Nowadays there are many topical questions concerning health status of people all over the world. Millions of them are ill or simply disabled. A great percentage belongs to the special needs children and young people. Pr. Newswire informs (2011), that “Currently around 10 percent of the total world’s population, or roughly 650 million people, live with a disability”. Generally, disability means not to be healthy enough to do something physically or mentally. This paper turns our attention to different kinds of mental disability, which still affects people under a row of circumstances and reasons. At the same time we should determine the most effective ways of teaching such category of people, because they have the same rights in a society; they are not different but special.
It is not really easy to treat disabled people, moreover to lead an educational process with them. It demands particular sources of knowledge, as well as abilities, facilities and preparations. Every teacher should comprehend the peculiarities of mental retardation, autism, severe or multiple disabilities caused mostly by genetic vulnerability or environmental factors (Autism Society, 2012)
According to Psychologyface (2011), mental retardation should be understood as the condition of a lack of intelligence. Usually, it is a lack of mental development as a whole. The American Association on Mental Retardation (AAMR) in 2002 offered the explanation of this disease, as “a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills. This disability originates before age 18” (Hourcade, 2002). The fact is that about 1-3 percent of the population suffers from it. In spite of many causes of mental retardation, doctors find a specific reason in only 25 percent of cases. The child’s retardation is obvious in his/her slow motor, language and self-help skills. It is a problem for a child to adapt to new situations normally and grow intellectually. In the case of mild retardation, it may not become recognizable until school age (The New York Times, 2011).
There are four levels of mental retardation: mild, moderate, severe and profound. According to The Dictionary by Farlex (2012), about 85 percent of mentally retarded people are on the mild stage. Their IQ score ranges from 50-75 and often gives an opportunity to acquire academic skills up to the 6th grade level. The second level includes about 10 percent of mentally retarded people and determines their IQ scores ranging from 35-55. Severely retarded population counts 3-4 percent with IQ scores of 20-40. Some self-care skills and communication skills make them able to live in a group home. 1-2 percent of people belonging to profound retardation have IQ scores about 20-25. They need an appropriate support, training and high level of professional supervision.
In 1975 Congress adopted the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which ensures that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education, just like other children (NICHCY, 2012). Hourcade (2002) has made a reference on IDEA:
School ... provides all students, including those with mental retardation, with the opportunities for social development. Classroom programs such as ‘Study Buddies’ or peer tutors can help students with mental retardation by pairing them with selected classmates in cooperative learning arrangements to facilitate the acquisition of both academic and social skills.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 also supports the right of disabled students to have a general curriculum at schools (Education Week, 2004). There are many educational institutions in the USA which admit students with different peculiarities, including mentally retarded. For instance, Case Western Reserve University has no discrimination “in administering its educational policies, admission policies, employment, promotion and compensation policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic or other University-administered programs” (Case Western Reserve University, 2007). They can “obtain accommodations, auxiliary aids and/or services.” It is possible to have special electronic books for individuals with visual impairments. Professional staff of Disability Resources should be informed about students’ mental disorder and organize an appropriate accommodation. At the same time, the information about person’s mental or physical disability is highly confidential. The source added, “ Housing modifications, special room assignments or housing releases, handicapped parking, responsive transportation, or other programmatic or physical access” are available for them. The University has adopted “an internal grievance procedure” (Case Western Reserve University, 2007), which protects handicapped students in case of any discrimination. The Office of the Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity is highly responsible for students’ security.
According to Stokes (2012), children with Asperger's Syndrome belonging to a ‘high functioning autism’ have many difficulties in appropriately understanding, processing and gathering of incoming information. In case of autism the brain works differently and people have an unusual perspective of the world. She added, “Therefore, the use of visual methods of teaching, as well as visual support strategies, should always be incorporated to help the child with Asperger's Syndrome better understand his environment” (Stokes, 2012). He/she is hard to comprehend social relations with others. NICHCY (2012) said, “Interaction with nondisabled peers is also important.”
NICHCY (2012) informed, “People with severe disabilities are those who traditionally have been labeled as having severe to profound cognitive impairments or intellectual disabilities”. Limited speech, difficulty in basic physical mobility, forgetting skills through disuse, weak generalizing skills are the main characteristics of students who need a great support (NICHCY, 2012). Similarly, Teacher Vision (2012) recommended to provide oral instructions and frequent progress checks. To encourage disabled students and give them immediate feedbacks is an important issue, because they need to get many praises. According to Browder (2003), team planning for students with multiple disabilities should include target responses, an instructional support, an assistive technology and self-directed learning. The last criterion consists of self-instruction pictures, a self-instruction audiotape and has a problem solving character. She (2003) added, “In some states teachers choose the responses that will be assessed to document progress on state standards (e.g., portfolio model)”. The author said, “One of the ‘special’ features of education for students with severe disabilities is the need to prioritize within the curriculum” (Browder, 2003).
According to A Guide of Special Education, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) is very effective, too. This source (2012) added, “Each student must be placed in the least restrictive environment, ... in which he or she can learn. For most students with disabilities, that means the general education classroom”.
The involvement of parents is simply necessary. Every child should get developed in such educational spheres as home and school. Probably, the first place better helps to feel needed and improves the child’s view of family relations and gives more individual comfort. The second establishment aims to develop social relations between disabled students, their peers and teachers; shows the aspects of friendship and makes them skilled according to special or general curriculum. As a result tight co-operation between teachers, students and their parents becomes very effective. After all, the special needs school’s personnel should be highly responsible for such aspects as physical comfort of such students, their interior balance and mental progress.