True or False:
1. Special education students are general education students first.
2. All students are special education students.
The answer, both are true.
Teachers who use Bookshare tell us again and again that students in special education can make progress in the general curriculum when it is presented to them in a format they can access. If the format of the material is appropriate to their learning needs, they can consume it. As consumers of the general curriculum, aren’t they general education students – just learning from a different format? In fact, all students learn differently. Some make copious notes, others read material once and retain it; some outline and others map their ideas; some sit attentively while others rest their chins on their desks. If every student has a unique learning style, then they are all special.
Picture these diverse learners in one classroom with some students are reading from a print book and others are reading exactly the same book but on a computer or a mobile device. The students reading on a computer could be special education students placed in the least restrictive environment (LRE), and the district that created this environment is adhering to one of the requirements of IDEA: that students with disabilities be placed in the least restrictive environment which often may be with their peers in the general education classroom.
One huge step districts can take along the path to LREs is to implement Bookshare. Bookshare makes the vision above, of students reading the same book on the same page, a reality for students with print disabilities (visual impairments, physical disabilities, and severe learning disabilities, like dyslexia). Students with disabilities who can’t read print often can read and learn from a book on a computer with the computer reading the word out loud and highlighting it simultaneously. With over 90,000 books including textbooks, many of the books students need are already in Bookshare. If you can’t find the book you need, you can request it.
The books are completely free, thanks to an award from the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education. There are no other costs or fees. Go back to the classroom you envisioned. There were no aides in it. The students were reading independently saving the district money on the costs of supporting special education students. Districts – please consider this classroom and let us know how we can help you get there.
Here’s a really good article on LREs: http://www.nichcy.org/EducateChildren/placement/Pages/placement-LRE.aspx