs before the age of 18 (Taylor, Richards, & Brady, 2005). Both regular and special education teachers are guided in their actions by that definition.

As for the classification of MR, the earliest one recorded was provided by the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act, and included idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded, and moral defectives (Taylor, Richards, & Brady, 2005). Later on, the congenital and non-congenital classification was generated on the basis of retardation causes. With the discovery of the Down syndrome, the three classes were identified: congenital idiocy, developmental idiocy, and accidental idiocy (Taylor, Richards, & Brady, 2005). Nowadays there are multiple classifications by causes, by mental ability, by needs and needed support, by educational needs etc. The most popular and commonly used classification is the one by IQ, where the IQ level of 70-79 scores is considered the borderline, and scores 69 and lower imply the mental impairment state of the individual (Taylor, Richards, & Brady, 2005).

Impact of Mental Retardation on Learning, Social Attitudes, and Curricular Needs.  Surely, the deviation from the norm of cognitive development, deficit of memory and linguistic skills reveal the severe need of MR students to obtain specific curricular adjustments and be assessed according to their IEP objectives, and not on the common basis. MR students are known to have cognitive delays, transfer and generalization of knowledge and skills problems, difficulties in grasping and maintaining attention, problems in storage of information, speech delays, and language development problems (Taylor, Richards, & Brady, 2005). Hence, the curricular needs of MR students should be adjusted accordingly.

However, it is also the role of teachers in the classroom to provide MR students with adequate feedback and sustainable cooperation to achieve the IEP educational goals stipulated for each MR student. As the reality shows, there are diametrically different perceptions of regular and special education teachers about the extent at which they may affect the MR students’ learning and social attitudes. The policy of inclusion was implemented disregarding the dramatically low level of training providing special education knowledge and skills for regular teachers. For this reason teachers who have less experience in working with intellectual disability students in their regular classroom feel “uneasiness” working with MR students, feel too much responsibility for them and their educational outcomes, and consider the students with an intellectual disability, MR included, as a threat to their educational atmosphere (Jacobson, 2007). These perceptions result in the negative attitudes to MR students, ignoring them and having initially lower expectations for their educational progress, as well as reduction of the teachers’ confidence in their ability to teach both regular and MR students well (Jacobson, 2007).

The availability of special education training results in more positive attitudes towards the MR students, and more optimism regarding their learning outcomes and social adaptability; thus, special education teachers reported more optimistic expectations about the MR students’ progress, as well as indicated their positive attitude to the presence of students with intellectual disabilities in the classroom. Special education teachers tend to indicate other findings of Switzky’s research: MR students are likely to be more reliant on the teacher’s direction and feedback, compared to regular students who study more independently in the classroom; however, the modern educational system is still not ideal, because MR students receive more negative attention from teachers, and are ignored instead of being additionally assisted (Switzky, 2004).

Conclusion

There are certain differences in the way regular and special education teachers reflect on the concepts related to identifying, classifying, legal substantiation of MR students on the whole and in the regular classroom. The modern policy of educational inclusions dictates equal access to education for students with disabilities, so more attention has to be paid to the recognition of unique needs of MR students, and adequate training for regular teachers to enable them to take the responsibility for teaching students with disabilities, handling their sometimes inappropriate behavior in the classroom, and to form bonds with special education teachers, administrators and family members to identify the IEP objectives and then to constructively pursue them. There are certain limitations in regular teachers’ knowledge about MR-related issues, and the negative attitude in the classroom, as well as low expectations, neglect and disruptiveness of the educational process are still evident. Provision of more special education training will guarantee the successful inclusion and consideration of MR students’ uniqueness and unique educational needs.

References

Inciong, T.G., et al. (2007). Introduction to Special Education’ 2007 Ed. Sampaloc, Manila: Rex Bookstore, Inc.

Jacobson, J.W. (2007). Handbook of intellectual and developmental disabilities. New York: NY: Springer Science Business Media LLC.

Switzky, H.N. (2004). International Review of Research in Mental Retardation: Personality and Motivational Systems in Mental Retardation. San Diego, CA: Gulf Professional Publishing.

Taylor, R.L., Richards, S.B., & Brady, M.P. (2005). Mental Retardation: Historical Perspectives, Current Practices, and Future Directions. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

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