Educational Issues

One of the main considerations is the use of the team approach in developing and carrying out a child's educational program. The team generally includes the parents, professionals, medical professionals, and health-related professionals such as a physical therapist. Parents are critical members of the team and should be involved in all educational decisions. Sirvis (1988) noted that the team should design a program that meets the needs of the student in five basic goal areas: "(a) physical independence, including mastery of daily living skills; (b) self-awareness and social maturation; (c) communication; (d) academic growth; and (e) life skills training" (p. 400). Interdisciplinary services such as occupational and physical therapy and speech and language therapy are of prime importance for youngsters who have physical disabilities.

Another important educational consideration is placement. Educational services are provided in a variety of settings including regular classrooms, resource rooms, special classes, and other, more restrictive settings including hospital and homebound programs. Approximately 8% of students with orthopedic impairments and 18% of students with health impairments are served in home and hospital environments (Tenth Annual Report to Congress, 1988). Since educational services may include extensive medical and health-related support, arrangements often need to be made to provide these services in diverse educational settings. The need for support services is often a vital consideration in fitting a program to an individual student. Most common among the related services are transportation, physical therapy, occupational therapy, diagnostic services, school health services, counseling, and school social work services (Tenth Annual Report to Congress, 1988).

It is often necessary to modify and adapt the school environment to make it accessible, safe, and less restrictive. Accessibility guidelines are readily available, and when these guidelines are followed the environment becomes easier for the child to manage independently.

It is important that modifications be no more restrictive than absolutely necessary so that the student's school experiences can be as normal as possible. Many authorities stress the importance of avoiding overprotection of students with physical or health impairments. It is also important to permit students with disabilities to take risks just as their able-bodied cohorts do. Recent advances in technology have helped to make life more nearly normal for students with physical disabilities. For example, students with cerebral palsy can use computer terminals to aid in communication. Through technology, even a person with the most severe handicaps can have greater control over communication and daily living skills.

Modifying the environment may mean providing special adaptive equipment such as specially designed desks, positioning devices, wedges, or standing tables. Adaptations also may include establishing procedures for dealing with medical emergencies when students have serious medical problems.

Links to Educational Issues

 for Children with Other

 Health Impairments

  • Educational Issues following treatment for Childhood Cancers: Treatment for cancer during childhood or adolescence may affect educational progress due to prolonged absences or reduced energy levels that frequently occur during treatment. In addition, some types of cancer may require therapy to control or prevent spread of the disease to the brain and/or spinal cord (central nervous system). This therapy can sometimes affect memory and learning abilities. Read more...
  • St. Joseph's University: Resources for the education of children with special needs