ERIC Identifier: ED262506
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and
Gifted Children Reston VA.
Being at Ease with Handicapped Children. 1984 Digest.
For years handicapped people have been segregated from the rest of society as
if they were truly different from nonhandicapped people. Because of such federal
legislation as Public Law 94-142 (the Education for All Handicapped Children Act
of l975) and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act Amendments of
l973, individuals who have handicaps are being integrated into the mainstream of
education, employment, and community activities.
It is sad that attitudes cannot also be legislated, but fears and anxieties
toward those who are different cannot be decreed illegal. It is hoped that the
present generation, growing up in situations where people with handicaps are a
natural part of school and community life, will put to rest forever the notion
that people with handicaps are "different."
WHAT SPECIAL TREATMENT SHOULD BE GIVEN?
Children with handicaps need to be treated, as much as possible, like any
other child. It is unfair to the child when he or she is not allowed to compete.
The world at large is mainly inhabited by people with the ability to see, to
hear, to speak, and to move about freely. Children with handicaps need to
practice meeting the standards of the "normal" world while they are growing up
so they can gain confidence and independence.
HOW CAN ONE HELP FEELING SORRY FOR CHILDREN WITH HANDICAPS?
If you perceive the disabled child as someone to be pitied, someone from whom
little should be expected or demanded, probably little will come. If, on the
other hand, you expect the child to succeed and grow, to learn to act
independently, then chances are good that the child will become a successful,
growing, independent student.
HOW SHOULD FRUSTRATIONS OR TEMPER TANTRUMS BE HANDLED?
Such problems should be handled the same way they would be handled if the
child did not have a handicap. It is easy to assume that disabled people exist
in a continuous state of frustration. This is not true. Of course disabled
children may feel frustrated at times. These frustrations should be handled with
good sense, remembering that a certain amount of frustration is healthy and
promotes growth but that too much frustration can be defeating.
HOW SHOULD YOU RESPOND TO EVERYDAY ACCOMPLISHMENTS?
It is a joy to see a child with a handicap able to do the same things that
other children do, such as read, play on the jungle gym, or go through the lunch
line. It is important, however, to distinguish between accomplishments that are
attained with about the same degree of effort that is required from most
children and those accomplishments that really represent a challenge to the
If people react to ordinary accomplishments that were not particularly
difficult to attain as if they were extraordinary, children can develop
unrealistic views of themselves--either an inflated view of their capabilities
and accomplishments, based on the continual amazement elicited from others, or a
deflated view, based on the obviously limited expectations others hold for
children with handicaps. On the other hand, encouragement and reinforcement
should be expressed when youngsters accomplish tasks made difficult by their
specific disabilities, for example, dressing for a child with cerebral palsy.
HOW MUCH HELP SHOULD BE GIVEN?
One of the benefits of mainstreaming is that children can help their disabled
classmates. But too much help can become a hindrance if it robs the child of
opportunities to learn and practice independence. Generally if a child cannot
handle some procedure or material, she or he should be taught how to do it if at
DO CHILDREN WITH COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS ALSO HAVE PROBLEMS IN THINKING?
One disability that people have trouble coping with involves speech and
language. Whether the communication impairment results from a physical
disability such as cerebral palsy or a speech handicap such as stuttering, the
listener tends to anticipate what the disabled person is trying to say and not
allow the person the time she or he needs to communicate.
It is easy to mistakenly perceive people who have severe communication
disabilities as also having impaired intelligence because of their simple,
poorly articulated speech. A natural tendency is to respond to this kind of
language pattern with a simplification of your own speech. This should be
avoided. Individuals who have problems expressing themselves, unless they are
also hearing impaired, generally have no problem understanding normal, complex
IS THERE ANYTHING SPECIAL THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?
There are special considerations that can be helpful to children with special
disabilities. For example, keep in mind that children who have visual
impairments depend upon what they hear and touch to bring them information about
their surroundings. Provide opportunities for visually impaired children to
handle things that children with normal vision can simply look at. It is also
helpful to describe new people, things, and events as they come into the child's
environment. Allow time for the child to ask what is going on.
Children who have hearing impairments or who are deaf must depend on sight
for most of their knowledge. Make sure the hearing impaired child can see the
face of whoever is speaking; many cues are picked up through lipreading and
facial expression. Arrange for seating near the teacher or leader. Do not assume
that a youngster understands you just because you have his or her attention. Ask
whether you have been understood.
Children who have a mental retardation problem can get along better when
directions are short and clearly stated. Break down tasks into a series of steps
that can be completed in sequence. Maintain a routine, teach new procedures, and
give time for practice.
Youngsters with orthopedic impairments should be asked whether they need help
and, if so, what kind. Do not assume the child needs more help than he asks for.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Much of this information is based on "Questions Teachers Ask."
In SUPPORTING VISUALLY IMPAIRED STUDENTS IN THE MAINSTREAM, by Glenda J. Martin
and Mollie Hoben. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children, 1977. ED 145
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Jones, Reginald L., ed. ATTITUDES AND ATTITUDE CHANGE IN SPECIAL EDUCATION:
THEORY AND PRACTICE. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children, 1984. ED 249
Ward, M. J., and others. EVERYBODY COUNTS! A WORKSHOP MANUAL TO INCREASE
AWARENESS OF HANDICAPPED PEOPLE. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children,
1979. ED 172 463.
Shaver, James K., and Charles K. Curtis. HANDICAPISM AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY:
TEACHING ABOUT THE DISABLED IS SOCIAL STUDIES. Reston, VA: Council for
Exceptional Children, 1981. ED 202 185.
Jones, Reginald L., ed. REFLECTIONS ON GROWING UP DISABLED. Reston, VA:
Council for Exceptional Children, 1983. ED 228 794.
Reynolds, Maynard C., ed. SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT OF THE SCHOOLS. Reston, VA:
Council for Exceptional Children, 1980. ED 188 357.
STUDIES OF ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HANDICAPPED: 1980-1984. (A computer search
reprint containing approximately 100 abstracts). Reston, VA: Council for
Exceptional Children, 1984.