This section presents the literature that has been published in relation to the teacher’s perceptions /attitude towards special education and children with disabilities. Special Education is a complex and broad area of study. It is a distinctive provision that involves a range of foundational disciplines that encourage and assist the progress of children with special needs and other children to grow hand in hand and attain proficiency at the academic, social, personal and inter-personal level. This requires that special educators undergo specialised training and receive support from the school management to ensure that such children with special needs benefit and thus ultimately receive the best of education and care that civil society can provide to them without disparity (Routledge, 2003). There is a general consensus that complete justice to the children with special needs seeking inclusivity by this system can be done only if teachers who are involved in mainstream education are also aware of specialist knowledge and possess the skills required to cater to atleast a minimum set of special needs. Although educators specializing in particular special needs would be considered as best equipped to help the children with certain special needs, a cooperative approach with colleagues is vital in a school setting to ensure the best interests of the children in question (Sage, 2004). A teachers role is very critical in identifying and recognizing the special needs of a child and in assessing the impact of the disability in detail so that ways and means can be devised to help the possible implications in learning (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Keeping this consideration in mind, the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act 2004 (House Bill 1350) directed that students with disabilities must be taught by teachers who hold complete certification in special education or who have passed a state teacher licensing examination and hold a state licence. In particular, special education teachers teaching core academic subjects, are expected to hold certifications in both the subject in question and in special education (Chapman R, 2008) so that complex core subject matter can be presented in a way that meets the individualized need of the child. Further, the special educators must be equipped, competent and confident in the use of adaptive equipment, information and communication technology and multisensory environments to effectively put to use technology as and where the curriculum or the requirements of the child with special needs demand, so that the education of children with special needs can be aided by the use of such services to increase the autonomy of the child and thereby build confidence, enhance learning and thereby improve knowledge acquired and thus effecting integration in its essential sense.
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The new age concept of special education is based on the thought that any improvement made to the special education system is an improvements made to the education system as a whole in accordance with the fact that special education is not merely education of children with special needs but a collective effort of the community in helping different children with different abilities and tempraments to mutually benefit in the process of education. The view of the education community on special education today is based on the a variety of service options that must be made available in accordance with the special education laws such that a least restrictive environment may be constructed that enhances the scope of mutual interaction and considers the social well-being of the student community as a whole (Hallahan & Kauffman, 1998); As good as this sounds, this concept is far from being fully accepted (Yellin et al, 2003) by the civilized modern community and is still riddled with doubts, fears and litigative questions. The IDEA laws recommend inclusive mode of education as a solution rather than a problem for special educators, in which children with special needs are no more isolated, but educated in conjunction with children who are not disabled and special classes, separate schooling, or removal from the regular environment may be considered only when the nature or severity of the disability interferes with the education process. The new philosophy is to practice education on a general basis where (Bryant, Smith, & Bryant, 2008; Lipsky & Gartner, 1997; Rogers, 1993; Salend, 2001) the flexibility of an organization and special resources tchild should be an equally valued member of the school culture. However, the success of such inclusive methods of education depends largely on the attitude and willingness of special educators to make children with special needs feel welcome, accepted and included meaningfully. Addition or inclusion of material facts are mutually beneficial to children with special needs and also it help them benefit from being able to learn in a regular classroom and meet up with their peers without disabilities who can also gain from the exposure to children with diverse characteristics. School and community environments must be designed in such a way that they are physically and programmatically more accessible so that they will help children with physical disabilities function more effectively and enable others who do not have disabilities to access their environment even more readily (Ferguson, 1996).
Conceptually speaking, it can be said that the social and civil progress of any society can be measured by the way a society treats its weak and dependent citizens. Hence the emergence of inclusive education may be seen as a way to ensure school practices against discrimination and toward social justice and thus build a society that is indicatively progressing in the right direction. The responsibility rests on the shoulders of the teaching fraternity who must learn to identify the barriers that social taboos have placed in the way of children with special needs in a constructionist perspective discouraging the use of labeling and categorization so that children can be allowed to communicate, interact and advance to the best of their abilities (Berger and Luckmann, 1971). Inclusive education like any other new reform has been supported and criticized equally in both developing and developed countries. For those people who support inclusive education, (Stainback and Stainback, 1991), always stress on the fact that inclusion is a tool that can play an effectively role in the combat of discrimination, sow the seeds to create a warm and welcoming attitude in young minds: which replaces their past experience of isolation. (Smith, 2007), always insists on an inclusive society as it helps children to learn social skills adapting themselves to an environment that is close to normal conditions of development and growth (Mitchell & Brown, 1991) and achieve the ultimate commitment to educate every child (Ajuwon, 2008). The critics on the other hand overlook the problem of stigmatization and base their arguments on the idea that inclusive schools will not be able to adequately pay attention to or meet the needs of the disabled as can be done in therapy in segregated schools. This debate is vital in terms of determining the attitude of the teaching fraternity towards the idea of including children with special needs in general education as a child with a disability will benefit optimally from inclusion only when general education teachers are equipped to teach a wider array of children and be willing to collaborate effectively with special educators (Bender, Vail & Scott, 1995; Brophy & Good, 1991).
The crux of inclusivity is the human right to education. Apart from ethical, moral, human, economic, social and political reasons, it brings about development at the personal level, helps build relationships and ultimately turns schools into instruments of political and social change towards democracy (Slee, 2002). Inclusivity stresses on a collective community responsibility to develop a productive informed society (Raey, 2003). It stands for community innovation where diversity is the norm and stresses that programs must be developed to be exceptional and to suit the diversity so that all may be able to participate and thus benefit. Class rooms must be treated as mirrors of social reality where high expectations, high achievements and full participation of all learners is appreciated and teachers must understand and play the esteemed redefining role of working to enable rather than disable students so that social justice does not remain rhetoric but becomes practical. Awareness is the cry in the academic community today and the current appeal is to equip the teaching fraternity medically, contextually and logistically to help the students gain more out of existing infrastructure and thereby effectively realize the goals of special education. Although technology plays a vital role in special education, it can act as a means of social isolation too; hence it is vital that technology be used with care so that its positive social advantages are maximized and its alienating aspects minimized. Achieving this goal however, lies in the critical and analytical capability of the instructor so that use of technology is ensured in a way that is positive outcome oriented by assessing and re-assessing benefits on a regular basis and re-thinking/ planning new strategies in cases where no improvement is perceived.
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The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), has guided that inclusive instruction be implemented and assessed. Even today this system of education elicits mixed responses in that it is lobbied for by some and against by some in courts, debated about in social forums and variously interpreted by the common man. The diversity of an inclusion class leads to a question of various students receiving different benefits (Rogers, 1993); however, unless the social, academic, functional, or life skill outcomes are better perceived clearly, it would end up limiting the teaching fraternity’s assessment and thereby impairs the improvisation aspect that is vital for the progress and success of special education. Research shows that present day schools and teachers are struggling to respond to the wide array of students (Wills & Cain, 2002). An inclusive school without the adequate facilities in terms of technology equipment and incentives and inadequate specially trained teachers cannot rise up to the challenge of presenting fair knowledge distribution to all. Hence a universal design (Centre for Universal Design, 1997; Waksler, 1996) that includes physical, curricular and pedagogical changes must be evolved so that children with different learning styles can cope without adaptation or retrofitting. Child centered education practices must be ingrained in every teachers mind so that education approaches are based on a clear analysis of where each of their students stand in terms of academics, social and cultural factors so that learning can be best facilitated (Gildner, 2001). At the school level the learning needs of all children can be addressed only if a specific focus is placed on those children who are vulnerable to marginalisation and exclusion” (UNESCO, 1994). Research on special education strategies over the years says that assessments must be developed based on curriculum, team teaching must be encouraged, learning styles must be understood and cooperative strategies must be devised such as peer tutoring or skills training for inclusive education to work in a manner that speaks success. Classroom instruction must be planned and be well organized so that it meets each child’s need, and helps in their wellbeing.
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