Understanding Children with Disabilities

Unless there are physical abnormalities, children are not suspected of having disabilities until developmental milestones are delayed.
Unless there are physical abnormalities, children are not suspected of having disabilities until developmental milestones are delayed. | Source

Who is This Child?

Who is this child beside me today, handing me flowers and smiling so gay? It hasn't been long since she was a babe, so tiny and helpless, a soul to save. How could I know what was in her heart, what thoughts of the eternal home from which she did part?

Who is this child with her arms around me, looking longingly in my eyes to see some deep pool of love from which she can drink, telling me secrets of what she does think. How can I teach her all she needs to know when even I don't know which way to go?

Who is this child singing songs so sweet, always wanting to have me entreat, always wanting a world that is just, always extending her soul in trust? How can I protect her from the cruel world yet teach her to keep righteous flags unfurled?

Who is this child kneeling down to pray, pleading her cause at the close of the day? She remembers every neighbor and friend and even those who did offend. How can I raise her to spiritual heights when she already exceeds my own meager sights?

Who is this child, Lord, that you've given me? I want so much to help her see. Yet inside my mind there seems a veil, while hers is parted, though she's already set sail! How can I guide her back to thee, when she's already living in eternity?

Do you have a child with a disability?

  • No.
  • No, but I know someone who does.
  • Yes, that is why I am reading this.
  • Yes.
See results without voting

What is a disability?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as breathing, walking, learning, or listening. Causes for disabilities are myriad. A few are listed below:

  • Birth defects
  • Genetic abnormalities
  • Illness
  • Accidents
  • Trauma
  • Natural disasters
  • Chemical exposure
  • Changes in personality or emotional state

Although children with disabilities are found in all races and economic circumstances, risk increases with poverty, drug/alchol use, and trauma. Incidence decreases with family education, high quality nutrition, and prevention of chemical exposure. Once disabilities are identified, however, the focus is on provision of services rather than determination of cause.

Physicians suspecting that an infant or toddler has a disability usually refer the parent to the county early childhood services. Self or relative referral is also encouraged. Services include provision of physical and occupational therapy, speech and language services, child care assistance, and parent education.

Equipment needed for the child may be loaned to the family, with upgrading to accommodate growth and development. These services are provided at no cost to the parents, being federally funded through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Families of children with disabilities have many challenges.
Families of children with disabilities have many challenges. | Source

How are students with disabilities identified?

Delay in developmental milestones such as rolling over, cutting teeth, talking, crawling, and walking are usually the first signs that a disability may be present. Early childhood personnel track progress and provide intervention from birth through age 2 years 11 months. The family is the focus of all services, and parents are part of the team. They are taught how to work with the child, using various methods to help the child learn or develop the skills that are lacking. Once the child reaches the point that they appear to be developing normally, services are discontinued.

As a child nears the pre-school years, screenings are available through early childhood programs in an effort to identify children who need assistance before entering the public school system. These screenings check for language and cognitive development as well as the presence of physical skills such as hopping, skipping, jumping, and grasping. Children age 3 and older who are at-risk of having disabilities are referred for services through the local education association responsible for special education. IDEA Part B funds these services and they are provided at no cost to the family.

Once a child is in the public school system in kindergarten or above, education professionals, staff, and/or parents with concerns about school performance may refer a student to the school administration at any time in the student’s school career. The referral is given to the student assistance team (each school has its own terminology for the team, they may be called Teacher Assistance Team, Response to Intervention Team, or some other term). The team acknowledges the concerns and works with the parents and school personnel on research based interventions for the student.

Students who do not make sufficient progress when research based interventions are provided may be referred for additional assessment to see if they qualify for special education services. At this time, the parents partner with the student's teachers, school administration, and special education professionals to develop a plan whereby the student can experience growth in the school learning environment.

Category
Cognitive
Academic
Physical
Behavioral
Adaptive
Autism
varied
low
varied
low
low
Cognitive Impairment
low
low
varied
low
low
Deaf-blindness
high
varied
high
high
high
Deafness
high
varied
high
high
high
Emotional Disturbance
high
varied
high
low
varied
Hearing Impairment
high
varied
high
high
high
Multiple Disabilities
varied
varied
varied
varied
varied
Other Health Impairment
high
high
high
low
varied
Orthopedic Impairment
high
varied
varied
high
varied
Specific Learning Disability
high
varied
high
varied
high
Speech or Language Impairment
high
varied
high
varied
high
Traumatic Brain Injury
varied
varied
varied
varied
varied
Visual Impairment
high
varied
high
high
high
The thirteen disabilities categories in IDEA and how they are manifested in the classroom. Chart prepared by Denise W. Anderson from observations taken as a School Psychologist.

How do students with disabilities qualify for services?

The chart above shows the thirteen categories IDEA uses for the placement of students in special education. Qualification is based primarily on how the disability affects the student's functioning in the regular education environment. The qualitative descriptions given in the chart are indicative of the results shown in standardized testing, observation, or criterion referenced inventories:

  • High - normal or above
  • Low - below normal, or at-risk
  • Varied - the score is high in some cases and low in others

Cognitive ability has to do with intellectual skills such as thinking, problem solving, categorizing, and memory. Academic deals with the ability to speak, read, write, and work with numbers. The Physical category is the motor movement of the body, whether intentional or unintentional. Behavioral affects the student's social and emotional functioning. Adaptive skills include taking care of one's self personally in the home, at school, and in the community.

For example, a child with cerebral palsy may be placed in the category of orthopedic impairment if the primary issue they are dealing with is mobility (a physical issue). The student may need assistance writing, eating, and moving from one place to another. Their programming would most likely include physical and occupational therapy, assistive technology, and adaptive physical education.

Another student with cerebral palsy may be functioning quite differently, having low cognitive and academic functioning, along with mobility difficulties. They may need physical and occupational therapy, language assistive technology, and basic skill development. This student might be placed in special education under the category of multiple disabilties as they would require adaptive equipment, a specialized classroom, and a one-on-one paraprofessional. Funding is determined by category placement and the provision of needed services.

Parents and educational professionals determine together the category placement and the Individual Education Plan (IEP) of the student. This plan contains the instructions the school personnel follow, including who, when, and how services will be provided. Students that are age 16 and older also receive transition services to aid them in preparing to exit high school and integrate into adult life in the community.

When students with disabilities are surrounded by loving and caring individuals, their needs are more likely to be met.
When students with disabilities are surrounded by loving and caring individuals, their needs are more likely to be met. | Source

Provision of services within the classroom

Students with disabilities cannot be lumped into one particular area and expected to perform according to a set pattern. They are individuals, just like other students within the classroom. Each has strengths and weakness which may or may not be compounded by the disability. The purpose of special education is to level the playing field as much as possible for the student to experience success within the regular education environment.

Services are provided in such a way as to wrap around the student those supports and assistance that enable them to be successful in spite of their disability. Specialized instruction is provided in skill development and accommodations are given to assist with work completion and keeping pace with classmates. Additional tutoring, home-work assistance, and behavioral supports are provided both inside and out of the regular education classroom in order for the student to be involved with the same curriculum as their peers to the extent possible.

The question has been raised as to whether special education is a guarantee that the student will not fail. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Students sometimes make choices that result in school failure in spite of all the help that is given them. Special education departments struggle with this statistic just as much or more than regular education departments.

Federal laws require that interventions be on-going, even if a student is home or institution bound while in the special education system. In fact, a student cannot be inadvertantly exited once they are in special education. As long as they are considered qualified and available to school personnel, they will receive services. Efforts are made to keep the student in that position until evidence indicates that they are able to continue on their own without the support. Only a thorough assessment with average results will give that indication.

Students with disabilities are just like any other students, they are people. People with needs, wants, feelings, and aptitudes, who need love and caring. They need to know that the school personnel will be there for them in such a way that they are not belittled or discriminated against, but are strengthened, and uplifted. After all, we are all God's children!

More by this Author


Comments 4 comments

MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean

Thanks especially for the disabilities chart. You always teach so much in your hubs. No one can guarantee how a student, disabled or not, will respond to teaching. Thanks to people like you who are dedicated to their interest.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 4 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for the compliment and the encouragement, MsDora. I appreciate that you shared you were able to learn something from the graphic provided. I find that when I make things visual, they make a lot more sense. God bless you!


Padmajah Badri profile image

Padmajah Badri 19 months ago from India

Child with disability requires an additional support and motivation to do tasks.They require more time and expect love and affection at a higher level.This hub will be a tool for mothers who have children with disability and they can follow the chart as a ready reckoner to understand the level of disability for their children and plan their future accordingly.Thank you for such a informative hub.Voted up as always.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 19 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is so true, Padmajah. Children with disabilities require much more in the way of parenting! Their understanding of the world is different, and we cannot expect the same things of them as their "normal" siblings. When we solicit the help of other family members in their behalf, we share the burden, and help all in the family understand what needs to be done for them to be successful in life. Then, when the time comes that we cannot be there for them, there are others willing to do what we cannot.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working