Special Needs Students and Response to Intervention


A special needs student is a student who cannot perform well using the usual instructions provided in class. Most of these students can perform better if other instructions can be used in guiding them. These students have existed for a long period of time in the United States of America and several measures have been taken to help them achieve. As a matter of fact, the process of learning is quite complex and the way that different individuals understand the things that are taught in class depend on the individuals. The fact that a student performs poorly in class does not necessarily imply that the student is dull. The instructions that are used in guiding the students in teaching are very important and these determine the way that the students perform. Some students cannot grab some ideas that the teachers teach in class using the general classroom instructions that are used. These are students that require special attention both from the parents and the educators. The Response to Intervention method has been applied by many to help students with learning disabilities and the method have had great impacts on the lives of these students. The first step in the Response to Intervention method is the identification of the student with learning disabilities meaning that the student has some special needs and needs some help. The response to intervention method forms a baseline for helping these students and the teachers in the United States are expected to apply the method in their teaching. The method outlines the entire process from predicting those students who are at risk to the determination of the specific learning disabilities in specific students. If the students with special needs are identified in their early ages, they will have higher chances of success than those students whose needs are identified very late. Every student has the right to education and the teachers need to teach each and every student regardless of the needs of the student. This paper will seek to analyze the impact and progress of diagnosing and treating the special needs students specifically with response to intervention.

Baseline for Response to Intervention

As earlier stated, response to intervention is a method that is used to identify those students who do not respond very well to generally effective instructions. The policy that was developed by the IDEA was aimed at helping educators identify those students who require the special needs at a young age so that a way that can be used to help the can be improvised. Four steps can be used to address the problem and help the students improve their performance (Fuchs and Fuchs 58). The process begins very early when the young student joins school. These students would generally fail if their problems are not identified and therefore, identification of the special need is very important. The four steps are as outlined below.

Step One: Screening

When the students join a new class, the first month is used to screen the students so that those who are at risk of failing can be identified. In this step the screening can be done by checking the performance of the student in the assessments done the previous year. Those students who score below the twenty fifth percentile especially in mathematics or reading are identified. The students in the same grade can also be given an achievement test which is administered by the educators. All students whose scores fall below the twenty fifth percentile are the students who are believed to be at risk. This method of screening is referred to as acceptable practice method. The method of best practice can also be applied where all the students are given an assessment test that tests the capability of the students in reading and mathematics. Those students whose average score for previous assessments or a recent test fall below the twenty fifth percentile are given the assessment to confirm their performance (Fuchs and Fuchs 58). In all the above case, those students whose scores fall below the twenty fifth percentile are believed to be at risk of failure and some necessary steps should be taken to help them.

Step Two: Implementing Classroom Instruction

In this stage, the students receive the instructions required in general education. The instructions are only given to those students whose scores were below the twenty fifth percentile. The design principles that should be used are implemented by the school districts. In this stage, the teachers are also provided with evidence-based instructions that help them develop the skills needed to handle the students with the special needs (Fuchs and Fuchs 58). A special curriculum is developed for these students where the teachers are required to implement them on these special needs students and document the seriousness they have used in applying the curricula and instruction.

Monitoring Responsiveness to Classroom Instruction

Here, the students’ response to the general education is monitored. The process takes about eight weeks and those students who respond inadequately to the general education are identified. In the acceptable practice, the at-risk students are given an achievement test at the end of the eight weeks. The achievement tests are again in either reading or mathematics. In the best practice, the at-risk students are tested very week for the eight weeks and the students who are seen to make an improvement are noted. In the acceptable practice, tier one response is identified with all the students whose scores are above the sixteenth percentile. In the best practice, tier one response is measured using the national or local estimates for the weekly improvement. Research based methods are used in this case (Cortiella prg.2).

Step three: Implementing a Supplementary Diagnostic Instructional Trial

Those students who do not respond well to tier one are required to undergo a supplementary diagnostic instructional trial. The educator asks for permission from the parent for the student to undergo the trial. The educator might request the parent to come to the school so that they can discuss the student with the parent and make the request or send a letter to the parent explaining to the parent the reason for writing the letter and making the request. If the parents agree to the request, the educator takes the student through the trail. This is very useful in examining the problem closer. In the accepted practice, the educator together with other specialists sits together and designs a supplementary diagnostic instructional trial that suits the needs of the specific student. The designed instruction is applied by a different individual in the school. In the best practice, the student is placed in a group of similar students and these students are taught by a specialist three times per week (Hale prg.14). The qualified professional attends to the students thirty minutes per session while applying the tutoring protocol that is scientifically validated.

Monitoring Responsiveness to the Trial

This stage involves monitoring those students who have undertaken the eight-week supplementary, diagnostic trail. These are students who didn’t perform adequately in tier one test and the ones who perform inadequately in tier two are also identified. The parent is again informed of the performance of the child especially if the child performs inadequately. In the acceptable practice, the at-risk students who perform below the sixteenth percentile are considered to have failed and therefore some thing more needs to be done. The achievement test used to gauge them is taken at the end of the eight weeks (Fuchs and Fuchs 58). In the best practice, the students take a test every week and an average of all these tests is used in determining the ones that have performed inadequately in the period.

Step Four

All the students who do not perform adequately in the tier two supplementary, diagnostic instructional trials are now taken individually and the problem of each student is observed separately. The eligibility of the student is determined, evaluated, and the methods that will be applied on the student specified. The specifications provided by IDEA are used in this process. Before the educators proceed with this process, they must seek the consent of the parent. This stage involves professionals and specialized educators who design an assessment to test if the student could be retarded mentally. Other disabilities such as visual disabilities and emotional disturbances are also ruled out. By this point, the students who require special needs are identified and the teachers can now take the necessary steps to help the student (Klotz prg.8).

The Roles of Different Individuals in the Students Life

The process of assessment is aimed at helping the educator give the correct instructions to a student who needs some special attention. However, process involves different individuals who play different roles in the life of the student (Mellard Prg.4). The general education instructors and educators play the major role in ensuring that the students with the special needs are identified early. It is not only their duty but they are also obliged to do so. The first responsibility is determining the students with the specials needs. The members of the staff should therefore be very observant on the part of the students so that those students who portray negative performances can be identified and the process of assessing them begins. The classroom staff should be very keen in setting standard assessments for the students to determine if the students have some special needs. The use of some tests that were developed by some other people might not be very effective. The classroom teacher can only apply the low tiers in identifying the students with learning disabilities. Other individuals such as the psychologist and the specialized teachers are needed in higher tiers. In setting the assessment to test if the student is mentally retarded, the psychologist is very important. The members of the staff cannot tell if the student really requires some special attention if the whole process is not implemented. Low performance in tier one does not necessarily mean that the student require some special needs. The members of staff in the schools should therefore ensure that the student goes through all the steps before declaring him or her ‘a special needs student’ (Pierangelo and Giuliani prg.9). On the other side, the parent to the student plays a role in the life of the student. The consent of the parent is one of the requirements in the application of the steps in determining the students with special needs. The response to intervention requires that the teacher asks for the consent of the parent before taking the student through a stage especially from the supplementary diagnostic instructional trial upwards. The parent can also try to help the student in understanding the instructions required for the student to do his or her homework. This will help in determining whether the student fears the teacher or really has a problem in understanding the general class instructions.

The Students Identified With the Special Needs

When a student is proved to require some special needs, it does not mean that the student is incapable but it’s only that the students require some special attention in order to perform. The teachers need not be frustrated but should make efforts to help the student achieve (Jimerson, Burns and VanDerHeyden prg.5). The work is not that easy but it is the right of the student to learn regardless of having some learning disabilities. For the part of the student, he or she should always try to learn and get what is expected of him or her even if he or she has been declared disabled. There are those students who struggle and go through the learning system until they complete the tertiary level. The society may at times be tempted to think that the students with learning disabilities cannot perform well and therefore deny them opportunities in the society. These individuals can come up with useful ideas that can be very useful to the society. The society should assume the ideas by these disabled students since their ideas can be very useful. The response to intervention provides the student with learning disabilities with the best opportunity to help them succeed instead of pushing them to proceed to the next classes when they know nothing in the current class. Pushing them would only complicate their school life and make their performance very complex (Haager, Klingner and Vaughn prg.6).


The performance of a student in class depends on the instructions that are provided by the educators. Some students perform poorly because they do not understand the general class instructions that are provided by the educators. Such students need a closer look to determine if they could be the special needs students. The method used to determine if a student is a special needs student is the response to intervention method where the students goes through a series of assessments and his or her performance is used in gauging the student. Four steps are involved where the students are first screened using the previous performances and all those who perform below the twenty fifth percentile are taken through some other processes until the final level is reached where the student is checked for mental retardation. More students continue being dropped in the process until those who have learning disabilities are left alone in the group. Different individuals are involved in the process and these individuals play different roles in the lives of the students with learning disabilities. The response to intervention helps the students with learning disabilities perform better by receiving better instructions. As a result, the impact of diagnosing and treating special needs students using the response to intervention is very positive and helps the special needs in a great way.

Work Cited

Cortiella, Candace. “Response-To-Intervention: An Emerging Method for LD Identification.” GreatSchools. 2007. Web.

Fuchs, Douglas and Fuchs, Lynn, S. “Responsiveness-To-Intervention: A Blueprint for Practitioners, Policymakers, and Parents.” TEACHING Exceptional Children 38.1 (2001): 57-61.

Haager, Diane, Klingner, Janette, K., and Vaughn, Sharon. Evidence Based Reading Practices for Response to Intervention. Baltimore: P.H. Brookes Pub. Co, 2007. Print.

Hale, James, B. “Response to Intervention: Guidelines for Parents and Practitioners.” Special Education Advocate Newsletter.2008.

Jimerson, Shane, R., Burns, Matthew K., and VanDerHeyden, Amanda, M. Handbook of Response to Intervention: The Science and Practice of Assessment and Intervention. New York: 2007. Print.

Klotz, Mary Beth and Canter, Andrea. “Response to Intervention (RTI): A Primer Parents.” National Association of School Psychologists. 2006. Web.

Mellard, Daryl. “Understanding Responsiveness to Intervention in Learning Disabilities Determination.” National Research Center on Learning Disabilities. 2004.

Pierangelo, Roger and Giuliani, George, A. Frequently Asked Questions about Responses to Intervention: A Step-by-Step Guide for Educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2008. Print.