3.10. Targeted support - special educational needs and learning difficulties
Research and EU policy highlight inclusion as imperative for quality and equity in education. Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities declares that inclusive education offers the best opportunities for learners with disabilities. To support disability rights, countries need to shift from medical models, which define disabilities as impairments, to social models, which emphasise the importance of providing opportunities for inclusion.
The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education defines inclusive education as a systemic approach to providing high-quality education in mainstream schools to meet the academic and social learning needs of all the learners from the school’s local community effectively. Inclusion therefore should focus on building the capacity of mainstream schools to support diverse learner needs rather than distributing additional resources to selected (and labelled) groups in separate settings.
Effective support for learners with disabilities and learning difficulties relies on a whole school approach, including: a clear focus on learning for all; recognition of different kinds of achievement (not only academic success); effective and distributed school leadership; collaboration of schools with the local community; and, participation of learners and their families in decisions about their own learning.
Successful teaching approaches for learners with disabilities and learning difficulties include:
- additional teaching time and teaching support - small group/individual coaching and team teaching or co-operative teaching (pairing a mainstream subject teacher with a teacher who has expertise in special needs education): extending the school day or school terms, and interactive groups to enhance in-class support for learners.
- making use of flexible and heterogeneous learner groupings, flexibility in the amount of time spent in the regular classroom; flexibility in organisation of the classroom environment: and, promoting the increase and diversification of meaningful interactions among different types of learners;
- structured teachingis also used to enhance the use of time and ensure that all learners understand what is expected of them (particularly effective when used with learners with autistic spectrum disorder);
- additional support, for example, coaching ineffective study skills, or creating opportunities for more active learning (e.g. collaborative problem solving). In particular co-operative learning and peer support, have been found to benefit all learners. The use of ICT in the classroom has also been used to increase learner engagement:
- prevention of all types of violence and/or discrimination toward students with disabilities, with a community-based model for conflict prevention in the school Prevention facilities, diagnostic services and psychological advice should be accessible for all learners at the same educational centre, when possible.
Find out more:
Ainscow, M., Special Needs in the Classroom: A Teacher Education Guide, UNESCO Publishing, Paris, 2004.
European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, Organisation of Provision to Support Inclusive Education: Literature Review, European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, Brussels, 2013
European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education and its projects
Flecha, R., Successful Educational Action for Inclusion and Social Cohesion in Europe, Springer, Dordrecht-Heidelberg-London New York , 2015.
Molina, S. and Rios, O., ‘Including students with disabilities in Learning Communities’, Psychology, Society, & Education, Vol. 2, No. 1) 2010, pp. 1-11.