What does a teacher need to consider in the instructional planning for students with physical impairments and traumatic brain injury?
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Since the 1975 passage of the "Education for all Handicapped Children Act" and its successor "Individuals with Disabilities Education Act" in 1990, there have been legal requirements for all public schools to make whatever accommodations are necessary to ensure that the physically and mentally disabled receive a quality education in safe surroundings. Consequently, specially-trained instructors must be made available to such students. When discussing the special needs of disabled children, however, there is a substantial difference between the requirements for accommodating physically disabled and those needed for students with psychological issues. Teachers with physically disabled students mainly need to be aware of the special arrangements the classroom might require to accommodate a wheelchair, for example, or a specially-trained canine for vision-impaired students, most of whom will have already been to a special school for the blind. As long as the physical requirements necessary to ensure that a disabled student has equal access to school facilities and can maneuver safely around the classroom, then the educational process becomes similar to that for other students. The much larger challenge for teachers, then, involves students with mental disabilities, including brain trauma, as well as fairly common learning disorders. Learning disorders are usually traced to an abnormal brain function that makes it difficult for the individual to process information the same way normal brain patterns work. Once again, special accommodations are now routinely provided for such students, which involve specially-trained educators and social workers who provide the mentally impaired student, or one with a learning disability, the resources he or she needs to compensate for the disability, to the extent possible. With regard to brain trauma, this is entirely dependent upon the individual student and the extent of the trauma. In cases of severe brain trauma, then the child in question would almost certainly be placed in a special environment geared towards his or her condition. Such children require a level of care that goes beyond what can reasonably be offered in the public school system, and is commonly provided through one-on-one therapy and tutoring either at home or at an appropriate health care facility. Students with lesser degrees of brain trauma may be gradually integrated back into the regular curriculum over time depending upon the individual’s physical capacity to learn or relearn. Once again, students with brain trauma would be provided with therapists, social workers, or with instructors specially trained for these cases. Teachers know ahead of time whether a special needs student will be assigned to his or her classroom. In general, that student will not be placed in the classroom unless the specially-trained instructors, therapists and social workers attest to the child’s ability to resume or begin normal educational activities. The challenge of getting the child to that stage, then, rests with those provided the skills necessary to meet such a challenge.
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