Supporting Special Education Needs (SEN) Students in School

Effectiveness in supporting Special Education Needs students with behavioural issues at ABC School

 

  

 

An Outline of Issues to Address

        The following report is an attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of ABC school, a fictitious name that has been assumed in order to protect the privacy of the actual school, in supporting the Special Educational Needs (SEN) students with behavioural issues. Effective behaviour management is a vital requirement in ensuring that a school runs smoothly. Such an approach should be considered while taking into account the individual responsibilities and rights of all the parties involved. ABC school has implemented an inclusive programmes that respects and recognises diversity, in addition to endevouring to enhance quality and treat students with special needs equally as their peers. To start with, the report will provide a brief description of how ABC school has dealt with the issue at hand shall be examined. This will be followed by a review of the key issues in the current literature using both quantitative and qualitative data. The report will then evaluate the issue in light of the literature, followed by a summary of the key points and recommendations.

A brief description of how the issue presents itself in the school

         For purposes of maintaining the confidentiality of the school under review, use shall be made of a fictitious name. In this case, we shall go with the name ABC school. All the students attending ABC school are given personalized learning experience in such a way as to ensure they attain academic excellence through support and care from the school community. The school follows an inclusive curriculum that is balanced and broad enough to attend to the needs of every student, including those with special needs. In this inclusive environment, students with special needs attend classes alongside the other students. The staff and management of the school is committed to ensuring that every child attains his/her full potential. This is made possible by having in place a highly dedicated and well trained team who bring in a wealth of expertise and experience. This is all intended to ensure that all students attain the highest achievement possible at the point of leaving school. In order to support the cause for students with special needs, ABC school has come up with several support systems:

Support Systems for students with special needs

         The school ensures that all the lessons are well delivered and paced, taking into full account the plight of student with special need who require more time and attention in order to grasp the necessary concepts. Additionally, the school has done well to eliminate as many barriers and challenges as possible that could hinder the educational progress of students with special needs.

The school has developed an SEN screening systems that is aimed at identifying the behavioral and emotional difficulties that some of the students with special needs undergo while learning. The SEN screening system has been aligned to the SEN Code of Practice. In addition, the system consisted of a staged intervention process whereby teachers can step in to help students with special needs.

Moreover, the pastoral system at ABC school convenes regular meetings in order to assess the academic progress of students, in addition to identify those who are at the greatest risk, so that the necessary intervention can be recommended.

         Once the at risk pupils have been identified using the SEN screening system, the school then adopts a number of strategies to support such pupils, according to the nature of their needs.  For example, in some instances, the school, through the pastoral team, may be forced to track the behavior of the people by instituting an early home school contact approach. In this case, the pastoral team will expect daily reports on the pupil's behavior from both the parents/guardians and the teachers.

Another possible strategy that the school can adopt is to expose the pupil in question to conflict resolution/anger management sessions. These are normally organized and convened by the SENSS at the school.

         Under special cases, the school may seek assistance from outside agencies in case the issue gets out of hand, or is beyond their ability. 

In addition, the school may liaise with the Relate/Family Mediation to provide specific emotional support sessions to the pupils with special needs, and who ave issues with their behavior.

Staff's support systems

         Even as the management at ABC school is fully aware that all staff are required to handles minor and major issues such as poor attendance and occasional misbehavior, on the other hand, at times, the staff could be overwhelmed and this calls for support from a higher level. Should this happen, the staff experiencing difficulties in handling a group or class involving students with special needs will get support in one of the following ways:

·       The head of departments (HoD) or SLT will suggest strategies on how to deal with the situation. If the situation is very grave, it may be necessary to change the timetable to accommodate the new strategy. Alternatively, the pupils exhibiting behaviour under question may have to be moved to another class or group in an attempt to enhance group dynamics

·       Additionally, the HoD may give peer observation to the staff who require advice on how to manage the attendance and behavior of individual pupils. The HoD may have to observe the pupil(s) in question at the classroom or group setting.

Literature Review

        There is need to carry out research on the behaviour issues of special education needs students and how this affects them at an inclusive education setting. This is vital because whether the children are emotionally, developmentally, or physically impaired, these children are quite disadvantaged. They thus require our continued support via ongoing research and practice if at all they are to succeed. Otherwise, most of the pupils with special needs are less likely to function within society (Avramidis,  Bayliss & Burden 2000). In addition, they would not be bale to attain their highest potential.  The idea of integrating students with special needs with the other students in general education classes has been the focus of attention by various educators and other scholars, in recent years. On the one hand, there are those who are opposed to the idea and how this would impact on the behavior of the students with special needs. Others have supported the move, arguing that this can in fact help to improve the self esteem and behaviour of students with special needs

Existing negative beleifs and attitudes  about the effectiveness of inclusion

        The integration of students with special needs into the general education classes led to the emergence of objections to the idea of inclusion. On account of the cost involved in campaigning for the inclusion of students with special needs into regular classes, most parents felt reluctant to seek legal assistance over this right of every child. However, parents managed to sue the school district, in line with the provision of the 1986 Handicapped Children's Protection Act. Where the court ruling was in favour of parents, part or all of the legal costs had to be settled by the school district (Begeny & Martens 2007). On the other hand, if the court ruled in favor of the school board, the court did not allow parents to pursue financial compensation. These findings have been supported by a study conducted by Combs et al. (2010) whose study found out that  parents have "tipped the balance of power far into their favor" with regard to due process hearings and litigation of special education (Riddell & Weedon, 2010, p.113). Even as parents can seek legal redress against local school boards for being denied the right to have their children with special need to be included in the general education classes, they rarely win. Some parents and educators are convinced that students with severe forms of disabilities, thereby demanding one-on-one help, qualify for a separate setting, as opposed to inclusion.

          Kauffman and McCullough (2000) carried out a qualitative assessment of 12 students in self-contained education setting.  Kauffman and McCullough observed that the 12 students look quite happy in this form of setting as the teachers and staff treated them as separate but equal.  Separately, Crockett (1999) observed that a number of special educators are of the view that it would be best to place students with special needs in a separate setting become the widespread adoption of inclusion would render their jobs obsolete. Principals could at times also be reluctant to adopt inclusion and encourage its execution as there is "a scarcity of information about the cost of providing inclusive instruction and little to support the suggestions that inclusion might save money" (Crockett 1999, p.24).

         Furthermore, Berry (2010)  opine that we are not testing less, but more. Inclusion locks teachers into strained syllabi and curricula. Elsewhere, Tonillo (1994) opines that teachers  "are required to direct inordinate attention to a few, thereby decreasing the amount of time and energy directed toward the rest of the class" (p.7). Owing to the additional strain of high stakes examination, it is the feeling among majority of the general education teachers that they will be less likely to fulfill the required federal and state requirements (Biddle 2006).

         Migyanka's (2005) conducted a mixed methods research in which the research findings revealed that  negative attitudes toward inclusion ere attributable to "legal time, lack of professional development and resistance to having another teacher in the classroom" (p. 215). other researchers have revealed that general educators usually feel that they lack adequate planning time and training, as well as insufficient knowledge of policies and administrative support to handle special education students (Combs et al. 2010). Such deficient information frequently has a huge effect on the attitude of the general education teacher towards inclusion.  At times, parents may also question how valid inclusion is especially when they are contemplating if their children with special education needs will be able to fit in with the other children in the general education classes, and how they will adjust to such a new environment socially, including its effect on their behavior.

 

         Farrell et al. (2007) carried out a study in which they assessed four age groups consisting of students of British origin. The study's research findings indicated that by placing students with special needs in an inclusion class setting, this was not a guarantee that they would succeed. Similar research findings have been reported by Murphy (1996) who demonstrated that an inclusive classroom setting had no effect on the academic success of students with emotional disabilities. Pickard (2009) also discovered that there was not enough evidence in the literature to show that inclusion does work.

 

         In their study,  Burke & Sutherland (2004)  revealed that teachers who took part in their research were reluctant to embrace inclusive education out of fear for the the negative effect that students with emotional and behavioral problems would have on the rest of the school community. For this reason, the teacher felt that the individual requirements of some of the special needs students are very major and this calls for a specialised setting.

         The researchers observed that educators are more inclined not to support inclusion based on the fact that the available data in the literature on this subject has failed to provide a definite answer to the idea that placing students with special education needs in an inclusive setting is the least restrictive and most suitable environment.  The fact that there is no clarity on among the educators on the effectiveness of inclusion call for additional research into this area.

Positive beliefs and attitudes on the effectiveness of inclusion

         In the same way that we have persons who are against the idea of lacing students with special needs in an inclusive classroom setting, a number of educators are of the opinion that the current special education system is both ineffective and flawed. For instance, studies cited by the National Association of State Boards of Education (1992)showed that nearly 43% of special education students placed under special education setting leave school before they graduate. In addition, such students have a higher chance of being arrested, in comparison with their non-disabled counterparts. Proponents of inclusion have also argued that when we label children as “special”, this has the effect of lowering not just their academic expectation, but also self esteem. Moreover, Migyanka et al (2005)  have taken the current special education system to task, arguing that it is mismanaged and disorganized, and that it does not fulfill the requirements of students with special needs.

         Additionally, studies carried out by Rheams and Bain (2005) reached at a conclusion that students with special needs who have been integrated into an inclusive education setting show increased socialization skills and self esteem. Proponents of inclusion have also indicated that the collaborative efforts of special and general education teachers could increase classroom expectations of students with special needs as well as those without special needs. Moreover, general education students have been shown to be more accommodative of their non-disabled counterparts since the inclusive environment creates a feeling of cultural and social awareness. Such an awareness enhances patience and tolerance towards students with special needs (Staub & Peck 1994; Mastropieri Scruggs & Berkley 2007; Newburn & Shriner 2006). In their study, Burk and Southerland (2004) revealed that the attitude of teachers on inclusion, coupled with clearly defined responsibilities between general education teachers and special education teachers results in enhanced social skills and academic success for both the non-disabled students and their special needs counterparts, These findings have also been supported by others studies (for example,  Biddle 2006; Keefe & Moore 2004; Kings & Young 2003; Ryan 2009; Titone 2005; Woolfson 2009).

         Inclusion is a chance for non-disabled students to develop suitable attitudes towards students with diverse disabilities. When non-disabled students are exposed daily to their counterparts with special needs, they are able to see like these students have their weaknesses and strengths, bad and good days, just like them (Westwood & Graham 2003). research shows that in order to change people's attitudes towards individuals with special needs, this calls for experience with people with disabilities and information on them (Watson 1998; Watson 2000). Inclusion aids in the two requirements.

Evaluation of key issues

        Part of ABC school's mission statement is to ensure that special needs students are taught alongside their peers, and that there should be no distinction between SEN teachers and general education teachers.  ABC school ensures that they meet the requirements of the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice. In this case, inclusion for students into the School Action intervention is dependent on a number of factors:

·       The student demonstrates little or no progress despite  an attempt by the teaching approaches to deal with the area of weakness identified by the teachers

·       The student demonstrate difficulty in developing mathematics and literacy skills, leading to poor grades in certain areas of curriculum

·       The student demonstrates persistent behaviour/emotional difficulties which cannot be improved by the behaviour management strategies that the school has adopted

·       The student demonstrates physical and sensory problem, in addition to making no or limited progress in spite of the availability of specialist equipment

·       The student demonstrates interaction and/or communication challenges, in addition to making no or limited progress in spite of the school providing a differentiated curriculum

       In an attempt to implement the above definition to the structure at ABC school, the school does not enter students who have been scheduled to attend SDC (Student Development Centre) classes on the SEN register. This is because access to SDC entails part of ABC school's normal strategy, regardless of whether this is a long-term or short-term intervention. The only time when students at ABC school would qualify for entry into the SEN register in lien with the School Action is in case such students are engaged or either have Wave 2 or 3 intervention.

On the one hand, Wave 2 intervention consist of short term, small group session conducted to meet a need. It includes such activities as:

 

·       Numeracy/Literacy booster groups. These are normally conducted by TAs/SENCo.

·       Personal/social skill sessions conducted by TAs or  B & AL (Behvaiour & Attendance Leaders)

·       Dyspraxia/Handwriting-support

·       Language and Speech groups

         On the other hand, Wave 3 intervention involves highly personalized programmes that have been specially developed to fulfill the needs of individual students. Such intervention take the following forms:

·       Reduced lessons, personalized timetable, as well as additional sessions in SDC

·       One-on-one sessions with an extra English or Maths tutor, at a student-teacher ratio  of 1:1

         Although ABC school has implemented strategies to ensure that students with special needs are identified from their peers and enrolled into the SEC register, it has not provided the strategies adopted to help manage stress among pupils with special needs. While special education need students may or may not exhibit behaviour issues, it is important to note that the teachers supporting them and their peers will usually experience high levels of stress. There is also limited evidence from the school on how it supports the emotional wellbeing of special education need students. Emotional wellbeing is a fundamental issues of concern when giving help to students with special needs. According to the 2001 SEN Code of Practice, there are four classes of SEN:

·       Language, speech, and communication

·       Cognition and learning

·       Physical and sensory impairment

·       Emotional, social and Behavioural difficult (BESDs).

         Even as the BESDs category is largely associated with emotional wellbeing, the issue of self-esteem is a vital consideration when dealing with special education needs students. However, it is not clear how ABC school deals with the issue of self-esteem of its students with special needs. Studies show that placing students with special needs an an inclusive environment improves their self-esteem (Churches & Terry 2007). Such students benefit from an emotionally, intellectually , and socially from the inclusive environment. Consequently, their performance improves, as does their self-esteem.  This can only be achieved when the inclusive classroom setting has been designed in such a way as to fulfill the educational requirements of students with special educational needs and their peers. From the information availed from ABC school, it is not clear the extent to which classrooms in the school meet this requirement.  For example, it is not clear whether both the students with special needs and their peers are actively participating in the classroom in spite of their levels of ability. In addition, there is no evidence of increased social relationships and interaction between the staff, the students, and families. Enhanced communication and understanding between the staff, students, and families fosters the desired inclusive behaviour.

         When students with special needs receive positive support from teachers and their peers, this aids in the growth of their self-esteem and self-confidence, naturally. While ABC school has put in place strategies in its School Action to categorize students with special needs according to their level of needs, it is not clear yet the kind of effort that the school has.  In case students with special education needs demonstrate disruptive or challenging behaviour that affects their learning as well as that of their peers, it is important that th school develops  behaviour plan to deal with this. Towards this end, ABC school often liaise with  Relate/Family Mediation to give emotional support to such children.

            However, in case a child with special education needs does something very serious that breaks the prescribed school code of conduct, it is upon the school to consider the kind of disciplinary action that they ought to take. Such an action might entail suspension or expulsion. Should this happens, the school needs to consider certain safeguards so that the student with special needs does not receive disciplinary action owing to behaviour that is beyond their control or is due to their disability.  This is one are that ABC school has not implemented. In addition, the school has not spelt out what measures to take should a student with special need exhibit behaviour that affects their learning or that of others.

Although the information provided on ABC school indicates that the staff has the necessary experience and expertise to deal with students with special needs, we are not told whether the other facilities such as the playing ground, books, desks and materials support an inclusive environment.

Conclusion and Recommendations

        ABC school has successfully implemented an inclusive learning environment. Teachers have the necessary expertise and experience to deal handle integrated classrooms with special needs students. The school has laid out a detailed plan of how it identifies and categorize students with special needs, including intervention strategies to deal with difficult behaviour demonstrated by students with special needs and which interferes with their learning or that or their peers. However, the school has not provided evidence of how it handles difficulties in the classroom setting.  Rogers (2006) has provided useful tips for consideration and implementation by inclusive classroom settings while trying to foster cooperative behaviour in the classroom between students with special needs, their peers, and the staff. To start with, Rogers argues that the school management needs to identify the source of the change in the classroom. In this case, the management at ABC school should endevour to investigate the challenges faced by students with special needs, their peers, and the staff in the inclusive classroom setting. Once this has been done, the management can then develop what Rogers calls a class behaviour plan. This plan entails the kind of expected behaviour by students with special needs, their peers, and staff, in the classroom setting. There should be disciplinary action taken against those who contravenes this plan.

         Another way of dealing with a difficult classroom, according to Rogers is to alter the patterns that characterize bad behaviour. This can be done by encouraging the adoption of god behavior to neutralize bad behavior.  The school management should also always strive to assess real dilemmas and situations facing the inclusive classroom setting. In this way, it becomes easier to develop an ideal plan.    It is important for the management at ABC school to gather data on the different environment within the school, such as the playground, classrooms, canteens, and social amenities as a way of ensuring that the school fully conforms with the requirements for an inclusive classroom setting. According to Watson (2000),it is important to undertake such an activity in an organized manner for enhanced effectiveness, as opposed to undertake an ad hoc data collection. Watson further argues  that such an activity should be conducted exhaustively every year making sure to stress more on problematic contexts. 

         In order to deal with the issue of students with special needs who demonstrate behaviour that is disruptive to their learning and that of their peers, the school management should consider developing a functional behaviour assessment (FBA) tool that conforms with the  Special Educational Needs Code of Practice. To start with, the pastoral team at the school should be charged with the responsibility of carrying out an FBA in order to identify why and when the behavior takes place. Thereafter, the pastoral team can then determine the cause of the behaviour followed by the development of positive strategies to ensure that change in behavior occurs (Churches & Terry 2007). As part of the FBA plan, the pastoral team should ensure that it documents the behavior identified, why and when it occurs, on addition to examining strategies that have proven a success in dealing with the behaviour. Once this information has been compiled into a report, the school psychologist and the teachers involved in discipline should be given copies. It is important for parents to share with the pastoral team any psychiatric or psychological assessments, or medication information in order to increase the effectiveness of the intervention.

         It is also important for the school to consider developing a behavior intervention plan (BIP) to deal with the behavior of students with special need that is associated with disability, or in situations whereby such behavior disrupts the educational program of the student or his peers (Layard & Dunn 2007). Such a plan could be integrated with FBA plan. It should entail positive ways of dealing with the behaviors manifested by children with special education needs at the inclusive classroom setting. For example, the plan can include ways of changing the classroom environment so as to reduce the probability of such behavior being repeated. In addition, the plan may also entail goals that teach students with special education needs suitable behaviors.

            Finally, it is important for the school management to conduct interviews with parents, teachers, and students (those with special education needs and their peers) in order to determine the challenges that they face in dealing with the inclusive education environment so that remedial action can be taken.

 

 

 

 

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