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Vicki Nilles Metropolitan State College. Exceptionality in Education. How do you define the concept of exceptionality in education? . Defining Exceptionality.

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vicki nilles metropolitan state college
Vicki Nilles

Metropolitan State College

Exceptionality in Education

defining exceptionality
Defining Exceptionality

The Oxford dictionary defines exceptionality as “forming an exception; very unusual; outstandingly good”. The thesaurus provided the following synonyms: outstanding, excellent, brilliant, antonym

of ordinary.

Isn’t it interesting, then, that when we investigate

exceptionality in education and psychology textbooks and journals, we define it in ways that focus on limitations, with synonyms like disability, special needs, and “at risk”?

(Jacqueline Specht, Ph. D.)


The reasons for school problems can be broad and complex. Although statistics on children with school problems vary, we tend to see exceptionalities occur in the general population of children at approximately the following rates: learning disabilities, 7-10%; emotional disturbances, 5-10%; ADHD, 5%; chronic illness, 5% and mental retardation, 2-3%.


In defining exceptionality, it is sometimes useful to

differentiate between the types of exceptionalities and their incidence. High incidence conditions occur frequently in the

groups of children labeled as exceptional. learning disabilities are the most common, representing an estimated 50% of exceptionalities in the classroom.

Other high incidence disabilities include speech impairments, mental retardation, and behavioral disturbances. Low incidence disabilities are less common and include multiple disabilities, hearing, visual and orthopedic impairments.

categories of exceptionality
Categories of Exceptionality

1. Physical Disability

2. Severe Language Disorder and Critical Educational Needs

3. Severe Behavior Disorder

4. Hearing Impairment

5. Intellectual Disability

6. Visual Impairment

7. Autism Spectrum Disorder

8. Learning Disability

9. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

10. Giftedness

(Dr. Stewart Sykes, 2006)

historical antecedents
Historical Antecedents
  • Early nomadic tribes viewed individuals with disabilities as nonproductive and a burden
  • Historically those with disabilities were institutionalized or sent to colonies
  • Individuals with mild disabilities were generally able to be absorbed into society often without being labeled
  • Treatment of those with disabilities has historically challenged their civil rights
  • Educational rights for those with disabilities were not easily acquired
  • Many educators were reluctant to extend educational rights to those with disabilities and these rights were truly only granted after many court battles
  • Case law, or the published opinions of judges who have interpreted statutes, regulations, and Constitutional provisions, has been utilized by parents to secure rights for disabled children
brown v board of education of topeka 1954
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954)
  • In 1950, Topeka student Linda Brown, had to ride the bus 5 miles to school due to the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling stating that African American students would be provided separate but equal transportation opportunities. Linda was forbidden to attend her neighborhood school because of this ruling. Linda’s family along with 13 other families filed suit against the Topeka Board of Education which stated that Linda could not attend the local all White school. The court ruled in favor of Linda Brown and her family and the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling was overturned.
special education in the us
Special Education in the US
  • Children with disabilities have faced continuous uphill struggle to gain their right to attend public schools
  • Until the mid 1970’s, many children with moderate to severe disabilities were routinely excluded from public education
  • The argument to keep them out of school was specific to the fact that educators felt these students could not learn the basic facts and therefore were not educable
parc v the commonwealth of pennsylvania
PARC v. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • In 1971, the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children brought a class-action suit against the Commonwealth of Penn. For the failure to provide a public supported education to students with mental retardation
  • The attorneys argued:
    • Education cannot be defined as only the provision of academic experiences for children
    • All students with mental retardation were capable of benefiting from programs of education and training
    • Having undertaken a free public education for the children of Penn. The state could not deny children with mental retardation the same opportunities
    • The earlier the students with mental retardation were provided education, the great the amount of learning could be predicted
federal district court ruling
Federal District Court Ruling:
  • Ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and all children aged 16-21 were provided a free public education. The court stipulated that it was most desirable to educate children mental retardation in programs most like those provided their peers without disabilities
    • (Murdick, Gartin, & Crabtree, 2002)
mills v board of education
Mills v. Board of Education
  • Another class-action law suit in the District of Colombia on behalf of 18,000 out of school children with behavior problems, hyperactivity, epilepsy, mental retardation, and physical problems. The court again ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and mandated the District of Colombia schools to provide a public supported education to all children with disabilities.
  • Court ruling ordered the following:
    • The district to provide due process procedural safeguards
    • Clearly outlined due process procedures for labeling, placement, and exclusion
    • Procedural safeguards to include right to appeal, right to access records, and written notice of all stages of the process
  • Section 504 and Public Law 93-112
    • Part of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act and the counterpart of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
    • No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the US…shall solely by reason of his or her handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance
public law 94 142
Public Law 94-142
  • In 1975, PL 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, was signed into law. This comprehensive legislation provided individuals ages 3-21, with the following:
    • A free and appropriate educationa for all children with disabilities
    • Procedural safeguards to protect the rights of students and their parents
    • Education in the least restrictive environment
  • Individualized Educational Programs
  • Parental involvement in educational decisions related to their children with disabilities
  • Fair, accurate, and nonbiased evaluations
americans with disabilities act
Americans with Disabilities Act
  • ADA was signed into law in 1990 and was the most significant civil rights legislation in the US since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. ADA was designed to end discrimination against individuals with disabilities in private sector employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.
ada provides the following
ADA provides the following:
  • Employers cannot discriminate against individuals with disabilities in hiring or promotion if they are otherwise qualified for the job
  • Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, such as attaching an amplifier to the individuals phone
  • New buses, bus and train stations, and rail systems must be accessible to persons with disabilities
  • Physical barriers in restaurants, hotels, retail stores, and stadiums must be removed; if not readily achievable, alternative means of offering services must be implemented
  • Companies offering telephone services to the general public must offer telephone relay services to those using telecommunication devices for the deaf (Yell, 2006)
individuals with disabilities act idea
Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)
  • Congress passed PL 101-476 IDEA in 1990 as amendments to PL 94-142. Key components of this amendment act included the addition of students with autism and traumatic brain injury as a separate class entitled to services
  • A transition plan was added requirement to be included in every student’s IEP by age 16
idea amendments
IDEA Amendments
  • Strengthened role of parents, ensured access to the general education curriculum, emphasized student progress by changing the IEP process
  • Encouraged parents and educators to resolve their differences through non-adversarial mediation
  • Gave school officials greater latitude in disciplining students by altering some procedural safeguards
  • Set funding formulas
more changes in 2004
More changes in 2004
  • The New IDEA
    • Added new language about academic and functional goals
    • Required that IEPs now include a statement of annual measurable goals
    • Must align with NCLB
    • Requires that teachers be highly qualified in specific areas in order to work with exceptional children (there is currently a nation-wide shortage of special education teachers)
post pl 94 142 litigation
Post PL 94-142 Litigation
  • There are still areas of special education law that is very unclear to students, their parents, and advocates
  • Many of the mandates regarding special education issues require specific staffing and resources of which there is significant under funding
  • This causes confusion and frustration for students and their families as well as school districts in that these mandates must be fulfilled even though there may be no budget to allow for various services
free and appropriate education for all children
Free and Appropriate Education for all Children
  • Hendrick Hudson School District v. Rowley (1982) became first case to determine “appropriate education” for student with hearing impairment
  • School provided hearing aid and full time teacher’s aid to work with student
  • A teletype machine was provided for office use as the parents were deaf as well and this provided appropriate opportunities for communication
pl 94 142
PL 94-142
  • Provided students with disabilities their legal educational rights
  • However, some school districts are too often found to be out of compliance, either deliberately, or due to the negligence of personnel
  • Many court cases have been won against districts not providing appropriate services for students costing districts millions of dollars
exceptional individuals and society
Exceptional Individuals and Society
  • Because society often views those with disabilities as childlike, they are denied the right to feel and want like nondisabled individuals.
  • Teachers and other professionals can often be heard talking about individuals with disabilities in their presence as if the individuals are unable to feel any embarrassment
exceptional cultural groups
Exceptional Cultural Groups
  • Because of insensitivity, apathy, or prejudice, many of those responsible for implementing and upholding the laws that protect individuals with disabilities fail to do so
  • The failure to provide adequate educational and vocational opportunities for individuals with disabilities may preclude the possibility of social and economic equality
  • Discrimination and social isolation can sometimes be the result of such conditions
disproportionate placement in special education
Disproportionate Placement in Special Education
  • Overrepresentation of students of color in special education has been one of the most problematic issues in public education for many years (Dunn, 1968)
  • Approximately 60-80% of students serviced by special education are students from low status backgrounds (minority groups with low SES)
  • Many special education classes have become dumping grounds for culturally and linguistically diverse students
inappropriate placement
Inappropriate Placement
  • Artiles and Henry (2004) suggest that overrepresentation in special education placement is a problem when children are placed and there is no disability
  • It is a problem if placement into special education programming limits the students’ access to quality programs, obtaining high school diploma, and limits opportunities to positive learning experiences
1968 office of civil rights
1968 Office of Civil Rights
  • Began biannual survey of student placement in special education classes
  • Data provided racial background of special education students
  • African American students, especially males, have been greatly overrepresented in classes for students with mental retardation and serious emotional disturbances
  • In some instances Latino students are also overrepresented
classes for gifted and talents
Classes for Gifted and Talents
  • Native American, Latino, and African American students are drastically underrepresented in classes for the gifted and talented
overrepresentation of all children
Overrepresentation of all children
  • Although careful diagnosis may take place, it is highly likely that many of the children currently placed in programs for individuals with disabilities have been inappropriately placed
  • Large percentages of students placed in special education come from backgrounds of poverty
  • Poverty can contribute to health aspects
    • Premature term births
    • Lack of health care
    • Fetal alcohol syndrome
inappropriate assessment
Inappropriate Assessment
  • Tests are culturally biased
    • SES
    • Linguistically diverse
    • Culturally diverse
california proposition 227 and special education 1998
California Proposition 227 and Special Education 1998
  • Requires all linguistically diverse students be educated in English using sheltered instructional approaches rather than providing native language instruction as an option
  • Intended to dismantle bilingual education programs
  • Similar state laws are in place in Arizona, and Massachusettes
  • Federal law always trumps state law
normalization and inclusion
Normalization and Inclusion
  • Normalization refers to “making available to all persons with disabilities or other handicaps, patterns of life and conditions of everyday life which are as close as possible to or indeed the same as the regular circumstances and ways of life of society” (Nirje, 1985)
  • Normalization “must be the creation, support and defense of valued social roles for people who are at risk of social devaluation”

(Wolfensberger, 1983 p. 123)

  • The purest form of inclusion means that students with disabilities have a right to be integrated into general education classes regardless of their ability to meet traditional academic standards
  • (Tiegerman-Farmer, 2007)
  • Least restrictive environment