Special Education Needs

I will also write about the medical and social model, what they are and how they relate to SEN, I will then write about the SEN Code of Practice and special educational needs coordinators and touch upon the 1987 Warnock report. The definition of SEN according to the 1996 Education act is, a child has special educational needs if he/she has a learning difficulty which calls for special educational requirements to be made for them (Farrell, 2003).

A child is said to have a learning difficulty if they have a considerably greater struggle in learning than most children of the same age and they have a disability which prevents or stops from making full use of their educational facilities provided for children of the same age in schools within the area of the local educational authority (Farrell, 2003). I have chosen to discuss how the education support has changed for children suffering from the autistic spectrum disorder.

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The word ‘Autism’ first came about in 1911 by a Swiss Dr named Eugen Bleuler (Freedman, 2009) the term was based on the Greek word ‘autos’ meaning self; the actual disorder he was referring to was schizophrenia. Autism was later identified in 1943 by Dr Leo Kanner (Freedman, 2009) he believed mental and biological element played a key role in autism. Autistic spectrum disorders are usually present from birth or early stages of development (NRC, 2001). Autism is a disability that affects how someone communicates and interacts with others (Brill, 2008).

The disability arises due to problems in the nervous system; which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and a network of nerves that permits us to move, think, and sense the world (Brill, 2008); how an individual with autism learns and develops will depend on how the nervous system interacts with the environment around them (Brill, 2008). Autism affects vital human behaviours e. g. social interaction, the ability to communicate ideas and feelings, imagination, and the ability to form close bonds and feelings (NRC, 2001).

Children with autism look physically normal however they display a series of behaviours that are autism related (Brill, 2008); doctors usually identify autism by looking at a variety of signs that point to the condition and how it affects the way the person learns and develops; the signs can be mild or severe depending on the child as we are all different (Brill, 2008). Autistic disorders usually have long lasting effects on how children are as social beings, how they learn to look after their selves and participate in their community (NRC, 2001).

A range of autistic behaviours is called autism spectrum disorder; at one end of the spectrum is Asperger syndrome which is the mildest form of autism those with the disorder function more self-reliantly unlike those with more severe autism (Brill, 2008) children with Asperger tend to speak by the time they are age four but their voices usually lack emotion. Children with Asperger normally have some trouble interacting with their peers (Brill, 2008).

Asperger sufferers tend to test well but lack common sense; experts believe that Asperger is a different disability to autism (Brill, 2008). The most severe the type of autism the more it affects your learning and behaviour to the point that in some cases it can cause mental retardation which greatly slows the learning and progress of a young child (Brill, 2008). Many of those with autism have difficulties handling information through their senses; they usually hear, feel or see too much or too little arriving material which causes them to either under or over react (Brill, 2008).

Some common signs of children suffering from autism are they tend to withdraw and become silent or unresponsive, they throw tantrums to block out smells, sounds, touch and sights which they find disturbing (Brill, 2008) and they take longer to reach the common stages of childhood e. g. walking and talking; autism halts normal progression (Brill, 2008). The autistic spectrum sometimes occurs along with mental retardation and language disorders therefore educational planning must address both autistic needs and the needs associated with accompanying disabilities (Brill, 2008).

By the 1960’s autism was finally identified as a disorder of its own; in 1965, Dr O. Ivar Lovas and colleagues at a university developed a treatment for autism called applied behaviour of analysis (ABA) (Freedman, 2009); ABA is the use of techniques and principles to bring about a good change in behaviour (Freedman, 2009). ABA focuses on the principles that explains how learning takes place e. g. through positive reinforcement; if good behaviour is followed by a reward the behaviour is more likely to be repeated. This technique could be used not only in the classroom but at home by parents (Freedman, 2009).

ABA has become a very popular and widely known treatment for autism through the years especially through the last decade where it has been used to help autistic people lead normal and productive lives. Another popular treatment for autism was discovered in the 1990s by Drs Serna Wieder and Stanley Greenspan called floortime which was based on brain research that showed human development is built on interactions with others (Freedman, 2009) in contrast to ABA which aims to change behaviour, floortime concentrates on improving social skills, imagination and emotional abilities.

When discussing SEN we must touch upon the issue of labelling; there are both positive and negative aspects to labelling an autistic child. Some positives are it leads to the child getting the treatment and specialist help they need (Lauchlan, Boyle) , it raises awareness and the understanding of autism and it helps in supporting the families and children with autism by giving them more details about their condition (Lauchlan, Boyle) .

Some negatives to labelling are it can sometimes lead to bullying by peers and the use of bad language to describe those with autism, which can sometimes lead to devastating consequences and it can make children with autism feel inferior to typically developing children (Lauchlan, Boyle). Labelling can also lead to social disadvantage and exclusion from mainstream society and also some people with disabilities use their impairment as an excuse or scapegoat for things they find difficult.

The use of labels are useful to special educational needs children as if they were dropped it would mean that the specialist help they require would no longer be available to them as they would be given the same workload and support as typically developing children so labelling benefits more than hurts them. The SEN Code of Practice was made to give necessary advice and help to the LEA, schools, social services, and early education setting on how best to provide the help for children with disabilities (DfES, 2001).

The Education act 1993 placed a duty on the secretary of state to issue a Code of Practice and make compulsory changes to it every few years. The first Code of Practice was written in 1994; schools, health, social services and settings must abide by the SEN Code of Practice (DfES, 2001) and although the Code of Practice does not tell professionals how to react or deal with every individual situation it advises and guides them on how best to deal with the situation (DfES, 2001).

In 2001 the Code of Practice was revised; more rules were added e. g. more rights for children with SEN educated in mainstream schools, the LEA must offer parents more information help and advice on how best to give their child the best education and schools and early years settings must give each other more support (DfES, 2001). During the 1960’s people with autism were still very much viewed as ‘not normal’ this was not helped by the medical model (TOU, 2006). The medical model defines those with disabilities by their impairments.

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