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development. It is important, therefore, that parent participation should be supplemented with interpretive conferences-and the teacher will need to bring into the discussion the evaluative materials that have been accumulated on the pupil's growth and development.
But what about the child who is not making satisfactory progress? The teacher of the severely mentally retarded child is in a situation unlike that of teachers of normal children in interpreting to parents lack of progress and its implications. The child of normal intelligence who fails to make progress in mathematics is still an individual who can make a satisfactory life adjustment by capitalizing on other abilities, but a severely retarded child who indicates lack of training potential may necessarily be directed toward institutional placement.
One of the complaints voiced by many parents of retarded children is that they have found it difficult to obtain honest interpretations from "experts in the field of mental deficiency. The teacher, first of all then, must be both frank and kind in her evaluation and interpretation. She must have the assistance of specialists and professional people who can aid in the total evaluation of the child. These may be school psychologists, visiting teachers or school social workers, physicians, or members of the professional staffs of community clinics. Whether the teacher, if she is sufficiently oriented, a physician, or a psychologist is given the responsibility for making the interpretation of insufficient progress to the parents is immaterial. The interpretation must be made, but it must be made in absolute honesty and frankness, with due regard and respect for the intelligence and feelings of the parents. Furthermore, an interpretation of insufficient potential for trainability should always have a positive aspect. The parents should understand what they can do about the problem, what resources there are for continued care of the child, and where they can turn for further assistance.
In some programs already existing for severely mentally retarded children, parents play a prominent role. At the Margaret Allis Community Center project in Milwaukee, Wis., one room is set aside for mothers of the pupils who meet for daily conferences with professional consultants and to make articles for furnishing the classroom. Daily attendance of parents is scarcely to be expected, however, in many school programs. Some parentoperated groups have employed mothers of pupils as classroom assistants, but the desirability of this plan may be questioned, for it is doubtful if a parent can observe the necessary objectivity in dealing with his own and similarly handicapped children in a classroom situation.
Most public-school programs for the severely mentally retarded stress the need and provide for parent participation and guidance. In some instances parents have been invited to participate in professional meetings. At a recent meeting of the Massachusetts Special Class Teachers Association a delegation of mothers took an active part in the proceedings and activities of the professional workers. Many programs for trainable children provide for monthly meetings of parents, with more frequent individual conferences. In these meetings and conferences the teachers and other school personnel act as leaders and consultants. In describing the Houston, Tex., classes, the director of special education stresses the need for active parent participation. Through frequent conferences with the teacher and class visitation, the functions of the class are constantly being interpreted to the parent, so that he is led to see why training to secure personal and social adjustment is more important than learning by rote a few words from a book. The parents of pre-special class pupils in Detroit participate in a "parents' guidance program.” Parents are assisted in making plans that are directed toward the welfare of their mentally retarded children as well as to the well-being of the entire family. They are also given opportunities to meet and exchange ideas with the fathers and mothers of other children in the same room with their child. It has been found that when parents recognize that other children have similar problems they learn to accept their own child's limitations as less unusual and peculiar. During both the group and individual conferences the teacher may share her knowledge of the pupils' activities and experiences so that parents may enjoy similar participation with their children in the home.
It is important then for teachers and school administrators to recognize that parents of severely retarded children need guidance and counseling. It is equally important for the teacher to be aware that parent education may usually be most satisfactory if she and parent can share their mutual experiences with retarded children. It seems obvious that the teacher cannot and must not approach her responsibilities to the parent as an expert who is in the position of pronouncing what is best for mentally retarded boys and girls, but rather she should follow the advice of Laycock and Stevenson who suggested that the teacher should search together with parents for the right answers. Through her friendly attitude, a display of frankness and honesty, her ability to interpret to parents the capabilities or lack of capabilities of their own children, and her willingness to accept their participation and planning, the teacher may become a valuable counselor to the parents of her mentally retarded pupils.
Many Problems Will
Need To Be Considered
THE DIAGNOSIS AND ASSIGNMENT OF PUPILS
One of the basic requirements for the operation of a good special education program is the availability and effective use of adequate diagnostic services. Unless such services are provided, the maintenance of acceptable standards for special class membership is impossible. Too frequently well-conceived special education services have broken down and been discarded because the special classes have become the recipients of children who were personally undesirable to their teachers rather than pupils with specific needs and for whom the special services were designed. Wake, 18 in discussing the education of slow-learning children describes several criteria for the maintenance of acceptable special classes. He points out that: . . . special classes are for children of low mentality, and therefore children with other difficulties should not be enrolled in them,” and "... the selection of children . . . should be made by the school personnel with the help and guidance of qualified psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychometrists." He also cautions that "there seems to be little chance that the extremely mentally retarded pupil would have any greater opportunity for learning in a special class than in a regular classroom unless the selection of these pupils is restricted to this one basis. Through the neglect of this principle special classes have been formed in some schools that have been composed of children with all types of difficulties. In such a situation the morale deteriorates, and it is virtually impossible to maintain a good learning situation for the pupils.” If these observations are tenable in relation to classes for educable retarded children, they will be much more important when applied to classes for more severely retarded pupils.
The evaluation of the severely retarded child's potentials will differ only slightly from the similar procedure for determining assignments to classes for educable retarded pupils. The difference may be chiefly in the increased necessity for accuracy in collecting information and in the types of tests employed in the psychometric examination. The types of data which should be considered include:
1% Wake, Orville W.
The Education of Slow-Learning Children. Training School Bulletin, May 1948.
1. Psychometric measurements and evaluations.-In determining either eligibility for placement in groups for the severely retarded or differentiating between the trainable and educable child, extreme care must be exercised to obtain a true evalu. ation of the pupil's potential. The standard test of mental maturity should be supplemented by measurements of non-verbal performance and social competence. The psychologist must have considerable experience in the examination of immature subjects.
2. Physiological findings.-A report of a recent examination by a physician indicating organic deficiencies, if any, and a history of physical disabilities and other pertinent factors are essential. In some instances the observations of specialists relative to auditory or visual acuity, brain damage, or psychiatric factors may be extremely important.
3. Developmental history.-In this aspect of collecting the necessary information, the parent must play an important role. 19 Information must include: the ages at which developmental deficiencies were first observed, the progress of the child in the acquisition of certain skills and habits, and the development of social behavior.
4. Family factors.- Parents and social workers who are cognizant of the family situation will be most helpful in determining whether or not home care and publicschool placement will be beneficial to the progress of the child--and practical from the standpoint of family relationships. In many instances this type of information will represent the most important criterion for the determination of placement. Whether the parents are educable in terms of competent care for the severely retarded child and whether the presence of the child will constitute hazards to family living can be determined only when adequate information is obtained relative to the personalities of the parents and the relationships within the home.
5. Observation of social behavior.-The observations of the examining psychologist are important in the evaluation of social development. However, many candidates for placement may have been enrolled in nursery school groups, public-school kindergartens, or primary grades, church school, or recreational activities. As public-school services are developed, many children also may come from parentoperated classes. It will be important to obtain the observations of leaders and teachers of these programs who have had opportunities to observe the social behavior of the child nder consideration.
It will become necessary for a school official to assume the responsibility for collecting and organizing the required information, arranging for evaluating conferences, and submitting recommendations for placement or exclusion to the superintendent or board of education. In smaller communities this may necessarily be the teacher of the special class who has part-time administrative duties; in larger school districts it will probably be the director of special education or psychological services.
While assignments to the proper type of class for retarded pupils are obviously essential to the maintenance of a good special education program, the necessity of being professionally ethical regarding the diagnosis and placement of pupils who are at the extreme lower range of trainability is equally important. Educators and psychologists have no more right to
19 A discussion of the parents' role in the psychological interview may be found in the American Journal of Mental Deficiency, July 1951, “Parental Reactions to Psychologic Measurement," by Marion M. Font.
mislead parents with false hopes for their children's eventual life adjustment than has the physician to temporize regarding hazardous health conditions. Parents have a right to know to what extent their children are trainable, to be told in a kind manner why John cannot be accepted in a trainable group, or why Mary is to be enrolled for a limited period for observation of her growth and development. They also have the right to consult with a responsible and competent person relative to the desirability of enrolling their trainable children in day school programs, for not all trainable children should go to a day school and remain in their own homes. Problems of physical stigmata that cannot be resolved in the local community, of social inadequacy, and of total family adjustment must be weighed against the benefits of the training program before it is decided that even the trainable child should be enrolled as a day school pupil.
It seems obvious that decisions affecting the lives of children and their families must necessarily be made by qualified personnel as well as on the basis of adequate information. Wake's comments 20 imply a team approach to decisions relating to special class assignments. The actual acceptance or rejection of special class candidates must be a function of the school administrator, although in some States the board of education alone has the authority to exclude pupils. Nevertheless, the recommendation for assignment to a special class of any type or of dismissal due to ineligibility for special class placement should be made on the basis of data supplied by a number of persons who have had opportunities to observe the performance and behavior of the pupil.
The composition of the evaluating team will vary according to the problems presented by the individual child and the resources of the community. If the child has been placed in school prior to his referral for special class placement, his teacher must play an important role in the evaluating conference. The examining psychologist, the school and family physicians, and social workers who have knowledge of the child and his family, including the visiting teacher or school social worker-all of these professional workers may be contributing members of the evaluating team. But it is important that each member of the evaluating group should possess professional competencies and be oriented to the educational facilities in existence or which may be developed. Since it is extremely hazardous to attempt any special education program without adequate professional specialists, it is essential to provide competent diagnostic personnel for a program of special services for the more severely retarded pupils.
The members of the conference on severely mentally retarded children which met at the Office of Education in June 1951 recognized several criteria for the non-acceptance of pupils in classes for severely retarded children. They agreed that the following children should not be accepted:
26 Wake. Op. cit.