Friday, January 6, 2012

Don Peek - Determining a Child's Disability Level

Special Needs Topics with Don Peek

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.

Determining a Child’s Disability Level

While properly categorizing a child’s disability does not in and of itself help the child directly, proper classification can be useful in determining just how much help parents and teachers need to provide a child. Usually disabilities are divided into four levels:  none, mild, moderate and severe.  An understanding of the level of a child’s disability is absolutely essential when preparing that student’s IEP (individualized education program) or when helping the child to develop new skills.

It’s not enough just to know that a child has a problem seeing.  The problem might be so slight that nothing needs to be done by the school other than making sure the child sits near the front of the room so he/she can easily see material on the board.  A mild seeing problem might be remedied by wearing glasses or contacts.  A moderate problem might be dealt with by ordering large print books for the child to use.  A severe problem could entail mostly using auditory materials or actually having the child learn Braille.  In other words, the degree of the disability largely determines the amount and type of assistance the child will need.

Three children with IQ scores indicating mental retardation may lead widely different lives depending on their disability levels.  The one who is mildly retarded may live independently as an adult, hold a job, and manage his life adequately in all but crisis situations.  The one afflicted with mild retardation may be partially self-supportive in a sheltered workshop environment but will always needs supervision and need to live with family or in a group setting.  The one who is severely retarded may contribute some in a limited way to self-care, but will always need supervision and help with daily routines and will never be able to work.

We should not be surprised by these categories when applied to disabilities.  Most medical problems are classified in this same way.  While a woman will never be mildly, moderately, or severely pregnant, she could certainly have different levels of the flu, shingles, or pneumonia.  Also, as with disabilities, these ailments may call for very little in the way of medicine or assistance, or they may require visits to the emergency room or stays in intensive care.  The more severe the condition, the more help that is required by the sick person or the disabled person.

Naturally, when schools or schools with the help of doctors diagnose disabilities, it is always a difficult task to be highly specific as to the disabled person’s exact position on the spectrum.  The gauge may list none, mild, moderate, or severe as the only four categories, but there is a great deal of overlapping.  What is important with testing is to get a starting place for each individual and to treat the person with a disability as an individual.  You may have two mentally challenged students in the same classroom, but you can rest assured that they will not have the exact same skill set regardless of how close their IQ scores seem to be.

Please remember this as you work with students that have disabilities.  Every disabled person is an individual and may be very different even from others diagnosed with the very same disability.  It is vitally important that you recognize the degree of disability of each person and work with the person at that level.

Grant Info:

Grant Name:  Monell Foundation Educational Grants
Funded By:  The Ambrose Monell Foundation
Description:  Giving on a national basis to improve the physical, mental, and moral condition of humanity throughout the world. Giving largely for hospitals and health services, scientific research, museums, performing arts, and other cultural activities, and higher and secondary education; support also for social services, research in political science, mental health, and aid to the handicapped. No grants to individuals.
Program Areas:  Adult Literacy, Disabilities, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Science/Environment, Social Studies
Recipients:  Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other
Proposal Deadline:  4/30/12
Average Amount:  $5,000.00 - $500,000.00
Telephone:  212-245-1863
Availability:  All States

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