Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Attitudes about Educational and Related Service Provision for Students with Deaf-Blindness and Multiple Disabilities

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Attitudes about Educational and Related Service Provision for Students with Deaf-Blindness and Multiple Disabilities

Article excerpt

Increasingly, students who are deaf-blind or have other severe or multiple disabilities are being educated in general education classes (Cloninger & Giangreco, 1995; Haring & Romer, 1995). Not surprisingly, the transition to the general education classroom raises a variety of service provision Issues. In part, this is true because their sensory impairments often exist concurrently with challenging cognitive, physical, health, and behavioral characteristics. Many students with multiple disabilities receive services (e.g., speech/language pathology, physical therapy, orientation and mobility corresponding to each type of disability. The more disabilities, the more specialists. This approach is based on the assumption that specialists have unique training, knowledge, and skills in educating students with multiple disabilities and conversely, that others (e.g., parents, teachers, generic special educators) generally do not. Throughout this study, this assumption will be referred to as the Specialist-Reliant approach. Reliance on specialists to assist in educating students with multiple disabilities is considered highly desirable by some parents, advocates, and professionals.

Not everyone favors the specialist-reliant approach or the reasoning on which extensive provision of services is based. For example, even though a person may be a competent physical therapist, he or she does not necessarily have specialized training, knowledge, or skills specifically in educating students with deaf-blindness or multiple disabilities. The same reasoning may apply for the other specialists. Even if expertise were available, extensive use of specialists in ways that were traditionally employed when students with disabilities were educated in separate special education classes and schools may not work well in general education classrooms because of significant contextual differences (Giangreco, Dennis, Cloninger, Edelman, & Schattman, 1993). Schools and districts will likely have trouble finding enough teachers and specialists who are specifically trained to work with every student identified as deaf-blind. This likelihood stems from the combined impact of the low incidence of this population, their sparse geographic dispersement, limited availability of trained personnel, and budgetary constraints facing many school districts. Proponents of segregated services have often argued that these are primary reasons for the existence of center-based programs where students with multiple disabilities are congregated. Their argument is, in part, rooted in their acceptance of the specialist-reliant approach as a preferred service provision option.

In a recent study, general education teachers who had a child with multiple disabilities in their classroom described the following difficulties with the specialist-reliant approach. (a) Specialists had separate goals and a different agenda from that of the classroom teacher, (b) specialists disrupted the class schedule and routines, and (c) specialists used approaches perceived as overly technical and stigmatizing to students (Giangreco et al., 1993).

In a study of parents who had children with deaf-blindness and multiple disabilities (Giangreco, Cloninger, Mueller, Yuan, & Ashworth, 1991), parents raised the following concerns: (a) feeling overwhelmed and frustrated when dealing with numerous professionals, (b) finding deficiencies in communication and coordination among professionals, (c) feeling excluded by professionals from the educational planning team, and (d) experiencing fragmentation of services. Some of these same parents said they appreciated it when professionals admitted when they did not know an answer and expressed a willingness to work with the family to solve problems.

There are at least two other approaches to instituting support services in ways that allow students with multiple disabilities opportunities to access typical home, school, and community environments: Natural Supports and Only as Special as Necessary. …

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