What should teachers understand in order to address student diversity in their classrooms?
Page 5: Exceptionalities
The term exceptionalities in K–12 schooling refers to both disabilities and giftedness. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ’04 (IDEA ’04), the national law that guarantees an appropriate education to students with disabilities, recognizes fourteen disability categories. These are:
- Developmental delay
- Emotional disturbance
- Hearing impairment
- Intellectual disability
- Multiple disabilities
- Orthopedic impairment
- Other health impairment
- Specific learning disability
- Speech or language impairment
- Traumatic brain injury
- Visual impairment, including blindness
Special Education Jargon at a Glance
Students with disabilities have a right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least-restrictive environment (LRE). A student’s special education services and supports, which might include related services, accommodations, and modifications, are outlined in his or her individualized education program (IEP).
Almost every general education classroom includes students with exceptionalities. Students with disabilities (ages 6–17) make up 11% of the total school population. Of these students, three out of four spend all or part of their day in the general education classroom.
Why Exceptionalities Matter
Some of Ms. Christie’s students appeared bored and uninterested; however, some of her students have disabilities which might contribute to their disengagement. Without the appropriate instructional adjustments or supports, these students are unable to fully participate.
What Teachers Can Do
Teachers are not alone in making specific instructional decisions for students with disabilities. A multidisciplinary team develops an IEP for every student who receives special education services. These IEPs outline needed supports and services. The teacher can turn to members of this team, many of whom have specific expertise (e.g., special education, occupational therapy, assistive technology), to help her implement appropriate instructional techniques, interventions, and supports.
For additional information about these areas view the following IRIS Modules:
Ginger Blalock discusses some key considerations for students with disabilities.
Ginger Blalock, PhD
Special Education Department
University of New Mexico