Children with Disabilities
Intro to Special Education
Aimed at parents of students with disabilities, this video covers the special education process, including Evaluation, Referral, Creation of the Individualized Education Plan, Placement, and Annual Review.
Strategies For Fostering
Able-Bodied Children's Acceptance Of Disabled Peers
Eliminating social barriers and creating a learning environment that enhances the potential for positive social interaction between disabled and non-disabled children in mainstreaming preschool and elementary school classrooms is an ongoing concern for early childhood educators. Questions relevant to this issue are: what attitudes do able-bodied children have towards those who move, think, behave, speak, communicate, or learn "differently" than the norm? What kinds of reactions to and interactions between disabled and able- bodied children can teachers in early childhood educational settings expect to encounter? What strategies can teachers call upon to if able- bodied children exhibit patterns of rejection when interacting with disabled peers?
ABLE-BODIED CHILDREN'S PERCEPTION OF DISABILITY
Diamond's (1996) interviews with forty-six able-bodied children, ages 3-6, suggest that perception of disability is formed early in a child's development. The majority of children questioned in Diamond's (1996) study were cognizant of physical disabilities, half were cognizant of sensory disabilities, but few showed an awareness of Downs Syndrome (Diamond, 1996).
Given that most young children have varying levels of awareness of different types of disabilities, what are their reactions toward disabled? Nabors' (1997) research study involving forty non-disabled and nineteen disabled preschool children, found that the disabled children received fewer positive playmate preference nominations from peers (Nabors, 1997). When able-bodied preschool children were shown pictures of disabled persons and asked to rate them in terms of whom they wanted to be friends with, the able-bodied preschoolers showed a marked preference for able-bodied playmates (Nabors, 1997).
Researchers Cohen, Nabors, and Pierce (1994) used a standard picture ranking task to assess able-bodied preschooler's attitudes towards disabled. Responses from the children suggest that able-bodied preschoolers prefer able-bodied persons (Cohen, Nabors, and Pierce, 1994). Cohen, Nabors, and Pierce (1994) found that non-disabled children had more inclusive styles of play with able-bodied children than they did with disabled children (Cohen, Nabors, and Pierce, 1994).
Nabors, Cohen and Morgan (1993); Nabors and Morgan (1993); Cohen, Nabors, and Pierce (1994) research regarding able-bodied young children's perception of disability occurring in adults suggests that able-bodied preschool children favored able-bodied adults as opposed to adults with orthopedic disabilities (Trepanier-Street & Romatowski, 1996).
Not all children develop negative attitudes toward peers and adults with disabilities. Diamond, Hestenes, Carpenter, and Innes's (1997) comparison of attitudes toward disabilities expressed among preschool children in inclusive classrooms and non-mainstreamed classrooms found that children's in the former settings were more positive. Yet, literature cited does present the disturbing alternative and suggests that eliminating attitudinal barriers among disabled and non-disabled children is still a concern for early childhood educators.
USE OF ROLE PLAYING AMONG GROUPS OF DISABLED AND ABLE BODIED CHLDREN
What different kinds of strategies can early childhood education instructors use in dealing with able- bodied childrens' reluctance to engage socially with disabled? Implementing a series of role playing activities among groups of able- bodied and disabled preschoolers where able- bodied experiment with "alternate" ways of seeing, hearing, moving can effect positive changes in non-disabled attitudes toward disabled.
Appropriate role playing activities for classes with non-sighted children include object identification exercises. Sighted children would be asked to shut their eyes, and, along with the non-sighted children, would be given objects of varying shapes, sizes, textures, and functions. All children would be asked to explore the object fully, describe and identify it. An opportunity would be given to each child to share how they approached the task of identification. Verbalizing problem solving skills as a group allows both disabled and able-bodied to identify similarities and differences in their respective"detective" styles.
When using role playing among hearing impaired and non- hearing impaired children an instructor could create a series of sounds that create vibrations and ask the non- hearing impaired child the source of the sound. Can the non- hearing impaired child detect the different vibrations made by footsteps, music, or clapping? Can the non-hearing impaired child guess if the vibrations are far or near? Allowing hearing impaired children to demonstrate American Sign Language to able- bodied is an alternative role playing activity. This activity enables able-bodied to broaden their concept of sound can be "heard" and detected. Through sharing basic ASL phrases, hearing disabled establish a means of communicating with their non-hearing disabled peers.
Role playing activities appropriate among groups of orthopedically disabled and non- disabled children involve allowing non- orthopedically disabled children to experiment moving with crutches or wheelchairs. Use of wheelchairs and crutches by able- bodied preschoolers could be done in the play area, or in an outdoor setting depending on the able bodied child's level of comfort. Discussion of the difficulties, as well as enjoyment, experienced when rolling in a wheelchair or navigating on crutches presents orthopedic, mobility disabilities as a surmountable challenge, not an impediment.
Letting able bodied preschool children experience the world in a manner roughly equivalent to that of the disabled enables the former to share and bond with the disabled child. Able-bodied children become aware that disabled children may rely on similar problem solving skills thus diminishing the sense that the latter are "different," or "strange."
When problem solving skills are profoundly dissimilar, specifically among groups of children with orthopedic disabilities who are given mobility tasks, able-bodied children can come to understand that disabled are capable of negotiating their environment, are competent, and are comfortable with their disability. Direct observation of the disabled's unique way of moving, seeing, hearing, and communicating in group directed activities leads to greater understanding of disability and breaks down social barriers.
USE OF INCLUSION LITERATURE IN EARLY CHILDHOOD SETTINGS
An additional method of addressing able bodied preschoolers' anxieties regarding play interactions with disabled children is the use of inclusion literature. Becker, Baskin, and Lennox (1982) spearheaded a study of able-bodied children ages six through seven and their responses toward disability. Findings suggest that when books with disabled characters were read to the able-bodied and disabled children, during story time, the able-bodied children began become more accepting of disabled (Trepanier-Street & Romatowski, 1996).
Monson and Shurlett's (1997) research project found that a sample group of able-bodied children, age's five to eight, adopted positive responses to those with disabilities post- participation in an intervention which utilized inclusion literature in the classroom setting. After the sample children participated in an intervention program, which used books about disability, those children expressed more positive attitudes towards disabled.
The type of books Monson and Shurlett (1997) found effective in counteracting negative impressions of disabled were books which presented able- bodied and disabled children engaged in positive social interactions. Books which were not identified as helpful in bridging the social gap between disabled and able- bodied were those which highlighted disabilities and did not focus social activies and exchanges (Trepanier-Street & Romatowski, 1996).
Digest of Educational Statistics 1999
indicated the number of children
served by federal programs is growing at a faster rate than the total
number of students enrolled in public schools (Digest, 1999). The need
to find ways to foster nurturing, helpful, inclusive, tolerant
attitudes between children of all physical, developmental, emotional,
and cognitive abilities will become a more pressing problem as the
numbers of disabled students with disabilities are enrolled in public
schools. Further research is needed to find ways to build bridges of
friendship and harmony between disabled and able-bodied.
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