As stated by McGovern (2015), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires the US public schools to support the learning process the students with diverse disabilities who “need such supports…to benefit educationally” (p. 117). The development of an appropriate learning context for disabled children is required by the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) mandate, but it may be challenging for educators and students, as well as children with learning disabilities (LD) themselves, to cope with potential problems that may occur while mixing the special and general education practices.
Educating Peter provides evidence that teaching an LD child in the general class settings entails difficulties. In the beginning, Peter, the student with the Down’s syndrome, was very distracting and even aggressive, his behavior was “inconsistent” and unpredictable and, as a result, the students were “taken back” in the learning process (Educating Peter, n.d.). However, the placement of the student with special needs in such environment was appropriate, and it had a favorable impact on his peers.
Peter’s inclusion required the alignment of education strategy according to his needs, and the intervention of Peter’s behavior was primarily led by the students. The students thus learned to be more attentive and tolerant. Through active participation in Peter’s learning process and close communication with him, they learned to resolve conflicts and cultivate the sensitivity towards other people needs. It is possible to say that the students obtained a real-life experience of interaction with a person who differs from them and it certainly led to a formation of greater awareness about the problems of social differences, inequality, and inclusion.
At the same time, as the learning process was intervened and became more organized, Peter began to demonstrate significant progress in education. It was mentioned that the child expressed positive emotions after coming back home from school, and that could possible impact the overall Peter’s condition in a positive way. Based on this, it is possible to conclude that initiation of LRE program, in this case, was beneficial.
It is possible to assume that the adaptation of a child with LD to the learning process in self-contained educational settings may be complicated because he/she needs to listen, understand, and respond to a large number of people. Although class collaboration and group activities are the important components of children’s socialization, the provision of individual assistance for a student with learning disability may have a favorable impact on his/her academic achievement. Such individualized assistance may be both peer-mediated or teacher-mediated. However, a peer-mediated support, supervised by a specialist, is much preferable because it allows the students to build friendship and feel more accepted by the peers.
As mentioned by Hart (2009) peer tutoring can help to maintain students’ interest during the performance of lesson activities, increase their engagement in the learning process and foster social interaction of all students. Based on this, the individual student’s support of a child with LD can be regarded as an efficient method of peer-mediated learning that to achieve greater progress in the instruction of students with underdeveloped skills in multiple subjects. Moreover, peer-mediated tutoring helps to develop a flexible class environment in which all students may feel included (Hart, 2009). Therefore, such evidence-based strategy can provide substantial support for teachers in work with different types of students and in finding an individual approach to their education.
The idea of positive reinforcement and the initiation of a reward system suggested by the colleague can be considered an efficient method of the LD students motivation. Since the reward system must be based on the praise for a good and appropriate behavior, educators need to design and select the criteria of such behavior according to the students’ personal qualities and behavioral characteristics. The issue of the motivation system’s relevance to a student’s age discussed by the peer is important as well. It is important to choose such rewards which would be of greater interest for a student. Otherwise, the intent aimed at the motivation of the learning progress and improvement of behavior will not be realized, and the reward system will not be efficient.
An effective motivation system can become an essential component of a student’s academic success, and can be regarded as an important LRE practice. A student receiving small rewards for the accomplishments in the class or the demonstration of good behavior will develop a better understanding of what social and academic norms are valued and perceived as positive, and, in this way, it will become possible to adjust or at least bring closer the student’s behavior to the accepted standards. The rewards, such as stickers, drawings, cards, or hand-made crowns, will become associated with positive teachers’ and peers’ expectations, and there is a great chance that it will inevitably lead a student towards greater academic achievements.
Educating Peter. (n.d.)
Hart, J. (2009). Strategies for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students With Special Needs. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 53(3), 197-208. doi: 10.3200/PSFL.53.3.197-208
McGovern, M. (2015). Least restrictive environment: Fulfilling the promises of idea. Widener Law Review,21(1), 117-137.