Special Education Teachers’ Readiness to Teach Students With Severe Disabilities


Inclusive education is one of the topical issues in modern society, as it is focused on the provision of access to quality education for all learners considering their diverse needs. The term is used to define the approach when students with and without disabilities attend the same classes and learn together to achieve appropriate results and integrate with the society (Ali & Jelas, 2006; Browder & Cooper-Duffy, 2003; Kurth, Lyon, & Shogren, 2015). The rise of the given perspective on educating people is preconditioned by the fact that in accordance with the latest research, individuals with special needs or health problems might significantly benefit from attending classes with their peers who do not have disabilities (Leko, Brownell, Sindelar, & Murphy, 2012). For this reason, it becomes essential to introduce this model in educational establishments globally.

Main Idea

Inclusive education rests on the idea that every child is a unique representative of society who should be valued regardless of his/her existing problems. For this reason, this category of learners deserves to be provided with the same opportunities for their development and self-realization (Ruppar, Roberts, & Olson, 2015; Benitez, Morningstar, & Frey, 2009). This approach preconditions the increased significance of the paradigm for students with severe disabilities. They acquire the change to socialize and avoid being discriminated or limited because of their unique needs (Rogers & Johnson, 2018; Ruppar, Neeper, & Dalsen, 2016). Moreover, research shows that the results of this approach are more positive if to compare with other ones (Alquraini & Gut, 2012; Ayres, Meyer, Erevelles, & Park-Lee, 1994; Ballard & Dymond, 2017; Boyd, Seo, Ryndak, & Fisher, 2005). It means that the utilization of the given method provides new chances for this group to become successful in the future.

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Definition

Speaking about the topic, it is necessary to define persons with severe disabilities to acquire an improved understanding of the given group and what needs might emerge while working with them. In accordance with the modern perspective, to this category belong individuals of all ages who have mental retardation, schizophrenia, autism, or cerebral palsy and who need specific and extensive support in various life activities to participate in the social intercourse (Ruppar et al., 2016; Alquraini & Gut, 2012; Benitez et al., 2009). In the most complex cases, learners of this group are limited in their abilities to communicate and engage in relations which are two basic elements of successful development (Zagona, Kurth, & Macfarland, 2017). For this reason, it is critical to create an environment that promotes their evolution and provides with the chance to master these skills

Teacher’s Skills and Knowledge

Regarding the existence of the special needs of the category of students mentioned above, teachers who work with them should possess specific skills and knowledge to succeed and achieve the appropriate results. Multiple research works devoted to the issue emphasize the fact that educators should have a commitment to educational innovation and increased flexibility to be able to adapt to diverse requirements and alter existing styles to work with learners individually (Whitten & Westling, 1985; Zagona et al., 2017; Smith, 2007). At the same time, they should be ready to work collaboratively with other professionals engaged in the educational process to align the continuity of teaching, assess all existing needs, and provide the most appropriate help to students (Theeb, Muhaidat, & Al-Zboon, 2013). Special education teachers should also bear responsibility for their pupils which means that they should possess the increased understanding of the nature of severe disabilities, ways to mitigate the negative impact, and how to act in complex cases (Ruppar, Roberts, & Olson, 2015; Da Fonte & Barton-Arwood, 2017; Mock & Kauffman, 2002; Eichinger & Downing, 2000). Finally, there is the fundamental need for the establishment of new culture and identity for all inclusive learners to work together, share same goals, and benefit from this collaboration (Badri, Alnuaimi, Mohaidat, Yang, & Rashedi, 2016).

Professional Needs

At the same time, this category of teachers has specific professional needs that should be required to ensure the further improvement of their ability to work with students and improve their states. First of all, they demand additional and continuous training for the acquisition of data about how to assess the needs of learners with severe disabilities to create the appropriate learning environment (Rakap, Cig, & Parlak-Rakap, 2017; Reese, Richards-Tutor, Hansuvadha, Pavri, & Xu, 2018). They might also demand special classrooms that are adapted to the existing problems and minimize risks traditionally associated with this sphere of education (Florian, 2012). Inclusive education classroom presupposes the cooperation between all students regardless of their mental or health status (Downing, 2005; Florian, 2012; Gable, Tonelson, Sheth, Wilson, & Park, 2012). For this reason, the teacher might need support from other specialists to succeed and accomplish this very task (Hamilton-Jones & Vail, 2014; Johnson & Semmelroth, 2014; Jones & Brownell, 2014).

Teachers’ Preparedness

Because of these difficulties and specific demands, special education teachers are still in short supply, and there is the growing need for the preparation of new educators belonging to this category. Unfortunately, many specialists have little training in areas of inclusive or special education which means that they have to master their skills during the teaching process (Brownell, Sindlear, Kiely, & Danielson, 2010; Brownell, Ross, Colon, & McCallum, 2005; Ruppar et al., 2016; Nagro & deBettencourt, 2017). However, there are attempts to improve the given situation by introducing special courses providing their graduates with the ability to work with students with severe disabilities (Ruppar, Roberts, & Olson, 2018; Ryndak, Clark, Conroy, & Hothaus, 2001).

These classes are designed for traditional teachers who want to engage in this sort of activity and possess the needed knowledge (Alquraini & Rao, 2017; Ballard & Dymond, 2017; Fox & Williams, 1992). The emphasis is made on the explanation of extra needs this category might have, provision of new methods to work with inclusive classrooms and create the appropriate environment (Boe & Shin, 2007; Bouck, 2005; Calculator, 2009; Whitten & Westling, 1985). This sort of certification results in the improved outcomes and increased effectiveness of the discussed approach (Rainforth, 2000). That is why it is essential to investigate the selected topic to outline the existing gaps in education and preparation and suggest solutions for the emerging problems to meet the diverse needs of special learners and guarantee their development and evolution.

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Purposes and Research Question

Considering all these facts, the given paper introduces the three major purposes of the whole project that should be met to acquire the improved understanding of the topic and contribute to the creation of an appropriate solution to existing problems. First, existing professional needs of educators regarding teaching students with severe disabilities in inclusive classrooms should be determined to understand how the situation can be improved. The second purpose is to determine whether the teachers’ preparedness level is enough to work with learners who have severe disabilities or there is a need for additional certification and training to achieve better results. Finally, the third aim of the project is to assess the level of skills, knowledge, and experience among special education teachers and to conclude whether it can suffice the existing demands to this field or there is the need for their improvement. These three aspects are critical for the discussion of the given topic and should be considered while analyzing the relevant information devoted to it.

The research question is:

What is the current level of special education teachers’, who teach students with severe disabilities, preparedness, their skills, and knowledge, and can they meet the existing demands for inclusive education?

Significance

The choice of the given topic for the project can be justified by its increased significance for the modern education sphere. The fact is that inclusive education becomes one of the major concerns of the contemporary society as it meets demands for tolerance, humanistic approach, and values (Petersen, 2016; Smith, 2007; Ruppar, Roberts, & Olson, 2017). For this reason, it becomes important to analyze the current state of the discussed problem to determine the existing gaps and flaws in special teachers’ education (Florian, Young, & Rouse, 2010; Walker, Loman, Hara, Park, & Strickland-Cohen, 2018). The relevance is also evidenced by the existence of multiple research works devoted to the issue. However, the given one differs by its focus not only on needs of learners with severe disabilities, but there is also the in-depth assessment of the current teachers’ preparedness level as they are the central actors of the whole process and are responsible for outcomes.

That is why the paper aims at the investigation of the outlined domains and tries to create the framework for the future analysis of educators’ ability to drive change, create inclusive classes, and contribute to the achievement of better results. Information collected in the course of the research can create the background for new projects devoted to the same issue as the significance of the paper provides multiple opportunities for debates to formulate the best possible solution to existing problems and improve the state of inclusive education globally.

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