As you have no doubt realised, the term “Special” in Special Education relates to the provision and organisation of a system of education outside the ordinary classes in the secondary school. In fact, however, the aims defined by Special Education are not fundamentally different from those of any other sound and enlightened educational system. It is only in respect of specific emphasis that differences arise.
To a great extent the same may be said of special methods of education for the Mentally-Retarded child. When we pause to examine the broad approach to the teaching of these children the ideational basis on which it is established appears no different from that which we propose for the education of all children.
The only real difference is essentially a practical one. In the case of Special Schools these ideas are seen in actual daily practice, while in ordinary schools we find unfortunately, that little more than lip service is paid to them in find unfortunately, that little more than lip service is paid to them in the drive for academic achievement and examination goals.
If the word “special” in special methods means anything at all, it means educational freedom-freedom to pursue that most frequently expressed of all educational aims, helping the child to grow to his fullest possible self-realization; freedom from rigid curricula, from inflexible timetables and stifling examinations, all of which combine to make a mockery of the liberal and global aims attributed to the education offered in the ordinary school.
In educating our Mentally-Retarded children we are free to make education truly child-centred, so that all that is aimed at and all that is attempted derives from the child’s own capacities and needs. That is not to say that we should not construct curricula and timetables as a framework within which the business of education may function.
It is recognised that these children derive a degree of security from familiarity with a known routine. But it means that the organisation must remain flexible and subservient to the needs of the children. Also, the teacher must have much greater freedom in interpreting the timetable than her counterpart in the ordinary school.