Lower-incidence disabilities cover a wide range of disabilities, which can be present at birth or acquired. These disabilities involve mild and severe impairments. Some of these disabilities may be temporary however; others may be life-threatening. Individuals with lower-incidence disabilities have visual impairments, hearing impairments, physical and other health impairments, autism and severe and multiple disabilities. Lower-incidence disabilities occur less frequently in the general population than other disabilities. It is crucial that creative and effective adaptations are made in the classroom to help students with these disabilities become successful in the future. Adaptations in the physical environment, instructional materials, instructional procedures, and evaluation procedures make the general classroom a positive learning experience for those students with lower-incidence disabilities.
In the article, Assessment in Low Incidence Disabilities: The Day-to-Day Realities the author discusses the issues in assessment of students who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired in rural school districts. Accommodations and modifications for informal and formal assessment are also suggested. Students with low-incidence disabilities create challenges to rural school districts, in the amount of services that are required to support them in a regular education setting. Two of the most common issues for the provision of special education programs and services with students of disabilities in rural areas are (a) recruitment and retention of trained professionals and (b) assessment materials. A small amount of school psychologists and other relates service providers have training to access students with low-incidence disabilities. Approximately 2 million additional teachers will be needed by 2008 (Bowen, 2003). This is an extremely high number and in addition to shortage of teachers there are also many professional that are unqualified to work with those students who are deaf.
In the article, Is Social Isolation a Predictable Outcome of Inclusive Education, the author discusses how students who are blind or visually impaired in inclusive education settings are socially isolated. Who is responsible for these students? Many teachers of special education students are overworked and asked to do much more than a general education teacher. Do they have the time that it takes to help students with low-incidence disabilities? Students need to learn how to be as successful in the regular school core curriculum by developing social interactions, interpersonal communication, and interpersonal skills. The article goes on to discuss three options that educators have when dealing with students with low-incidence disabilities. Teachers can accept the status quo and continue doing what they are. One attitude discusses how modifications for students who are blind or visually impaired may cause barriers to social interaction, thus having blind students only interacting with other blind peers. Educators can try radical new approaches, entailing new and untried approaches. Teachers need to be creative and innovative with approaches when teaching to students with low-incidence disabilities. Teachers can start by researching literature dealing with training, observation, and direct instruction from a teacher who has visually impaired students. “If we, as a profession, believe that the lives of students who are blind will be greatly enriched through intensive social interaction skills training, then we must realign our priorities” (Hatlen, 2004).
“Blindness and visual impairments affects how a child learns, not what a child learns.” (Bowen, 2003) Students who are blind and visually impaired rely on obtaining information through other senses. Students who are visually impaired can benefit by brain-based teaching strategies; such as concrete objects and tactile images. Teachers can use alternative forms of a test by producing large print or Braille. Students should be encouraged to use their low vision devices or other optical aids; magnifiers, screen-access software, and scanners to help with their disability. It is important to provide students with three-dimensional objects and lessen background clutter by reducing the number of choices and the amount of information on a handout. For students who are deaf or hard of hearing it is suggested that a teacher modifies vocabulary used in assessment, modify the number of items tested and the consideration of using alternative forms of standardized tests. “Accommodations do not change the nature of the construct being tested, but differentially affect a students or groups performance in comparison to a peer group.” (Bowen, 2003)
There is a significant need for students with low-incidence disabilities to be provided with the proper resources and appropriate accommodations. Thus, allowing them to fully succeed in the classroom and ultimately in the future. It is imperative that the low-incidence teacher works closely with other special and general education teachers, and related services to help each student meet their full potential. By having educators create a welcoming environment students with low-incidence disabilities are able to enjoy a life that is characterized by equal opportunities, and self-determination, independence.
Bowen, Sandra. Assessment in Low-Incidence Disabilities: The Day-to-Day Realities.
Rural Special Education Quarterly. 2003.
Hatlen, Phil. Is Social Isolation a Predictable Outcome of Inclusive Education? Journal
Of Visual Impairment and Blindess. November 2004.