Issues Facing Service Delivery for Students with Special Needs
An issue related to diversity and inclusion of learners with special needs is the stigma. Stigma can be defined as an attribute that makes a person labeled different from others in the category of people relating with the individual. Stigmatization leads to different negative consequences ranging from negative psychological, social, and personal issues. Stigmatization and discrimination against individuals with disabilities have been noted to be a major problem for a long period. Most students with special needs have highlighted that the attitude of non-disabled students is characterized by stigmatization and discrimination towards learners with special needs. The negative attitudes held by the peers are known to have huge impacts on the life of an individual with special needs. Stigmatization leads to deterioration of an individual’s self-concept, cognitive and social development, academic performance, and general psychological health (Idrees & Ilyas, 2012). Children with disability have been indicated to be part of the most vulnerable groups in society. The situation is noted to be worse where a learner with either physical or mental disability is born into families characterized with poverty, deprivation, or conflict as this minimizes the chances of these students attaining their maximum potential. Students with learning disabilities can be categorized as minority groups and just like another minority group they are bound to face stigma from the extensive population.
Parents of learners with special needs are known to face the same stigma just like their children. Some parents get the feeling that they must have done something wrong when they were infants. The stigma does not stop with the students but faces even the teachers who teach inclusion of students with the special education. Students in the inclusion class are also at a risk of being made fun of by their peers. The learners considered to have differences are known to be targeted for bullying. Stigma in noted to include prejudicial attitudes directed towards learners with special education, as well as, negative treatment of the student for their evident differences. In school environments, students with learning disabilities are sometimes branded as lazy or stupid. Stigma is linked to formal label distinctions. The labeling theory highlights that these labels lead to stigma through altering the perception of others and legitimizing stratification. Stigmatization, as explained through labeling theory causes the labeled person to consider themselves in line with the elements of the symbols and proposed perceptions.
The negative stereotypes against learners with special needs normally gets limited access to learning opportunities partially due to their perceived capabilities. Being labeled due to their learning disabilities has been noted to discriminate the learners in the distribution of educational and occupational goods. The association of negative stereotypes to labeled differences portrays another feature of stigma. It has been indicated that educators perceive students with special education labels in a more negative manner than the other unlabeled but similarly performing learners (Shifter, 2013).
Impact of stigma to Service Delivery to Students with Special Needs
Evidence has indicated that in different educational setting, children get exposed to different levels of stigma. Students with special needs, due to their cognitive impairments, are devalued and depersonalized into stereotypes. This leads to stigmatized learners experiencing differential treatment and being systematically avoided, derided, and marginalized. Learners with learning disabilities have indicated that they normally believe that their value is not appreciated. The realization that other students do not like, value, or respect them has a negative impact on their self-esteem. Research has revealed that students underestimate the abilities of students with intellectual disabilities and are hesitant to interact with them.
Research has also identified that there exists societal bias against students with special needs. This societal bias was identified when examining and measuring teacher and educators’ attitudes towards students with special needs. In a certain study, it was revealed that when educators were made aware of the presence of a student with special needs, the educators differentiated almost 80% of students with a disability from their peers (Xhaferri, 2015). A certain study indicated that most instructors frequently indicated feeling sorry for the students with disabilities and perceived them as placing in more difficultness in teaching them and sometimes viewed the special needs learners as being less intelligent. The negative attitudes are noted to emerge during the negotiation process between the students and teachers to establish how accommodation will be achieved. In most cases, the educators are more reluctant to provide accommodations to students with special needs.
Reasons for Importance
Understanding the issue of stigma against students with special needs is important to learn how to achieve inclusive education. Inclusive education entails considering all learners irrespective of their physical conditions, especially those secluded, stigmatized, disabled, and from minority groups. The main objective of inclusive education is to offer learners with special needs with a voice in areas where they have been excluded for long.
Provision of inclusive education goes beyond the integration of students with special needs into the mainstream educational setting and aims at delivering the educational services structured to fit their needs, and provision of adequate resources and human assistance to eliminate all obstacles to complete social inclusion. Inclusive education seeks to establish a process that requires positive and enabling practices for inclusion, special training for teachers, flexible curriculum and assessment procedures, and a supportive school environment. Inclusive education is geared toward the realization that disabled students require an environment that offers equal opportunities for all (Anwar, n.d).
The traditional practice for dealing with learners with a disability has been to educate them in segregated classes that are specifically designed to address the students’ specific incapacities. This system has been considered by educators to be beneficial since it offers an opportunity for the development of a curriculum that is specifically structured to cater for special needs learners. Such a system assists children with special needs since they attend classes with others learners with the same disabilities, which enhances their confidence and self-esteem.
The issue of segregation in education for students with special needs has been noted to raise issues of concerns. The major arguments on this end include students, academic achievement, detrimental effects of labeling associated with placement outside the mainstream, racial imbalance in special education, and the advances that have made it possible to have the learners in a regular classroom. It has been argued that placing the learners within the normal education is an effective means of equipping children to become better self-dependent adults in the future. It has also been noted that segregation not only affects the students but also the effects the teachers or educators who get isolated while in this educational setting. The isolation negatively affects the teaching competencies, which becomes limited. It is on this basis that educators have proposed the integration of students with special needs into normal education settings.
The possible negative issues associated with the segregation of students with special needs have facilitated the widespread adoption of inclusive education where students with special needs are included in the ordinary school. Inclusion entails reorganizations of ordinary schools in a way that makes every mainstream school have the capabilities to accommodate all students regardless of their disabilities. It aims to ensure that every learner is placed within a particular community. The premise for establishing a system of inclusive education is on the broader range of human rights, which points out to the fact that segregation of any kind is morally wrong (Wang, 2009). However, the inclusion of students with special needs into ordinary classroom introduces a new problem related to stigma among the special needs’ students.
To support inclusive education, inclusive schools have been established to primarily enhance the special children’s learning and development. The core aim of inclusion is to benefit special children by enhancing improvements in their learning outcomes such as social skills, academic success, and personal development. Inclusion seeks to establish more effective schools that identify the learner’s difficulties in learning. Inclusive schools are characterized by a strong need for quality instruction and administrative leadership. These factors should emphasis on quality on the student’s basic abilities, high level of expectations for students and also enhance the teachers’ ability to relate and deal with students with special needs (Wang, 2009). There should also be the promotion of an environment conducive for both teaching and learning and free from any form of stigma and discrimination.
Anwar, T. N. (n.d). Discriminatory Issues for Children with Special Needs: The Case of Ghana. Retrieved from https://oda.hioa.no/nb/item/asset/dspace:18345/Anwar.pdf
Shifrer, D. (2013). Stigma of a label: Educational expectations for high school students labeled with learning disabilities. Journal of health and social behavior, 54(4), 462-480.
Wang, H. L. (2009). Should All Students with Special Educational Needs (SEN) Be Included in Mainstream Education Provision? –A Critical Analysis. International Education Studies, 2(4), 154-161. Xhaferri, Irena. (2015). Effect of stigma in inclusive classrooms at mainstream schools. Retrieved from http://ppm.swu.bg/media/41540/xhaferri,%20i.%20effect%20of%20stigma%20in%20inclusive%20classrooms%20at%20mainstream%20schools.pdf
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