The following article will guide you about how to provide education to exceptional children.
Definition of Exceptional Children and Special Education:
Children differ from each other in a variety of ways. They differ from each other physically, intellectually, socially and emotionally. Generally, such differences are of little importance. At times, however, some children deviate from the “average” or “normal” to such a degree that they need special attention.
These are exceptional children. In the words of Barbe, “exceptional” refers to children who differ from the average to an extent that their differences warrant some type of special school adjustment, either within the regular classroom or in special classes. It includes both those children whose differences make them unable to perform up to the level of the average as well as those whose differences allow them to perform above the average.
In a general way all children are “exceptional” in as much as they are unique in themselves and are different from one another. The trend to provide for individual differences is a popular one in all good teachings and education. It is no longer acceptable as good education to apply the same set of standards to all children on the assumption that in ability, temperament, and physical make-up they are all alike.
It is to be realised that the difference of exceptional children is only one of degree: they are more like other children than unlike them. They should be treated first of all as children who need to express their individuality, and adjustments to their differences made within that framework.
The label “exceptional”, as Barbe puts it, is only used in order to obtain a better understanding of the child. It must be recognised that the manner in which exceptional children think, learn and have is not a different kind of behaviour from that of other children. Even the degree of difference may not be so great as to-make the child radically different from others.
But it is the difference in degree what makes the child exceptional; the difference may be in the learning or behaving level of the child. The difference in degree necessitates special educational and teaching patterns according to special educational needs of different groups. This can be illustrating by an example.
Many children or students process hearing losses, but they are not considered exceptional unless the loss is great enough to produce a need for special instruction in communication skills.
Similarly, many pupils have impaired vision, but most cases can be corrected by glasses. Only the very few who need such special help as the use of large print, magnifiers, or braille materials will be classified as ‘exceptional’. To sum up this discussion, we may offer Dunn’s definition of exceptional pupils.
According to him they differ from the average to such a degree in physical and psychological characteristics that school programme designed for the majority of the children do not afford them opportunity for all- round adjustment and optimum progress and they, therefore need either special instruction or in some cases special ancillary services or both, to achieve at a level commensurate with their respective abilities. These abilities may be in the areas of understanding communication, adjustment to one’s limitations and social acceptance.
Special Needs for Exceptional Children:
“Exceptional” children need special education services which embody three elements worthy of note. These are:
(a) Trained professional personnel including teachers, teacher educators, administrators, consultants, physiotherapists, speech therapists and others.
(b) Special auricular content suiting different areas of exceptionality mental retardation, giftedness, deafness blindness, speech retardation, orthopaedic handicap, cerebral palsy, social and emotional maladjustment and
(c) The facilities including special building features, special equipment, special extra-literary materials and special crafts.
Special education is, thus, concerned with the identification of and provision for children who are unlike the average, whether this be in the regular classroom, the special class-room or in some combination of both. Formerly, special education was confined in its use to the education of those exceptional children who were assigned to special classes.
In modern times, special education programme development for exceptional children as a part of the total general education has been stressed. No longer is the programme for exceptional children seen as something which separates exceptional children from all others.
It is seen or regarded as something which will help the exceptional child to function effectively in an average world. Cruickshank points out that education for the exceptional child is a part of total education. Special programmes laying emphasis on separate special classes should be discouraged as much as possible. They should be adopted as the last resort.
Thus there are various pattern of special education such as integration, partial integration, total segregation and exclusion. The current preference is for some degree of integration, specially in the curricular area. This is possible only when we have really capable and understanding teachers.
Objectives of Special Education:
Whatever the patterns of special education, it has the following goals:
(i) To reach the maximum level of effectiveness in tool subjects.
(ii) To pursue those curricular matters that strategically determine effective living for specific type of handicapped children.
(iii) To consider the mental as well as the physical hygiene of handicapped school children.
(iv) To develop motivational patterns in the handicapped that will produce achievement in school and art of a school.
(v) To produce in the handicapped a desire to participate in the activities of non-handicapped persons.
(vi) To develop a realistic self-concept in handicapped children.
Axioms on Special Education:
Educational thinkers and educational psychologists have formulated a set of the following axioms on special education for exceptional children:
1. Each exceptional child is primarily a child with the same right to acceptance, understanding, and education as other children.
2. There are wide individual differences among children in each area of exceptionality.
3. In order the exceptional children make optional progress in school, early screening, identification and placement in a special education programme are generally necessary.
4. For proper diagnostic clarification and placement, a team approach is to be made by medical, social, and psychological as well as educational specialists.
5. Programmes should not be initiated or continued unless well-trained, competent personnel are available.
6. Specialised curriculum, materials and equipment are needed though the quantity and type will vary from area to area.
7. Specific goals need to be developed for all special education programmes with an emphasis on both scholastic and social learning on the national purposes of education, and on the aptitude and potentials of the pupils concerned.
8. Exceptional children need individualized teaching procedures based upon careful appraisal of each pupil’s abilities and disabilities.
9. Education for exceptional children should be an integral part of a total education programme when possible and practical.
10. Continuous re-assessment of exceptional children and revaluation of school programmes are essential to progress.
11. Follow-up of each student after he leaves school, and placement assistance where needed, are responsibilities of the school.
12. Special education programmes are strengthened by frequent interpretation of them to educators, parents, legislators, and the public.
13. The national, state and local agencies should take on themselves the joint responsibilities of promoting educational research, teacher preparation and instructional services.