Ethics in Special Education Classroom
Dr. Carolyn RyanEthical Society Without Walls
Nerual is a special education teacher in the public school arena who works in a self-contained classroom for students with developmental disabilities including autism and pervasive developmental disability. Her students must manage speech and language delays, cognitive deficits, communication impairments, and repetitive or nonfunctional behaviors. These issues are manifested by poor eye contact, odd vocalizations or movements, lack of friendships, aggressive or self-injurious behaviors, and dependence upon adults to assist with daily living and most other skills.
A very beneficial aspect of teaching the students in a public setting are the opportunities for mainstreaming, working with typical peers, and other ways of practicing socialization skills. There are endless teaching opportunities in areas such as safety, community life, health, hygiene, and functional skills. In addition to addressing each student's academic, behavioral, and social goals within a public setting, adaptive classes are arranged for students to individualize programming in physical education, music, and science. The school arranges for speech services in small groups to teach communication and language skills together. In order to address sensory and fine-motor needs, occupational therapy is also provided in a small group format.
Some of the more challenging aspects of Nerual's work revolve around issues of handling staff training, scheduling, coordination, consistency, privacy, and confidentiality. As may be a common issue in dealing with staff management, training becomes an ongoing task in order to be sure that staff are following through on behavior plans and teaching procedures for students with developmental disabilities.
Balancing schedules for a self-contained classroom could become a full-time job in itself. Scheduling required on a daily basis includes: related services for each student, staff breaks, testing requirements, goals and objectives, special area instruction, and rescheduling due to any conflicts or absences. Preparing for the unexpected is a key skill that must be mastered as a self-contained special education teacher.
After behavior management and educational plans are designed for students, the actual presentation of the plans in the same consistent manner across staff is critical. One serious issue Nerual must deal with is how her students are viewed and received by the rest of the school. Outside of the classroom, her staff had been reported sharing negative comments about her students. She quickly confronted the issue and continues to be mindful of her staff's behavior.
Nerual has found that it is of paramount importance to observe all ethical guidelines when working in the public setting with students with developmental disabilities. For a sensitive group of individuals and their families, it is crucial to practice a strong adherence to privacy and confidentiality. It takes a strong community of dedicated individuals to educate a student with developmental disabilities.
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