Academic journal article Exceptional Children

A National Perspective of Competencies for Teachers of Individuals with Physical and Health Disabilities

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

A National Perspective of Competencies for Teachers of Individuals with Physical and Health Disabilities

Article excerpt

Teachers instructing students with physical and health disabilities need specialized knowledge and skills to provide these students an appropriate education and a safe educational environment (The Council for Exceptional Children [CEC], 1996). This requires both knowledge and skills in the area of educational strategies and modifications and in the area of health maintenance. With the changing certification (or licensure) criteria across the nation and the decline of personnel preparation programs specific to physical and health disabilities, the extent to which teachers are prepared to appropriately instruct this increasing population of students is questionable. This study examined teachers' perceptions of their knowledge and skills in physical and health disabilities, as well as the special education directors' perceptions of the teachers' skills. Support from state Departments of Education was also examined as well as the extent to which physical and health disabilities competencies are included in university teacher education programs.

The area of physical and health disabilities includes three populations of students teachers typically encounter in the schools. These populations consist of students with (a) orthopedic impairments, (b) other health impairments (including complex health care needs and technology dependent students), and (c) multiple disabilities (in which a physical or health impairment is present). (See Table 1.) Orthopedic impairment refers to

TABLE 1
Defining Physical and Health Impairments

               Physical and Health Impairments

Orthopedic Impairments            Other Health Impairments
Orthopedic impairments caused     Chronic or acute health
  by congenital anomalies           problems
Orthopedic impairments caused     Complex health care needs
  by disease
Orthopedic impairments caused     Technology dependent
  by other causes

               Physical and Health Impairments

Orthopedic Impairments            Multiple Disabilities
Orthopedic impairments caused     Concomitant impairments, with
  by congenital anomalies           one impairment being an
                                    orthopedic or health impairment
Orthopedic impairments caused
  by disease
Orthopedic impairments caused
  by other causes
   a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child's educational
   performance. The term includes impairments caused by congenital anomalies
   (e.g., club foot, absence of some member, etc.), impairments caused by
   disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis, etc.), and impairments
   from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or
   burns that cause contractures). (Department of Education [DOE], 1992, p.
   44802).

Other health impairment refers to "having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, due to chronic or acute health problems such as heart condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, leukemia, or diabetes that adversely affects a child's educational performance" (DOE, 1992, p. 44802). The term "other health impairments" can also include students who are technology-assisted or who have complex health care needs. These students may be dependent upon such technology as mechanical ventilators, oxygen, and tube feeding (Knight & Wadsworth, 1994). Multiple disabilities refers to concomitant impairments (such as mental retardation-orthopedic impairment), "the combination of which causes such severe educational problems that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments" (DOE, 1992, p. 44802).

There is an increasing population of students who have physical and health disabilities. On a national level, 60,604 children were identified under the category of orthopedic impairments in the U.S. Department of Education's 18th Annual Report to Congress on Implementation of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA U. …

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