The Special Needs Child and the Role
of the Urban School
Andrew E. Dubin and Jane Wheeler-Dubin
Urban schools have an increasing responsibility to serve the needs of the exceptional child. In the light of recent legislation and restructuring efforts, there has been a growing emphasis on the placement of children with physical and intellectual handicaps within the educational mainstream.1 Who are these children? What histories do they bring to the urban school environment? What history does the urban school bring to the treatment of special needs children? How able is the urban school to accommodate their complex needs? The answers to these questions will help us define the role of the urban school in dealing with these multi-faceted issues.
Exceptional children can be defined in many ways. Definitions generally assigned to the exceptional child focus on the following developmental characteristics: (1) cognitive, (2) physical, (3) communicative, (4) sensory, and (5) emotional/behavioral. Although this chapter addresses the ways in which the urban school organization processes and ultimately affects these children, an understanding, first, of the family histories will shed considerable light on the type of child with whom the educational system must contend and the likelihood of the system to treat this population of students adequately.
In Erik Erickson's framework for normal childhood development, the need to evolve basic trust in infancy relies on certain physical features: the sameness and continuity of outer providers and the ability of the child to trust himself or herself and his or her own capabilities. For example, the healthy infant dem-