Needs Of All Children Must Be Met

Needs Of All Children Must Be Met

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

In order for the "No Child Left Behind" program to work, families, schools and government must adequately address the needs of all children. It is particularly critical in the case of children with special needs.

Educators, counselors or anyone in the business of helping a child focuses on the strengths of a child. They avoid any labels that focus a child on his or her deficiencies. Furthermore, some functions that are labeled by the society as disability or deficits because they are different from those performed by a majority of children.

Take for example, "attention deficit disorder." It has two highly pejorative terms: a "deficit" and a "disorder." But, the fact is that under different circumstances such as hiking, camping, hunting, sports or stargazing, the same child who is supposed to have a deficit and a disorder, can demonstrate superior attention and task performance. It would be more appropriate and accurate to describe such a child possessing a "different attention pattern."

Likewise, a child who has a "learning disability" in academic subjects may have a superior leaning ability in other fields such auto-mechanics, sports, engineering, graphics, etc. Therefore, it is more appropriate and accurate to describe such a child as possessing a "different learning pattern."

It is the system that we all must work with is the one that is truly handicapped. Health Insurances are basically disease insurances; they will pay when you have a disease. They don't pay anything if you are healthy. Likewise, governmental or non-governmental assistance is available if someone is handicapped or disabled.

Imagine asking your insurance or a governmental aid agency for help because you are "different!" Of course, nobody gets anything for possessing a different attention or learning pattern.

Granted that the label of disability is problematic, but that's the "qualification' a child must possess in order to qualify for special assistance at public schools or other educational institutions.

The laws of the state and federal governments require that an "individual with a disability" between the age of 3 to 22 must be accommodated for his or her special needs.

Much confusion exists among parents regarding the criteria of disability covered under these laws. School systems refer to these laws as "Section 504" of the Rehabilitation Act. This article attempts to explain who qualifies as a disabled child and who doesn't.

The disability laws define a disabled individual as someone who has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more of his or her major life activity.

The definition of disability is rather complex. People, including I who try to understand it are likely to feel disabled themselves. So, let's break it down.

Here are three key concepts in the definition of the term "disability" under Section 504: 1) what is a "mental and physical impairment?" 2) What is meant by "substantially limits?" 3) What are "major life activities?"

It might make it easier to discuss the last question first, "What are MAJOR LIFE ACTIVITIES?" Examples of major life activities include such activities as walking, talking, interacting with others, breathing, working with your hands, self-care, sitting, thinking, learning, concentrating, etc.

If you have a child who cannot perform a major life activity as adequately or competently as can other children of his or her age, you must now address the second question: Does your child's impairment SUBSTANTIALLY LIMITS his or her performance of one or more major life activities. Try to observe if your child is significantly restricted in performance of an activity when compared to an average person his or her age.

Now we can define the term, IMPAIRMENT. The mental or physical difficulty should be severe enough to cause substantial limitation of one or more major life activities.

Examples of mental or physical impairment include, but are not limited to, learning disability, poor vision, poor hearing, diabetes, heart disease, attention deficit, epilepsy or behavioral disorders; but they should be so severe as to substantially limit performance of one or more major life activity.

If you feel that your child is significantly restricted in performing such functions walking, talking, interacting with others, breathing, working with hands, self-care, sitting, thinking, learning, or concentrating, you should seek help from the school or your local social security office for an assessment. Professionals use medical and psychological tests to determine the severity of such impairment.

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Copyright 2003, Mind Publications 
Posted September 2003


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