« PreviousContinue »
1. A child whose problems will be accentuated by group stimulation, or whose behavior is detrimental to the group.
2. A child whose lack of mental, physical, or emotional maturation, or whose physical condition would not warrant placement in a public-school class.
3. A child who, after a reasonable trial in a class for severely handicapped pupils, has manifested that he cannot adjust to nor profit from the activities of the group of which he is a member.
4. A child who, upon adequate psychiatric diagnosis, has been found to be mentally ill (psychotic or pre-psychotic). Considerable caution may need to be exercised in applying this criterion. must be recognized that intellectual behavior may be adversely affected by emotional conflict. The exclusion of mentally ill children needs to be preceded by a careful evaluation by educational, psychological, and psychiatric personnel.
5. A child who cannot comply with the chronological age standards required for school entrance established by the State. (While early training programs may seem desirable for many mentally retarded children, some State laws make no
modification in legal ages for school acceptance of handicapped children.) Those trainable children who are not accepted for placement and the children who, after diagnosis, are considered to be ineligible for training services will continue to present problems for interpretation to parents. In some States legal provisions make mandatory the formal exclusion of pupils ineligible for public-school educational services. In all such instances the schools must accept a difficult yet necessary parent-counseling role.
RELATING SERVICES FOR THE SEVERELY RETARDED TO THE
SPECIAL EDUCATION AND GENERAL SCHOOL PROGRAMS Public-school classes for severely retarded children probably may be deveoped best as an extension of existing facilities for the education of educable retarded pupils rather than as a new and independent program. The possibility of certain pupils moving from one group to the other—both up and down--makes a dual but integrated program almost essential. Then, too, unless both types of special educational services are in existence, the class for trainable children may be required to accept educable pupils who present extreme problems of adjustment in the regular grades. Widening the range of ability within the group makes it difficult for a teacher to provide for individual needs.
There are other important reasons for the development of the program for the severely retarded as an extension of existing services. It is rarely advisable to venture precipitously into a program designed to deal with extreme deviates unless experience in dealing with less severe differences has been acquired. Much of the program for the severely retarded pupil will resemble the program for educable children. Activities that encourage the formation of good speech habits, social living, rhythms, and muscular coordinations will necessarily be borrowed from similar programs for younger educable retarded children. In larger school systems where special educa
Courtesy, Salem, Mass., Public Schools Even severely retarded children can enjoy well-planned seat work. tion consultants are already employed, their assistance in the development of the daily program for the severely retarded child should prove invaluable to the success of the services. Then, too, it is important that the school facilities for any type of handicapped child should be a part of the total educational facilities rather than an isolated unit of school services. In many school systems special education has gradually evolved as an integrated part of the total school program. It is equally important that a new venture in the education of handicapped pupils should become accepted as one aspect of special education services, which in turn are related to the total educational structure.
In establishing a class for severely retarded children, it is necessary to consider many details of organization and administration. The experiences of parent associations and school systems which have maintained classes may furnish invaluable leads to what constitutes a satisfactory program, but examples of ideally operated programs, either on a parent or public-school sponsored basis, are relatively few. In this relatively unexplored field, initial ventures will have to be planned on the basis of carefully calculated anticipated needs.
Type and organization of classes.-At present two types of classes are serving severely retarded children in the public schools. The first, illustrated by the New York City, Houston, Tex., Berwyn, III., and Cincinnati, Ohio, projects, enrolls only severely retarded children according to standards set up locally. The second type of program, an example of which is the Detroit pre-special class, enrolls children on a mental age basis and includes pupils whose degrees of retardation, as expressed in terms of mental examination results, are both above and below an IQ of 50. Both types of organization have been successful. However, as it has already been observed, the second type undoubtedly increases the problem of the teacher in developing suitable learning experiences, for some of the more capable pupils will eventually become ready for reading and number instruction. In Detroit's plan some centers have provided for differences in development by having the more capable pupils attend in the morning and the more immature and beginning pupils in the afternoon.
It is possible that the second procedure may offer advantages for an initial modification of existing facilities for mentally retarded children. Nevertheless, legislative action in at least four States (California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) seems to require an all-out program involving a complete division of pupils on the basis of trainability and educability.
Size of classes.—The number of children enrolled in presently maintained classes for severely retarded children varies from approximately 6 to 18. No statistical study has been made of present facilities, nor has there been experimentation that would lead to conclusions relative to optimum class sizes. Since standards for classes for educable retarded children seem to indicate that maximum enrollments of from 15 to 20 pupils are desirable, it might be conjectured that the per teacher load of more severely retarded children should be somewhat lighter. However, the severely retarded group should be large enough to provide for suitable social experiences and avoidance of the pupils' dependence upon the teacher. It is probable that the maximum number of pupils which should be assigned to a class is from 10 to 15, depending upon the range of chronological and mental ages of the pupils to be served and their social adaptability and contributory problems.
Housing.—Many of the parent-sponsored classes are now housed in temporary quarters rented from churches or other organizations, or in rooms acquired from community houses. Most of the rooms occupied were not originally planned for school activities, and adequacy of space and facilities is usually incidental to the fact that the program is ongoing and serving a need. Public-school classes may be found in both adequate and inadequate classrooms, in schools that have been abandoned for other purposes, or in rented quarters similar to those used by parent association classes. In cities in which programs for the severely retarded have existed for any length of time, the housing facilities seem to be comparable to those used for general school purposes.
Adequate housing for severely retarded children presents several obvious needs. The first of these concerns safety factors. Classes for the severely retarded will enroll not only extremely mentally and socially immature pupils, but also many who are characterized by slowness of gait and a few who are afflicted with orthopedic handicaps. In view of these factors classes should be housed in buildings of fireproof constructions and in rooms readily accessible to building exits, perhaps on the first floor. The necessity of traveling long or involved distances to the nearest exit or of negotiating stairways should be avoided.
The second important consideration should probably be access to toilet facilities, perhaps with the toilet adjoining the room. In any case, the classroom should be close to and on the same floor level as the general toilets for the school. A lavatory basin should be installed within the classroom. The formation of habits of cleanliness is of extreme importance in the training program for the severely retarded child.
The classroom will also need to be well ventilated according to modern standards. Many severely retarded children, especially those with Mongoloid characteristics, seem to be particularly susceptible to respiratory infections 21 and should be guarded against conditions that would be hazardous to their health.
While the size of the classes will be smaller in comparison with even the traditional classes for educable retarded pupils, the space required for an effective and adequate program is comparable to or even larger than that required for a normal classroom. Emphasis upon large muscle activities, such as games, play experiences, and social living experiences, and the desirability of setting aside certain areas within the room for craft work, finger painting, and the like, will demand spaciousness of accommodations. Restricted space can only result in a restricted program.
Where the class should be housed may also need to be considered. Existing programs have been successful in regular elementary schools in New York, Houston, and Detroit, although, as explained, the Detroit classes are not essentially or entirely for severely retarded children. Other public school-maintained groups are housed in quarters outside of the schools (Berwyn, Ill.) or in school buildings restricted to special use (Cincinnati, Ohio). Usually the most desirable and usable space is found in buildings built for public-school programs. On the other hand, there seems to be some tendency among educators to question the desirability of locating classes for severely retarded children in regular elementary schools, especially if the physical stigmata of the pupils would stamp them as being deviates. This question must be solved locally.
The attitude of the parents in the neighborhood school, the willingness of the school administration and staff-to guard against odious comparisons
11 Nelson, Waldo E., ed. Saunders Co., 1950.
Mitchell-Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 5th Ed. Philadelphia, W. B.
The classroom needs plenty of space for the development of coordinations
and situations that might cause tensions, and the availability of adequate space will necessarily enter into decisions relative to housing policies. The fact that existing programs have been successfully operated in rented quarters outside of school buildings might indicate that classes for severely retarded children need not wait full acceptance by local elementary school patrons or staffs or the availability of classrooms within the regular school buildings.
One suggestion has been made that classes for the severely retarded might be housed in community houses or recreation centers. This suggestion combines the maintenance of the training class by public-school personnel during the morning hours and the participation of the community center in a recreational program during the afternoon period. Such a plan has the added advantage of providing for a combined school and community agency attack upon the problem.
The Detroit Public Schools have located one day-care nursery center in a school attended by older educable retarded girls. These girls participate in the nursery school program under the guidance of the teacher in charge. It has also been suggested that some such plan might be considered in establishing classes for severely retarded children. Since there is so little experience to draw upon, any arrangements made must necessarily be exploratory. However, considerations such as readiness of the community, attitudes of teachers, availability of space, and the type of program that is desirable must all enter into decisions regarding housing of classes for severely retarded children.
Hours of instruction.—Many of the existing classes for severely retarded children operate on half-day schedules, although a number of cities provide