What curriculum areas are most needed for students with severe disabilities?

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The benefit of curriculum development is that all kinds of curricula must consider three important approaches: 

  • developmental 
  • functional
  • ecological

The developmental area is not the most beneficial for SPED students, particularly for those with severe to profound disabilities. This is because it is a skills-based sequence. A child that needs extra help to progress at a minimum level in comparison, could never be able to catch up with a developmental curriculum particularly within an all-inclusion environment. It would not serve the TASH purpose or the IDEA mission. 

The functional curriculum is better for profound-to-severe SPED students because it sets goals and interventions that would enable the SPED student to learn to motivate themselves to acquire the skills that would meet their own academic and social expectations. This means that there will not be a need to place the student in a position where he/she could be expected to perform at level or slightly below level compared to GenEd. The main goal with this type of curriculum is to help the students perform (function) independently. 

The ecological approach correlates the consistently-changing needs of each student to the environment in which the student performs best. This is a monitoring-based program designed based on student interests, abilities, performance levels, and capability to work independently within a variety of learning centers. This model is the current educational trend and one which is intended to operate under the all-inclusion model. The ecological approach is expected to be the next trend du jour in the field. 

Having established that realistically, the Functional curriculum serves SPED students best, the areas introduced within this curriculum are:

  • Math -counting, skip counting, adding/subtracting categorizing, time-elapsed, money, calendar skills, etc.
  • Writing- writing notes, emails, letters, lists, checklists
  • Social Skills- good manners, basic interaction, teamwork, assistive communication.
  • Consumer Skills- cooking, cleaning, personal safety, food safety, dressing, daily problem solving. 

The most important area to develop the self-motivation needed for a SPED student to perform at the best level starts with the consumer skills. Without proper communication, personal safety, and daily problem solving skills, learning will become clouded with fear and stress. A high affective filter leads nowhere. Additionally, the most important factor in SPED is the safety and security of the student. With the activity and application areas of the functional curriculum the student becomes empowered and self-assured.