How has teachers' thinking changed regarding the understanding of students with disabilities?
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The original question had to be edited. I would suggest that the law and social consciousness have helped to transform teachers' thinking about special education. For so long, special education students were seen as "those students." They were kept apart from mainstream students. In jest referred to as "the boiler room students" to emphasize their distance, the thinking at the time was that special education students were "dumb" or "retarded."
Times have changed. Part of what has changed them is the demand for adaptation of curriculum to ensure that all students are included. At the same time, special education no longer refers to "those" students. So many students have modification plans and conditions diagnosed as part of their being that the umbrella of special education is covering more students than ever before. Due to this, teachers are required to ensure that they are as inclusive as possible to special education students. The demand is on teachers to show that they are accounting for all students' learning. No longer can teachers afford to discard any student. While the scrutiny of teachers can be excessive and feed into a larger narrative that seeks to discredit educators, it cannot be a bad thing to demand that all kids' cognitive, social, and academic needs are being met. It is here in which teachers' thinking has changed regarding the understanding of students with disabilities. Perhaps, this is because of legal ramifications and pressure to ensure that the needs of children are being met. Yet, the reality is that teachers no longer can afford to refer to special needs students as "those kids" or some other derogatory way of thinking. Reprimands, administrative action, and even dismissal is the net result of teacher thinking going backwards.
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