Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Bridging Curriculum Access through Differentiation, Part 1: Historical and Background Perspectives

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Bridging Curriculum Access through Differentiation, Part 1: Historical and Background Perspectives

Article excerpt

Prior to the dawn of the nineteenth century, common schools, social and political practice have driven the direction of our nation's schools and the manner in which our children access the promise of an education. The multi-age one-room schoolhouses that dotted America's prairie landscape embarked upon the quest toward education of the masses and brought fresh perspectives and information to the frontier folks. Via the pioneer children and newly published text books that melded the moral and spiritual aspects of early 19th century society with vocabulary and phonics that fit into a growing new world, farmers, mill hands, and shopkeepers molded into the fabric of an ever-evolving America. By the twentieth century, American citizens had experienced some of their most dramatic gains within the area of educational equality, through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The premise of the 1964 Act, which came to us ten years after the landmark decision of the Supreme Court banning racial segregation in the public schools in the case of Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, was built upon non-educational components, including segregation in housing, restaurants, and public transportation, as well as voting qualifications, but soon sparked amendments that addressed educational rights relative to race, gender, and children with disabilities.

The journey toward perfecting the education of our youth is a work in progress. The climate of education continues to thrive and grow in diversity and inclusion, based upon the growing framework built upon that critical piece of civil rights legislation that arrived to us in 1964, on the eve of the United States' 188th birthday, and ignited sweeping changes that lead to educational opportunities for all. As families and educators of children and youth with exceptionalities, it is vital to be on familiar terms with the history of education, in order to understand contemporary issues and approaches relative to the delivery of the most appropriate education possible to children of today and to children in future generations. Comparatively, the voices of our Founding Fathers that prevailed prior to 1776 and led to the Declaration of Independence are akin to the voices of parents seeking education for their children with exceptionalities.

Today's educators demonstrate an enhanced knowledge base, due to evolving perspectives that align with research-validated practices that serve all learners. In the course of this expanding wisdom and knowledge, our nation's classrooms have moved learning spaces into environments that are more diverse than only a generation ago. One manner in which practitioners demonstrate this shift is through increased inclusion and focus upon Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which promotes access and engagement within the learning process, beyond the entrance afforded to individuals in wheelchairs through the curb cut and automatic doors.

Further, based upon IDEA requirements within current special education rule, all students eligible for special education services must be considered for possible assistive technology (AT) in order to ensure that they have access to a free and appropriate public education. Although some students will not require technology to meet the goals on their IEP, there are those that will benefit from the use of AT in order to achieve educational or social goals, gain meaningful educational benefit, and/or make reasonable progress within the least restrictive environment. For almost a quarter of a century, since Congress passed The Assistive Technology Act of 1988, currently reauthorized as The Improving Access to Assistive Technology for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004, recognition of the importance of supporting access to assistive technologies has been intertwined within the regulations and practice of educating students with special needs. In addition to clickable high tech devices that offer electronic readers and keyboards for students with a range of needs, low tech devices including pencil grips, graphic organizers, or modified paper are assistive technology devices, which an educational team may consider when planning student accessibility to curriculum. …

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