The department of special needs at NCDC handles issues of learners with different barriers to learning. The department is responsible for the adaptation of curriculum materials to meet the needs of the above learners in schools.These are learners with barriers to learning as a consequence of under-stimulation; socio-emotional problems or abuse; a traumatic experience; impairments or other conditions that make it difficult for them to learn/develop certain skills.
WHY SPECIAL NEEDS EDUCATION?
Inclusion of special needs education information in the curriculum is crucial because there are many learners in school with various barriers to learning and are not helped due to ignorance. So the information provided in curriculum materials will provide insight to all stakeholders on how the diverse needs of individual learners can be addressed.
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE
In four years of special needs desk existence at NCDC, the following achievements have been registered; Inclusion of special needs education information/ guidance on how to handle learners with special educational needs in pre-primary and primary schools has been provided in the curriculum materials. Adaptation of curriculum for P1- 4 has been done in collaboration with USAID – UNITY and MOE&S. Supplementary guidelines to the adapted curriculum above have been printed and distributed to units and schools with SEN learners. Orientation of teachers in special needs issues has been a key factor during the orientations that has been carried out country wide. Some draft readers for P1 – 3 in sign language, low vision and for those with intellectual challenges have been done, but awaiting funds for printing. Draft guidelines for primary school teachers on how to address different needs of individual learners has been done. The secondary reform is also taking care of inclusiveness of all learners in the new curriculum to come. Baseline survey has been done at secondary level to identify the number of learners with special educational needs in secondary schools.
The target group includes; All learners in schools with or without a disability because at any level every individual is capable of developing a condition that will require the intervention of specialized personnels in special needs education. Majorly, the concern is mostly focused on these learners; those with visual impairment, hearing impairment, mental challenges, learning difficulties in specific areas, deaf- blind, physical impairment, social emotional problems, gifted and talented learners.
COMMON CONCEPTS USED
Traditional (old) concepts Impairment This is damage to a part of the body either through accident, disease, genetic factors or other causes. This leads to the loss or weakening of that part affected. For example, if one lost fingers in an accident, that hand may not be able to function properly. Impairment is damage to part of the body leading to functional loss or weakening. Disability This is the loss or reduction of functional ability of an individual due to impairment. It is also a limitation of opportunities that prevent people who have impairments from taking part in the normal life of the community on an equal level with others. There may be physical or social barriers to full participation. For example, a person whose legs are paralyzed cannot play football. Handicap A handicap is a disadvantaged or restriction of activity, which result from a disability and from society’s attitude towards the disability. An individual who is not given opportunity to become independent by society is handicapped. A handicap can be avoided when the society provides help to enable a person with disability to be independent. Special Education This concept is often only associated with the disabilities including; visual and hearing impairment or mental retardation in special classes, special schools and special institutions. Recently special education had been substituted with the term “Special Needs Education” emphasizing that other learning problems may call for special adjustments as well as emphasizing the idea of special needs in the (regular) classroom. Currently in Uganda, Universal Primary Education (UPE) advocates for all school going age children to learn in schools within their neighborhood irrespective of affiliation, potentials etc.
The UPE provision strengthens the concept of special needs education but not special education ‘Transitional concepts’ Integration Refers to providing educational services to children with special educational needs within the regular school system where these children have to follow strictly what the school offers in other words it is a complete assimilation. Integration has many models and some of them are: Full Integration in a class with necessary adjustments Partial Integration is where children with special needs attend some lessons together with ordinary pupils but go back to their resource room for remedial work. Social integration is when children with special needs for instance have meals together with ordinary pupils, play together and join in some social activities but go back to their classroom for most of the learning. Special Needs Education Whereas special education focused disability only, it was noted that there can arise other problems in the classroom that can inhibit learning. This type of education was intended to provide appropriate modifications in order to meet special educational needs in an individual. It is learner centered, flexible and adjustable to individual needs and potentials. It includes preventive, compensatory, therapeutic and educational measures. For example, sign language should be used for communicating with learners who are deaf, the content presented to learners who are slow in understanding Current concepts Barriers to learning, development and participation This concept recognizes that apart from disability, there can arise any obstacle to learning resulting into a need for an appropriate approach. Generally, these barriers may arise from the child, the teacher and entire environment. Special Educational Needs As said above, special educational needs are a result of a barrier to learning. These needs may be consequence of under-stimulation, socio-emotional problems or abuse, a traumatic experience, impairment or other conditions that make it difficult for an individual to follow the regular curriculum and/or ways of teaching/learning materials, medium of communication or to the environment may be needed. Inclusive education This is a process of addressing learners’ needs within the mainstream school using all available resources to create opportunities to learn in preparing learners for life. The emphasis is on equality of access and opportunities to education, reviewing schools and systems and changing them rather than trying to change the students. Inclusive education is nothing more than good teaching practices.