Special education has become an integral part of the teaching profession. What was once an area of teaching reserved only for the Special Education teacher is now a presence in almost every classroom. Educational policy dictates that every school board in
must “ensure that educational
programs are designed to accommodate [special needs] and to facilitate the
child’s development” (PPM no. 11). Such
programs are to consider the students’ individual strengths and needs as well
as their individual instructional level.
Some teachers have the privilege of actually assisting in the
development of their student’s IEP, and even have a chance to sit in during
their IPRC meetings. I believe that in
doing this, these teachers not only have better understanding of the students
they are working with, but they also now have a vested interest in the process
since they assisted with its development. Ontario
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some schools have a Special Education or Resource teacher to take on this role, and there are many teachers that have not received any training and do not know what to do in these situations. The blame cannot be on the teacher. Yet, it is imperative that teachers become familiar with their student’s IEP and what it means for them. Many documents now explain this process and can assist teachers in developing these specific programs.
In mathematics, this is especially important. In many cases, students with exceptionalities will struggle with math. Therefore, there is a greater need to understand student needs, and also to provide accommodations that will truly help students succeed.
If you look at a standard Individual Education Plan, there are any number of accommodations you might find listed:
- strategic seating
- peer tutoring
- alternative/quiet setting
- chunking tests and assignment
- extra time for processing
- extra time for test and assignment completion
- organizational coaching
- access and use of assistive technology
There are many others as well. Each of these types of accommodations are valuable for our students with exceptionalities. However, when it comes to the one about assistive technology, this is where students can benefit the most. Students can be assigned laptops, iPads, scanners, printers, almost every piece of educational technology you can think of, to the point where they need their own corner of the room to house all of this equipment. When it comes to assistive technology, it can make a big difference how the students actually use it. Sometimes this technology can be an iPad with hundreds of dollars worth of specialized mathematics apps or it can be something as simple as a calculator. In some math classrooms, teachers want students to complete their work without calculators, in fear that they depend on them too much. The reality is that for some of our students with exceptionalities, they do indeed depend on them. They are a tool, and one that is needed. We have due dates, seating plans and structured lessons, as well as general expectations for our classrooms, but in order to accommodate our students, math teachers sometimes need to make exceptions to the rules.