Published on July 20, 2014
From Naming to Doing: DSE Principles in a Special Ed. World : From Naming to Doing: DSE Principles in a Special Ed. World A Person Becomes an Individual With Value : A Person Becomes an Individual With Value With a disability studies in education (DSE) lens, a person with a disability is not just a student in a special education classroom, in contrast, they become an individual with value. Once this idea of disability resonates with the special education teacher, consideration is then given to the students in the areas of the use of aides, language, and behavior plans to name a few. Aides : Aides In a special education classroom using DSE principles, the instructional assistants, or aides, would be used to facilitate learning and independence of skills. This will require the teacher to understand student needs ahead of time and purposefully place the aides in areas of need with clear instructions on how to assist students in reaching their full potential. For example, instead of placing an assistant one on one with a student that may not be as academically proficient as others in class, the teacher may have the student in a small group with a teacher and the assistant could be there as support. This will allow the student access to his or her peers, purpose within a group and part of a community. Language in the Classroom : Language in the Classroom As DSE principles become the foundation of thought in a classroom, one of the most effortless ways to change the environment is to change the language. Words like “very low,” “behavior problem,” can too often be heard in the special education field. As students become more valuable as individuals to the teacher and aides, the language used about them, and to them, develops into intentional encouragement where the student’s deficit areas do not become a way to describe them or a reason for frustration. Language in the Classroom : Language in the Classroom Not only are these words such as “low” or “behavior problem” used about and with the students in a classroom, but it is also used about and to parents. As a student becomes more valuable, so do the families and again, language is an effortless way to demonstrate a change in attitude. P arents may be told that their students are challenging or low functioning. Staff members may pathologize parents and families with the message being sent that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” However, in a classroom based on DSE principles , the special education staff could encourage the parents by reporting about a student’s accomplishments that day or express empathy for their feelings of frustration. Behavior Plans : Behavior Plans “A Behavior Intervention Plan is developed, if needed, based on the assessment to address identified behaviors in a positive way” (The Hughes Bill, 2003, para. 4). The operative statement being “in a positive way.” In a special education classroom, there are students who may injure others, themselves or property. Permission to restrain a student, such as a Hughes Bill, is only permitted when positive interventions are not successful at that moment in time and there is real danger to the student or someone else. In classrooms where students are not valued as individuals, destructive behavior may be interpreted as intentional. When classrooms use DSE principles, the teachers and support staff will integrate individual positive behavioral supports for the students throughout the day in order to suppress the negative behaviors before they start. In this manner, a student is then given consequences to unmanageable behaviors with dignity and respect if the positive behavioral supports are not successful. A Place Becomes an Arrangement of Opportunities to Learn : A Place Becomes an Arrangement of Opportunities to Learn Using a disability studies in education (DSE) lens, a special education classroom transforms from a place to an arrangement of opportunities to learn or a “valued space” as coined by Kliewer (as cited in Danforth & Gabel, 2006, p. 100). As teachers and staff treat their students as individuals with value, the classroom programming also cultivates an area of value where students are members of a group, inclusion is more than lunch and recess and data drives goals in order for students to gain access to the least restrictive environment (LRE). Membership : Membership Membership in a group is crucial to early relationships. It presents opportunities for connection and attachment with others that is hard to manufacture. To create group membership in a special education classroom using DSE principles, a teacher might create groups where the students have similar interests, allowing for free choice time within the day and utilizing small groups for learning in centers. Classroom membership is first established by the teacher and staff, such as placing a student who is “very low” or a “behavior problem” in a group instead of separating him or her from his or her classmates. LRE and Inclusion : LRE and Inclusion “Many special education teachers are socialized to view the special education intervention on the disabled student as the best option for disabled students” ( Mutua & Smith as cited in Danforth & Gabel, 2006, p. 124). As a path to membership increases in the special education classroom, so should it be in the general education classroom. Whether or not a student with an IEP needs or desires to be in a segregated classroom, inclusion with their general education peers is essential. As reported by Solis and Connor (as cited in Danforth & Gabel, 2006, p. 105), “Walsh (1994) found that some students with disabilities saw placement in general education as the defining moment in their lives in terms of career path, self-esteem, intellectual functioning, and social relationships.” A Thing Becomes an Activity of Influence : A Thing Becomes an Activity of Influence Age Appropriate Activities Nothing is more immediately stigmatizing in a special education classroom than inappropriate curricular activities and materials, such as sixth grade students playing with a shape sorter, or a first grade student using a teething ring. Materials should be age and developmentally appropriate. IEP The IEP is a student’s most indispensable means of becoming an individual with value. As teachers prepare a student’s IEP, do they use “pre-generated computerized check off lists from which to choose ‘appropriate’ goals” (Solis & Connor as cited in Danforth & Gabel, 2006, p. 110) or do they allow others to contribute, including the student and parents? Using a critical DSE lens when writing an IEP, leads to age appropriate activities, LRE and inclusion, and ultimately a valued individual because a person’s differences does not change his or her worth.