The Exceptional Child
I am very fond of kids and I really enjoy playing and doing activities with them. For me, kids are special. They are created to bring infinite joy to a world full of pain and suffering. Kids are always jovial and carefree. These are the characteristics that set them apart from other people. Amidst all the problems and the misfortunes the world brings forth, they will always find a way to feel happy and excited.
That is the reason why it pained me knowing that a great number of kids are also suffering from various diseases and disorders. In my own opinion, kids should be enjoying themselves and they should be free from events and life circumstances that may inflict pain to them. Two of the diseases that are prevalent to children are autism and epilepsy. The two diseases are affecting most of the young citizens for some special reason.
At present, it is believed that autism is affecting one of the every 150 children and it was feared that the statistics will continue to rise. Epilepsy, on the other hand, is prevalent in children for it develops most likely in the first 16 years of life and most likely to stop and never occur again in adulthood. In America, there is 2 million of the population affected by the medical condition inclusive of the genders and races.
Autism and Epilepsy
The two diseases are affecting the children with a greater tendency. The two diseases are affecting the normal development of the children. In my own observation, children with autism cause them to have a taste of their own world far different of the world that the other children are experiencing. It is difficult to communicate to children with autism and they were also having difficulty expressing themselves that would have to need a special help. Children with autism tend to react on things differently. A gentle or normal sound could be irritating for them. A gentle touch could be hurtful to them.
The social capabilities of children with autism are also affected. They are having difficulty in connecting with other people. They are often doubtful of the intention of the people around them. Children with autism are also experience difficulty associating words with their meaning. That is why they are having difficulty understanding what other people say to them and difficulty communicating their thoughts and feelings.
I also personally observed that children with autism have a routine of activities. It can be manifested by children playing with a particular toy or doing or saying the same things over and over again. In my personal conclusion, the problem of the children with autism is that they could not make sense of the world they live in and their brain is not functioning accordingly. Your brain is processing and interpreting everything that is perceived by your senses. If the brain is affected, the person will have difficulty getting on with the tasks and act normal.
Epilepsy, on the other hand, is a medical condition characterized by occurrence of seizures. A seizure is defined as a sudden discharging of the nerves in the brain disturbing the various motor, sensory and mental function of a person. There are various types of epilepsy depending on what part of the brain is affected. As I happen to observe people with epilepsy, the main characterization of the disorder is the occurrence of seizures.
People with epilepsy experiencing the seizures, their muscles are tightening and relaxing so rapidly or moving to stop moving completely. The seizure occurs suddenly and spontaneously and the person has no control on their muscles. This is due to the signals that are being sent to the brain constantly. If too many signals are being sent to the brain, the person will cause an overload and he will pass out and his body will shake all over.
Epilepsy is neither a contagious medical condition nor a hereditary one. But people with epileptic parent are in greater risk of acquiring one. Other than the reoccurring seizures, people with epilepsy can act really normal. They can do things other people can do like go to school, get a job and start a family.
Diagnostic Instruments Used to Classify a Child as Handicapped or Gifted
Various instruments are used in assessing the health of the children and their mental capabilities. At birth, we hardly notice any defects on an infant for they know nothing but to cry, sleep and eat. But as the child enters the developmental stage, we can see developmental changes on the mental, social and physical aspects and that is the time when we can detect or notice abnormalities in a child.
In determining if the child is gifted or handicapped, there are various tests or instruments utilized in diagnosing if a child is handicapped or gifted. There are various IQ tests that are being taken to determine if a child is a gifted one. The IQ tests are tools in understanding the cognitive capabilities of the child and will pave the way in methods how to support their gifts. Through the IQ tests, the parents will know the strengths and weaknesses of the child and the field where they can excel the most. A professional evaluation can determine the mental abilities, especially the strengths of the child, assess the academic level of the child and they can also recommend teaching strategies that is essentially needed by the gifted child.
There are also tests employed in determining if a child is handicapped or with disabilities. Children may not know what is wrong with their body and parents should be aware of the signs if their children are experiencing difficulties in line with the disabilities and impairments.
Individualized exams are often utilized to determine if a person have disabilities. Disabilities and handicapped are very broad concepts or terms. It can be disabilities in any part of the body like in the brain or the sensory organs. Different exams and instruments are used in determining disabilities such as physical exams if the disability is superficial such as unable to walk straight. Exams such as MRI, ECG and other internal exams are used in determining disabilities that are inside the body such as abnormality in the beating of the heart and abnormality in the brain function.
In my encounter with children with autism, the main instrument that is used in determining children with autism is observation. The parents are becoming more aware of the early warning signs that are manifested by the children such as the inability to understand the language and gestures of the persons directed to them and the difficulty in interacting with other people and the manifestation of atypical behavior.
There are various diagnostic and assessment instruments used in determining a spectrum of autism disorders in children. The wide array of diagnostic and assessment are developed by researches, clinicians and educators in assessing children that have a high possibility of diagnosed with autism. Some of the diagnostic assessment instruments used are Autism Diagnostic Interview – Revised, Prelinguistic Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Childhood Autism Rating Scale, Autism Behavior Checklist and Checklist for Autism in Toddlers.
Epilepsy, on the other hand, is diagnosed by knowing when the seizures started and the family history of the patient. But the physician also employs other diagnostic tests in verifying if a person has epilepsy or not. Some of these tests are Computerized Axial Tomography, electroencephalogram, magnetoencephalography, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Positron Emission Tomography and Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography.
Classification Methods of Gifted and Handicapped Children
After the exams, the next step is classifying the gifted or handicapped children. The gifted children may takes the IQ tests and it will determine the particular field where they will most likely excel.
The tests are exactly designed in determining the strengths and weaknesses of a child. The IQ test is conventionally used to determine the special talent of a gifted child because it is perceived that the gifted child is a child in advanced in terms of intellectual ability. But there will always be exemption to the rules. Some gifted children excel in fields that are outside the academic arena such as sport, music and leadership.
There are six categories or classification of giftedness as released by the U.S. Office of Education. These are general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, creative or productive thinking, leadership, visual and performing arts and psychomotor ability.
Handicapped or disabled children are categorized or classified according to their impairments. This is according to the parts of their body that have the impairment. The impaired brain has several classification of medical condition that characterized the illness.
Autism is one of the psychological disorders that are classified as the pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). The common characteristics of these disorders are that affects the social interaction and communication of the person. It is highly important that the diagnosis is accurate for the symptoms of the five PDD tend to overlap each other.
Some of the credible diagnoses of autism in children are found to be loss of language and social skills by the age of 14 months. Several terms are developed from this particular phenomenon such as developmental stagnation, regressive autism and setback autism. But clinical findings are still in progress.
Epilepsy, on the other hand, is only classified in two major categories. The International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) devised the two major categorizations of the epileptic syndromes. These are localization-related epilepsies and syndromes and generalized epilepsies and syndromes. The two classifications are comprised with characteristics that are unique and make it easier for physician in classifying their patient’s seizures. There is also a classification for the seizures that are experienced by the epileptic patients. These are partial-onset seizures and generalized-onset seizures.
In my own opinion, knowing the various classification and categorization of the diseases or medical conditions of the patients make it easier for the physicians in administering appropriate medications for them and it is easier for the parent to assist and support the needs of their children.
The categorization of the medical conditions is advantageous to the patient, knowing their specific illness and knowing the background and the available treatment for the particular medical condition.
Appropriate Methods and Materials for Effective Academic Achievement
One of the difficulties that a person with a medical condition is the acquisition of the knowledge and learning that will help them through life. In children, learning is very crucial and acquiring it at the early stage is very important for them for it greatly help them in their education process.
Typically, children are great learners. They easily pick up knowledge from various things such as experiences, conversations and teachings. Mostly, children are discoverer and inquisitor by nature. They always ask what is this and that and they always want answers on their questions.
Personally, that particular nature of children is one that I like the most. Children always have a line-up of questions that are pertaining to various things. They always inquire on things they see or things that are new to them. I observed that the simple answering a child’s inquiry is a great help in the foundation of their basic knowledge. But disabilities and impairments of children hinder their acquisition and developments of body of knowledge that is their stepping stone in the educational ladder.
Disabilities and medical conditions affecting their academic performance is quite a hurdle that parents and patients have to face. Teachers and educators have to devise a new teaching method in helping out the patients in having a normal school life. In school, knowledge is not the only thing that can be learned and acquired in school but it also enhances the psychomotor and social skills of children.
Children with epilepsy are not much of the problem since none of the parts of the brain essential for school processes are damaged. The only problem is that children with epilepsy tend to feel different from other kids because of their medical condition. When their seizures attack their muscles tend to shake uncontrollably which they have no control to stop it from moving. Children are conscious of that symptom associated with their medical condition.
Nevertheless, they can still have a normal life like other kids have. They can go to school, play with other kids and interact with them. It is just that the other kids may be scared of the kid with epilepsy due to its symptoms but that main symptom is not contagious or hereditary.
Autism in children, on the other hand, is the medical condition that will encounter a major problem in terms of education and learning process. Autism affects the communication and social skills of children which are the essential skills in the education process. Communication skills are utilized to converse with people. Communication is essential in the school setting. Children need to communicate with their teachers, classmates and peers. Social skills, on the other hand, are an essential skill in interacting with other people. Children need to interact with people around them. They need to interact with their teachers, classmates and peers and develop harmonious relationships with them to make their school experience meaningful.
But due to the existence of the medical condition, children are having difficulty processing the bits of learning taught to them. But there are teaching strategies developed to aid teachers and parents in dealing with children with spectrum of autism disorders.
Structured teaching is an instructional approach developed by Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) utilized in teaching children with autism. Structured teaching allows the injection of various instructional methods such as visual support strategies, sensory integration strategies, discrete trial and music/rhythm intervention strategies. The effectivity of the approach largely depends on the strategy where the child learns the most.
Structured teaching is addressing the problems rendered by the medical condition in a manner that is proactive. This means, creating an environment that foster creativity, fun and learning and eliminates the aura of stress, frustration and anxiety which is commonly experienced by children with autism. Challenging behaviours includes language comprehension difficulties, expressive language difficulties, social relations difficulties, sensory processing difficulties, resistance to change, preference for familiar routines and consistency, organizational difficulties, difficulty attending to relevant stimuli and distractibility.
Through structured teaching, the educator is increasing the child’s sense f independence which is essential for him throughout his life. The various aspects of the structured teaching help in bridging the challenges posed by the medical condition. The various aspects will make learning easier for children with autism.
The learning theory profounded by David Kolb can be applied on learning strategies of the children with autism. The theory suggests that learning occurs in four stages and in a cyclic pattern. The four stages comprising Kolb’s learning theory are concrete experiences, reflection, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation.
Concrete experiences arise from doing an activity and the person will reflect on the outcomes of the activities. The person will then generate conceptualization and think of devising a new activity from the reflection he processed and apply it that will give rise to new experiences. That is why learning is a cyclic process and learning may occur at any of the four stages.
Applying the theory in teaching the children with autism, in my personal generalization, we could apply practical or physical activities than teaching them in a verbal manner since they are having difficulty in understanding communication. The whole learning experience can be injected with physical activities that kids will most likely to enjoy. This give rise to concrete experiences that kids will generally reflect on and kids will think of new activities and apply it and the learning process goes on and on. The teacher or the instructor will eventually serve as guide for the students, guiding them in the activities and what to do and make sure they learn what they need to learn without coercing the knowledge or the kids depending mostly on the teacher for realization of the ideas.
Methods Designed to further Social Development
Autism affects the social skills of the person. This is considered as one of the barriers or one of the challenges associated with autism. It has always been a challenge for the educators and parents to minimize the elusiveness of the children with autism.
Children with autism tend to isolate themselves mainly because they cannot understand the people around them and they cannot be understood by the people. They live in their own world. They do not have social groups with their age because they are having difficulty expressing themselves and kids do not have the capability to understand their condition.
In my own opinion, social skills are essential in the total self development of a person for it reinforces other aspect of the being. People need to enhance their social skills or their network for it will develop their personality and other parts of their being. Children with autism are elusive because they think that other people will not understand what they are going through and at their age, they did not know if something is really wrong with them.
There are methods utilized to further enhance the social skills of the children with autism. Children with autism most likely benefit with their interactions with other children or peers. Personally, I think one of the ways in breaking down the barrier of social development in children with autism. Early intervention is one of the key elements of social development. If the child is introduced to people outside the family, they will most likely not to be afraid of every person they will encounter.
It is also important to constantly interact with the child and find a way on how you will achieve understanding so you can serve as the interpreter for the people that your child will interact with. One way of communicating is through association of things than using verbal expression.
It is also important to always bring out the child and to make him feel that he is normal. Bringing the child to the playground is one way of introducing the child to other children and minimizes the elusiveness of the child. Parents do not have to force their children to interact with others. It is just a matter of exploring the possibilities and the options in developing the child’s social aspect. If the child respond appropriately to the interaction with other people, that is the way of further developing their social skills.
Children with epilepsy, on the other hand, have little problem with their social skills since they can act normal like the other kids. The only problem posed by their medical condition is that the seizures will induce the feeling of being different from others and the tendency of being ostracized by the other kids their age. They will hesitate in making friends or the other children will hesitate in making friends with him because of his medical condition.
Teaching Methods and Techniques used in the Education of Gifted or Handicapped Students
There are various teaching methods and techniques that are used in educating the students experiencing giftedness and disabilities. But the teaching strategies and methods for the two types of students are structured differently. In the case of the gifted children, since they are perceived to be ahead of their age, the structure of the teaching method is more advanced than the ordinary lesson plan.
Gifted children have specialization according to their specialized capabilities. We cannot expect that all gifted children will have the same aptitude and cognitive abilities since there are many categories of giftedness aforementioned.
I think that the teaching methods should be structured according to the talents and abilities of the children. Stressing mainly on their strengths and develop the aspects that are lacking equal attention. Gifted children should receive different educational attention so that their talents will not go to waste and further enhance their talents that will eventually take them to places. Students, in return, should participate fairly in the activities that aim to further develop their talents.
Handicapped children are another case. Learning for them is very crucial. They need to be assisted. Handicapped children are mostly characterized with gradual mental development that makes them slow learners. Structured teaching methods can compensate with their disabilities.
First, the instructor should know their medical condition and history and develop a teaching methods and strategies that will be appropriate for their disabilities. The strategies should complement the lacking capabilities of the child and make it easier for him to get a grasp of the knowledge with the sense of independence that they discovered it on their own. Through this, you actually teach the child the essential knowledge he needed to know and taught them of being independent which will be important until later in his life.
Personal Development Issues that Confront the Exceptional Child
It is difficult for a child to have a medical condition that is unmanageable at their young age. Though they do not clearly understand their condition, they tend to experience personal issues within themselves in line with the medical condition that they have.
One of the personal development issues that are experienced by the children with disabilities is the formation of low self-esteem. The low self-esteem stemmed from the misunderstanding of the people around them and their difficulty in comprehending the cause and the possible effects of the situation to them. They tend to develop a lowly look at themselves for they think they are alone and there is no one who can understand them.
Another personal development issue experienced by the children with disabilities is that they are aloof and elusive to other people. They have the tendency to isolate themselves for they cannot interact with kids their age. Their social skills are inappropriate for establishing their social networks.
Parents can be a great help to their children if they are properly assisting their children in their growing up years. Parents may start early intervention in the various aspects of the child’s development and slowly injecting things or little lessons that they will need as they grow up.
Teachers and educators also play a significant role in the development of children for they reinforce the teachings and knowledge acquired by children. They are responsible for the further development of the various skills and talents of the exceptional children.