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Functional Curriculum Goals in Special Education


Students with mental disabilities should be given opportunity to access education from the general curriculum that is provided for normal students. This form of curriculum should maximize the students’ independence and self direction to ensure that they enjoy the learning experience. This is applicable at school, home, in the community or even in the working environment (Sharon, 1994). This paper will focus on the accessibility of mentally challenged students to the overall education curriculum. The paper establishes ways of fulfilling educational needs of these students in the regular education classroom.

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Curriculum Goals and Objectives for Children with Mental Retardation

The general curriculum is meant for normal students who may not require special attention during class work. There is a strong urge to involve mentally disabled students in the regular educational setting. This gives them a challenging experience that prompts them to perform even better than what is expected. In most cases, students usually work hard and record improved performances when there is a lot being expected from them. The same applies to students with disabilities. It has been noted: “when we have high expectations for students with disabilities, most can achieve to challenging standards and all can achieve more than society has historically expected” (Agran, 2001, p. 327).

The performance indicates that what students learn has always been used to test their understanding. The most used standard of testing is through tests. The score obtained determines whether students have understood a concept or not. In the case of mentally retarded students, the approach should be similar. However, the method of test administration should be different.

While the grade obtained determines the normal students’ level of understanding, the mentally retarded students should not be tested based on the grades alone. Other ways of determining the students’ progress may be achieved through recommendations from teachers and samples from the students’ class work. In this case, the determining factors cover all areas of the students’ learning experience. This includes even those factors outside the classroom (Agran, 2001).

Teachers are also trained to teach retarded students differently compared to the regular students. The performance outcomes for retarded students should work to motivate them. A challenging environment may not work for the retarded students whose learning experience also covers other activities like preparing for school and other community-based activities. This is because real life experiences are integrated with the curriculum applied in school.

Teachers should search for social competence of these students while working with others. This way, the performance will not be limited to classroom work, but also the development experienced in the students’ social growth. Teachers usually have lower expectations in regard to the mentally retarded students. This negatively impacts on their capacity to achieve improved performances. This should be changed, and teachers should expect retarded students to perform better. They should not be expected to perform below the established standard performance (Agran, 2001).


Mentally retarded students have the ability to perform well in the regular curriculum if they are offered the necessary support. They can study along with the regular students and perform equally well. However, the manner in which they are graded may not be similar. Their performance is not only determined by the classroom performance, but also by the social and life skills. Teachers should have higher expectations in regard to the mentally retarded students as this will motivate them to perform better.

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Agran, M. (2001). Achieving Access to the General Curriculum for Students with Mental Retardation: A Curriculum Decision-Making Model. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 36(4), 327-342.

Sharon, F. (1994). Meeting Functional Curriculum Needs in Middle School General Education Classrooms. Teaching Exceptional Children, 26(2), 40-43.

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