Article

Severe Disabilities

Martin Agran and Fred Spooner

in Education

ISBN: 9780199756810
Published online June 2014 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0098
Severe Disabilities

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  • Education
  • Organization and Management of Education
  • Philosophy and Theory of Education
  • Schools Studies
  • Teaching Skills and Techniques

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People with severe disabilities are considered to have the following disabilities: severe intellectual disability (formerly referred to as “mental retardation”), autism, deaf-blindness, and multiple disabilities. They present great learning, behavioral, personal, social, physical, and sensory challenges and have extensive support needs (e.g., related service providers, paraprofessionals, peer tutors). Additionally, a number of these individuals may have serious medical and health-care needs and be dependent on medical technology (e.g., mechanical ventilator, gastric feeding tube). Historically, those with severe disabilities have been some of the most devalued, persecuted, and marginalized people. Because of their learning and support needs, expectations for students and adults with severe disabilities have been low, as it was thought they had limited capacity to acquire, process, and apply information and achieve a true level of independence or competency. However, with changing attitudes in the 1970s about equity, disability rights, and social acceptance, a growing body of research literature emerged that demonstrated that individuals with severe disabilities have a much greater learning capacity than previously thought. For much of the last century, the primary curricular focus has been on teaching functional community and daily living skills. This was driven by the belief of the professional community and parents that acquisition and application of such skills would enhance the independence of individuals with severe disabilities, and, in turn, increase their social integration and acceptance. To further promote social acceptance, research was conducted in the 1980s and 1990s that examined ways to increase the social competence of individuals with severe disabilities. In the late 1990s, following changes in general educational policy and social opinion, there was growing consensus that students with severe disabilities can indeed benefit from academic instruction, and that such instruction—particularly in the areas of literacy, mathematics, and science—should be provided. Further, in the last forty years or so, there has been a shift in thinking about educational placement. Currently, there is general consensus that people with severe disabilities need to be served and participate in inclusive or integrated school and community settings (e.g., supported employment, community-based living) and not in segregated or sheltered settings as previously thought. This article presents annotated citations regarding educational, community living, and social practices that have enhanced the education, integration, and acceptance of persons with severe disabilities, and advanced the quality of educational and social services they receive. The headings represent domains or topics most relevant for this population (Note: Both recent and classic references are included).

Article.  11995 words. 

Subjects: Education ; Organization and Management of Education ; Philosophy and Theory of Education ; Schools Studies ; Teaching Skills and Techniques

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