6 Current Trends in Special Education

Last Updated on November 1, 2022

It’s widely believed that the education system must evolve to adapt to a fast-changing world. Students are the primary stakeholders in education; therefore, their needs should always take center stage. For that to happen, the constantly evolving digital technologies and new-age trends are playing their role in making education easy and accessible for everyone, including children with special needs. A child’s physical or mental handicap needs don’t cause a special educator or paraprofessional to become tangled up in unnecessary details, thanks to recent technological advancements and teacher preparation.

This article covers six popular educational trends in special education that you should know about. Regardless of your position in the educational stakeholder pyramid, these trends can help create a positive and conducive learning environment for children. But first, let’s discuss the need to keep up with these trends.

The Importance Of Keeping Up With Current Trends In Special Education

A special educator may have found it challenging to enhance the educational experience for children with special needs and pupils who struggled with reading ten years ago. However, things do not have to be this way in the contemporary digital era.

To keep up with the evolving trends and new practices, educators need to be up to date and continue their education. A bachelor’s is just not enough anymore; special education masters degrees can put you more in control of your job role and help you succeed while making a difference in your students’ lives.

Current Trends in Special Education

1. Contextual & Personalized Learning

Personalized learning has garnered a lot of attention over the past few years, and rightfully so. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) enunciates the importance of developing and implementing an individualized education program (IEP) that is adaptive to the unique needs of a student with a disability.

In a personalized learning approach, a student’s personal experience, knowledge, and habits provide the content and context for their training material. When an instructor builds meaningful connections between existing knowledge and new information, it becomes easier for them to understand a new concept and achieve learning outcomes faster.

As is true for other kids, children with special needs work best when they are allowed to learn at their own pace and move up the developmental ladder in their own time.

2. Digital Citizenship & Advances in Assistive Technology

For the uninitiated, “digital citizenship” is defined as the ability of an individual to use the internet and digital technologies in appropriate and responsible ways.

Assistive technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence have proven valuable in helping kids with learning and attention issues to become adept digital citizens. In addition, audiovisual materials such as documentary videos, images, paper handouts, charts, and artifacts help students understand complex concepts in less time. Today’s special educators also teach visually simplified, dyslexic-friendly texts to help struggling readers.

Prosthetics improve a physically disabled child’s mobility and ability to manage daily activities. Cochlear implants do not restore hearing, but they sure give a deaf child a sense of sound. In addition, numerous educational apps and computer programs help overcome a student’s functional limitations, such as difficulty writing, speech and language issues, etc.

3. Mastery-Based Grading

Many educators have begun to question the effectiveness of letter grades when measuring student progress. They are looking for better alternatives to this old grading system, which not only reflects a student’s performance inaccurately, it also discourages healthy competition. This is because the letter scoring system does not consider little incremental progress. Rather than working towards their full potential, a student settles for studying just enough for him to move onto a new curriculum.

On the other hand, a mastery-based grading system gives students the time, flexibility, and freedom to master a standard before they can transition to a new skill or level. They get several attempts to resubmit a test or assignment and are graded as having or not mastered a concept.

A mastery-based grading system sets special needs children up to develop a growth mindset when done well. They become self-aware of their limitations, understand their abilities; get the courage to ask for help; and become comfortable failing and trying until they succeed.

4. Trauma-Informed Support

The psychological impact of natural disasters, low family socio-economic status, and sudden loss of a loved one can hinder a student’s ability to perform well at school.

New research is leading many special education teachers to use trauma-screening resources to identify their students’ individual needs and provide targeted intervention as soon as possible. Easy access to trauma-informed care will reduce instances of depressed students playing truant, getting expelled, or dropping out of school.

5. Bite-sized Learning

Bite-sized learning is, hands down, one of the best teaching methods for children with special educational needs. Unfortunately, irrespective of how interesting the subject is, students begin to lose interest and concentration fifteen minutes into the lesson as the content starts getting longer and more tedious.

The lesson is broken into smaller chunks, and the class duration is divided into 20 minutes of intense study plus 5-10 minutes of a brain break. The bite-sized learning model supports the learning behavior of special needs kids, particularly the ones suffering from attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It also ensures 100% attention, with the additional benefits of knowledge retention. 

6. STEAM Curriculum

There is also a trend toward developing and introducing a STEAM curriculum (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math). When special education students engage in hands-on STEAM lessons and activities, they learn how to find a balance between logic and creativity. In addition, they become good team players and even better problem-solvers. In short, STEAM-based learning provides such students with a more well-rounded and practical education, which, in turn, helps them chart the course toward academic and professional success.

Our Final Thoughts

With the advent of digital technology, education is evolving faster than one would have imagined. Technology-enabled learning tools will create an impressive, personalized experience, especially for students with learning disabilities. In addition, there will be a greater emphasis on understanding how emotional and psychological problems, disciplinary measures, and cultural diversity affects a student’s academic performance, and even more so in the case of one with special needs.

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