Special Education: The Role of General Education Teachers


Special education can be defined as the kind of education offered to students with special needs in a manner that addresses their individual needs and differences. It involves individually planned and systematically monitored arrangements of teaching procedures, customized equipment &materials, and specially designed settings. These are provided along with other special interventions designed to assist the students to achieve a high level of self-sufficiency and the highest possible success in the school environment and the community.

The most prevalent special needs in society are learning disability, communication, emotional & behavioral disorders, and physical & development challenges. These can be mitigated through customized educational services, specialized approaches to teaching, and the use of related technology. This special education is widely used to refer to the instruction of students whose special kind of needs impair their ability to learn independently in a regular class setting. Society and employers have become more inclusive and welcoming to the people with disabilities since the enactment of The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) in July 1990 (Resources to improve instruction, assessment, and accountability for students with disabilities, not dated: Para. 1). The purpose of this research paper is to examine the role of general education teachers in the special education process and also to specify and provide a discussion on the thirteen disability categories listed under the IDEA.

The role of general education teachers in the special education process

One of the key roles of the general education teachers is to follow the student’s individualized education plan (IEP). The role of IEP is to protect the student as specified by the school law. They scrutinize the files of every student in their classes to ensure that all requirements of the IEP are being adhered to especially issues to do with accommodation of students with special needs (What do General Education Teachers Need To Know About Special Education, not dated: Para. 2). Among the issues, they focus on in the student’s individualized education plan is the categorization of the student’s disability, its effect on him, and how it affects the student’s learning and character.

The general teacher is also required to identify the student’s case manager who will be in charge of ensuring the IEP is followed. Depending on the assessment of the student’s IEP, the general teacher also chooses the appropriate accommodation for the student. He also investigates the types of services being offered to a special student. In addition, the general teacher is also required to find out whether there were any recommendations made on the previous reports that could help him assist the students better.

The teacher’s primary role is to utilize their skills to instruct students in the school’s curricula as prescribed by the school system as Ripley (1998, Para. 8) observes. They also integrate content specialization in their teaching activity and bring in training and experience in teaching techniques and learning processes so as to facilitate the assistance of the needy students.

The general teacher’s other role is to identify disabilities in students. He needs to be up to date and also to be familiar with the basic signs of common disabilities. This will help them to know when to refer the students to the school psychologist or the child study committee. The teachers are expected to have a basic understanding of the special education processes especially special education testing where they are involved throughout. Their main part in the process is mainly to provide information about the learner to the IEP committee. Among other things, he is expected to furnish the IEP committee with accurate and reliable data on the student’s behavior and progress in order to meet her annual goals and objectives (The General Educator’s Role, not dated: Para. 8). He also aids the IEP team in monitoring the student’s education progress, standards, and the general assessment. The reason is that teachers are usually better positioned to examine the student’s general performance, grades, and behavior due to their close proximity to the learners.

California Categories of Disability listed in IDEA Law

One is said to have a disability if he/she suffers from a chronic physical or mental disorder that hampers his performance of either one or more major activities associated with his age group (National Health Interview Survey in Center on Human Policy). These duties could be child pay, working and keeping house for adults, and self-care. The prevalence of disability depends on social, economic, environmental, and technological factors. For example, in a more technologically advanced society with a high rate of literacy, a higher number of people are likely to be identified as having intellectual and learning disorders than in a lesser advanced society. This is because literacy is an important requirement in the participation of people in that society. As stipulated in the Categories of Disability under IDEA Law, (not dated, Para. 1-15), the California thirteen Categories of disabilities listed under the IDEA include the following:

Autism: It is a form of developmental disability that affects verbal and non-verbal communication and social interaction and impacts heavily on the educational performance of the child (Categories of Disability under IDEA Law). Among other related characteristics are uncoordinated movements, tendency to resist change in environment, and abnormal reaction to stimuli.

Deaf-Blindness: This disorder is characterized by simultaneous hearing and visual impairment. The result is a severe communication breakdown and other developmental and educational needs that can not be contained in either deafness or blindness special education programs.

Deafness: It is a severe hearing disorder that hampers the reception of spoken information even when the sound is amplified. This disorder affects the child’s educational performance adversely hence calling for special attention in a special education program.

Development delay: The term means any significant delay in one or more of the following stages in one’s life: physical development, cognitive development, communication, social or emotional development, or behavioral development. Under IDEA, this is defined for the period between birth to three years under IDEA part C and children from three to nine years under IDEA part B.

Emotional disturbance: This condition is manifested in the inability of the child to learn which can not be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors, and lack of ability to build a sustainable relationship with her peers and teachers. The child also displays inappropriate behavioral traits that are not expected of her under normal circumstances. These factors hinder the educational ability of the child.

Hearing impairment: This is hearing weakness (either in permanent or fluctuating form) that significantly affects the child’s (educational) performance but that which is not classified as deafness.

Mental retardation: It is the general malfunction of the intellectual state of a child which occurs concurrently with marked shortcomings in the adaptive behavior a trait that is manifested in the development stage of a child. The disorder also equally adversely affects the educational performance of a child.

Multiple disabilities: This manifests itself in form of simultaneous impairments which might come in a combination of mental retardation/blindness, mental retardation/ orthopedic impairment, and many others. The combination causes severe educational needs such that the student can not be accommodated in any one special education program on itself. The term is however not inclusive of deaf-blindness.

Orthopedic impairment: This refers to orthopedic damage of such a greater magnitude that it unfavorably affects the child’s performance (educational). It includes hereditary disorders caused by diseases such as polio, tuberculosis, and other physical challenges as a result of a loss of limbs, cerebral disorders, and bone injuries.

Other Health impairments: These include limitations in one’s strength, vitality, or alertness including oversensitivity to environmental stimuli. This impairs attention in an educational environment. This is a result of chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, leukemia, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome. All these conditions adversely affect the child’s educational performance.

Definite learning disabilities: It is an impairment of the body systems that control interpretation and use of the linguistic expression that expresses itself in form of inadequate ability to process and produce sound, reading and writing, and also arithmetic manipulation.

Speech or language disorder: A communicational malfunction manifested in form of stuttering, limited mental expression, language communication, and vocal disorder that adversely hampers the learning ability of those affected.

Traumatic brain injury: It denotes a physically acquired brain injury caused by forceful impact on the head leading either into a mental or psychological disability. Due to the severity of the condition, the educational performance of the child is adversely compromised.

Works Cited

Categories of Disability under IDEA Law. 2009. Web.

National Health Interview Survey in Center on Human Policy: What is a Disability? 2009. Web.

Resources to improve instruction, assessment, and accountability for students with disabilities: Week 7 Readings.doc

Ripley, Suzanne. Cable bill too high: Collaboration between General and Special Education Teachers. 2009. Web.

The IEP Cycle: The General Educator’s Role. 2009. Web.

What do General Education Teachers Need To Know about Special Education? 2009. Web.