Education of Individuals with Exceptionalities

July 29, 2011

“Think about the kind of world we want to work and live in. What do we need to know to build that world?  Let’s teach each other.”

(Adapted from Peter Kropolkin, Peace Calendar, War Resistors League, 1977)

Course Description:

Critical analysis of human beings considered exceptional (outside the norm) in learning and behavior. Topics include inter- and intra-individual differences comprising exceptionalities, issues surrounding identification and classification of individuals as exceptional, society’s responses to exceptional individuals, and societal challenges to develop the human potential of all persons.


Exceptional Lives: Special Education in Today’s School’s by Ann & Rutherford Turnbull, Ed. 6

“Three of the longest studies analyzing effects of ability grouping concludes the following: Children of higher socioeconomic status tend to be placed in higher tracks than ability merits. Once placed there they tend to stay there.” (Gollub & Sloan)


This course will be conducted according to a libratory feminist pedagogy. My hope is that class members will engage in true praxis. You will learn the pedagogical model as you practice this and practice it as you learn it. There will be a variety of formats used to share information including guest speakers, films, discussion, music, etc. You are encouraged to bring in materials which you find relevant to the course and which might help inform members of the class.

“In hell people starve because their hands are chained to six-feet-long chopsticks, too long to bring rice to their mouths.  Heaven is the same — only there, people feed each other.” Women in Vietnam by Arlene Eisen

Course Objectives:

Students will

  1. Gain an understanding of the characteristics and etiologies of various exceptionalities and the educational, social, cultural, emotional implications for the learner. This would include characteristics and etiologies of mental retardation, learning disabilities, developmental handicapped, severe behavior handicapped, early childhood special education and gifted/talented.
  2. Critically examine issues and trends in the definition and the identification of culturally diverse learners with exceptionalities, including principles of normalization, LER, and inclusive practices.
  3. Critically examine developmentally appropriate instructional approaches and service delivery options for children and youth with exceptionalities.
  4. Examine the due process procedures that pertain directly to the identification, labeling and placement of students with exceptionalities, including gifted, into educational settings.
  5. Critically examine issues, trends, barriers, and challenges pertaining to the development and learning potential of students with a range of exceptionalities.
  6. Explore the role of collaborative professional teams in working with children having varying degrees of exceptionalities.
  7. Demonstrate an understanding of exceptional children in relation to family and community and societal demands, linguistic and cultural variations and an understanding of how these impact the development of the exceptional child.
  8. Gain understanding of the developmental stages of the exceptional young child and the value of developing a thorough understanding of developmentally appropriate practices and their importance in developing individualized education plans for young children.
  9. Learn value of technology in assessment, evaluation, record keeping, and instructional programming.
  10. Gain an understanding of the ethical considerations surrounding the labeling diagnosis and treatment of learners with exceptionalities.
  11. Be familiar with legislation and litigation surrounding public policy as related to learners with exceptionalities.
  12. Explore issues and trends in the field; journals, articles and books, and resources accessible through computer technology.
  13. Critically examine the value of developing a philosophical perspective on teaching all learners. These would include self evaluative skills, locating sources for new information, developing new training, information and techniques, understanding alternative environments, and exploring how these efforts aid in the growth of intervention specialists and prepare them to meet the needs of all children.
  14. Gain knowledge of the historical foundations and classic studies, including the major contributors that under gird the growth and improvement of knowledge and practices for individuals with exceptionalities.
  15. Articulate the teacher’s ethical responsibility to nonidentified individuals who function similarly to individuals who exceptionalities.
  16. Know the terminology of the field (i.e., IEP, IFSP, WEP, SECTION 504).
  17. Understand the social construction of (dis)ability.
  18. Be able to write an appropriate IEP and know who should be a part of the team.
  19. Identify the steps of Conflict Resolution and how they may be used in education settings (i.e., in classroom lessons; collaboration with families, administrators or other educators).

Dealing with put-downs of homosexuals:

The terms “faggot”, “sissy”, “dykes” are commonly used as put downs and thereby reinforce strict sex-defined behavior and norms. What boy will dare be gentle if he risks the label “faggot”. Furthermore they perpetuate negative images of homosexuality.

Student Objectives:

  1. Describe the development of special education.
  2. List and define each category of exceptionality including educational procedures, overlapping similarities and singular characteristic differences.
  3. Define special education and illustrate a continuum of educational services for exceptional persons.
  4. Discuss a major issue or problem in each category of exceptionality and suggest some solutions.
  5. State a critical issue of the entire field of special education, suggest a solution and defend the solution.
  6. Develop a philosophy of special education.


Objectives you would like to add:





In a study of 24 fifth- and sixth grade classrooms, H. & P. Friedman found that significantly more reinforcements were given by teachers to middle-class than to lower-class students.

Course Requirements:

1. Sign up and follow Mary Ulrich’s blog for the semester: – 10 points


2. Participate in the class Bb discussion of readings (5 times x2pt)  – 10 points

Bb entries should demonstrate that you have read the course material by the kinds of questions you ask, or concern elicited in your questions concerning the implications of the material. It is a place you can articulate your construction of and responses to the material. It may represent very personal responses of growth and self-consciousness. As you author your own biography, you authenticate a way of being in the world. Writing may help to clarify your construction or de/re-construction of reality. The Bb discussion is an opportunity for reflection, conversation and voice.

Class Participation. Although traditional classrooms have stifled many students’ voices, the ability to verbally articulate your own construction of the course materials, and your reactions to it, is an important part of your learning. I will work  to create a climate in our class that will reinforce your ability to articulate your understanding of and reactions to the course materials. Conflict may be inevitable and I will seek to facilitate exploration of conflict in a way that empowers rather than punishes class participants.

My expectation is that you will participate in the discussion that will occur during each class period. You should be able to show each time that you have read the assigned material, thought about its implications, and can articulate well your construction and response to the material. I expect that your ability to author your construction and to articulate that construction will improve over the semester. A greater quantity of participation will not necessarily improve your evaluation. Speaking in class is difficult for some of you, and I will offer ways of facilitating your speaking more easily. Active participation will also include involvement in in-class activities. The class listserv is a place to use your voice if it is difficult for you to speak publicly.

Each person will respond to a handout on personal ethnicity. (What do I call myself? See Bb documents.) Objectives for this assignment include

a. understanding one’s own identity

b. consider labels applied to oneself and attitudes about labels

c. recognize and appreciate diversity, as it exists in the community of this classroom

d. develop understanding of differences based on gender, age, ethnicity, disability,

We will discuss the power of naming ourselves and naming others. Bring your name (what you wish to be known as throughout the semester) in a design that tells us something about you. Bring this to class every day to display. Naming and labels have political implications and are especially important in Special Education.  We will share two individuals response at the beginning of each class.


3. Grade justification (typed, due at the last semester class). – 10 points

In order to better understand the social and political consequences of grades you will be required to present your self-evaluation at the end of the semester. As an active learner you will submit in writing a self-evaluation of your assignments and contributions to the class. This should include an evaluation of how much joy you brought to this learning community. (See guide on Bb)


4. Index card “quick writes” (15 weeks x 2pts. =30 pts.) Rubric—0=not turned in; 1= minimal

Questions (i.e., yes/no)

You will turn in a “quick write” on a small index card at the end of each class.  Place the index card on the front desk as you leave class.  On one side of the card respond to: Something I learned is…’ on the reverse respond to… ‘A question I still have is…’ . These will, in general, be reviewed on thoughtfulness, clarity, and understanding of the material and ability to articulate a clear response/question to the material.  This is our attendance record.  Be sure to date the card and put your name on it.


5.  Description of your own educational philosophy, incorporating the “Professional Standards” and “Code of Ethics for Special Education” (Due  January 25, 2011) – 10 points


6. Legal case reporting (case will assigned in class). – 20 points

Give background of case, legal outcome and implications for the field of education. See Bb for rubric.

Note the difference between position and interest in the conflict. Due various dates.


7.. Bring a favorite song/music (or a You Tube) that ‘speaks’ to you. Discuss what it says about you/your taste    and why you like it.  How does it make you feel?  What are cultural differences you  learn from each other’s music? How could you use this in a classroom? (1-2 typed pages)      Due various dates – 10 points


8. Tests  (5 – on 1/25; 3/1; 3/29; 4/19; exam week) – 400 points


9. Service-Learning: Working with Project Search (Boyd Hall) or Adopt A School (See Bb for details & dates.) – 100 points


Service-Learning Project Guide:

The class has served in three different settings, so the questions are somewhat generic.  Please be specific in your descriptions of your setting. This work follows the process of What, So What and Now What.


20 points

Locate and post on Bb one professional article related to the project you are doing. Please peruse the articles posted and see what ones might inform your own work more fully.  (Hand a copy of the reference only to KMK)


20 points

What…what you will do for the work

So What…why this is important; what will be accomplished by the work


Answer the following questions and keep them in your S-L folder/binder.

  1. What do you hope to gain from this experience?  Think about skills, knowledge, attitude, etc.
  2. How do you think this experience might help you later in life? In your future career as a teacher?
  3. What do you anticipate will be difficult about this experience?
  4. How would you describe your current attitude toward individuals with disabilities?
  5. What would you LIKE to know/learn about Special Education in schools?


40 points

The Importance of Reflection

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” –Socrates

Although Socrates probably had more pressing implications in mind when he made this statement, similar sentiment can be applied to Service-Learning.  Without thoughtful examination of experiences, we miss an opportunity to integrate our learning, both academically and personally.

Description of what you did, how you did it and the consequences of doing it.

This is the 3-part weekly journal:  it can be typed (preferably) or hand written. Divide each page of your journal into thirds, writing weekly entries during the semester.

  1. In the top section, describe some aspect of the service experience.
  2. In the middle of the page, analyze/describe how course content relates to the service experience.
  3. Comment on how the experience informs you as a future professional or taxpayer.
  4. Now What- What should happen as the next step in this work of social justice & equity?
  5. From what you observed and learned in the community setting, what ideas do you have to improve the inclusion of children with special needs into the full curriculum?


20 points

EDP 256 E-Reflection Guide

  1. After having completed your Service-Learning experience, how would you define Service-Learning and what do you think is valuable about it?  Can you think of any ways in which Service-Learning was not valuable to you?
  2. Did the experience of Service-Learning match your expectations?  Why or why not?
  3. What did you gain from this experience?  Think about skills, knowledge, attitude, etc.
  4. How do you think these experiences will help you in later life? In your future career?  Be specific.
  5. How did this experience impact your current attitude toward teaching and toward individuals with disabilities?
  6. In your opinion, what is important about this work in relation to Special Education & teaching?
  7. Please describe your overall feelings toward your experience.  You may address what was rewarding, disappointing, surprising, or exciting.  What do you wish you had done differently? What are you most proud of?

In summary… what did you learn in doing this work?

How will you use this knowledge in your future role(s) as a teacher, taxpayer or, perhaps,  parent?


“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”  John Muir

Students in this class have a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Some of you may already have an extensive background in education and/or pedagogy. For others, the information may be completely new. Knowledge carries responsibility so you are expected to inform others in the areas you are knowledgeable.

From the rich backgrounds you bring to this class, the possibilities for exploration are endless. Create your own learning experience and opportunity. I will act as a resource and networker for you. Learning is not a spectator sport. You are expected to take responsibility for learning and take part in shaping the direction of this class.

“To transform the world, we must begin with ourselves; and what is important with beginning is the intention. The intention must be to understand ourselves and not to leave it to others to transform themselves…  This is our responsibility, yours and mine; because, however small may be the world we live in, if we can bring about a radically different point of view in our daily existence, then perhaps we shall affect the world at large.”  J. Krishnamurti, “Self Knowledge” in The First and Last Freedom

A prejudice is an unfavorable opinion about a person or group of people not based on knowledge.

A sterotype is a generalization about a group of people not based on fact.

Isms are prejudice and sterotypes enforced by people with more power than others, by institutions, and by cultural attitudes and values.

Prejudice + Power = Isms


Welcome to this community of learning. I look forward to our time together and the knowledge we will share

“What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.”

-T.S. Eliot: Democratizing Access to Calculus: New Routes to Old Roots


Mission/Conceptual Framework of Miami University’s Educator Preparation Unit

Mission and Conceptual Framework of Miami University (as a unit) that prepares school personnel: The EAP community of collaborative practitioners, while committed to fulfilling Miami University’s mission, endeavors to prepare caring, competent, and transformative educators by infusing skills, knowledge, and dispositions that promote the highest caliber teacher education and allied professionals programs, professional development opportunities for educators and other professionals, and graduate degree programs. As a unit, we adopted 14 principles …which… set the foundation for our five institutional standards (IS) which are at the heart of our conceptual framework and our philosophical beliefs that our caring, competent transformative educators should be learner-focused (IS-I.), collaborative (IS-II.), discipline-grounded and integrative (IS-III.), socially responsive and responsible (IS-IV.),and reflective and inquiry-oriented (IS-V.).

“Individual difference in learning is an observable phenomenon which can be predicted, explained and altered in a great variety of ways. In contrast, individual difference in learners is a more esoteric notion. It frequently obscures our efforts to deal directly with educational problems in that it searches for explanations in the person of the learner rather than in the interaction between individuals and educational and social environments in which they have been placed.”  B. Bloom


Some websites of interest:


University Statement Asserting Respect for Human Diversity

Miami University is a multicultural community of diverse racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds, national origins, religious and political beliefs, physical abilities, ages, genders, and sexual orientations. Our educational activities and everyday interactions are enriched by our acceptance of one another, and, as members of the University community, we strive to learn from each other in an atmosphere of positive engagement and mutual respect.

Because of the necessity to maintain this atmosphere, bigotry will not go unchallenged within this community. We will strive to educate each other on the existence and effects of racism, sexism, ageism homophobia, religious intolerance, and other forms of invidious prejudice. When such prejudice results in physical or psychological abuse, harassment, intimidation or violence against persons or property, we will not tolerate such behavior nor will we accept hest, ignorance, or substance abuse as an excuse, reason, or rationale for it.

All who work, live, study, and teach in the Miami community should be committed to these principles which are an integral part of Miami’s focus goals, and mission.

(Note: This statement was adapted from the statement written and published by the University of Southern California, Student Affairs Division. Miami University is grateful to the University of Southern California for allowing us to use their statement as a model.)

School: Miami University (Ohio)
Professor: Dr. McMahon-Klosterman
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