students with any kind of difficulties
students with special education needs and/or disabilities
Disability is strong social context-dependent. “Disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others” (UN, 2007: Preamble, point (e)). And, “it is society which disables physically impaired people. Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments, by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society.” (UPIAS, 1976: 4).
“Disability is an evolving concept” (UN, 2007: Preamble, point (e)). “Recent advances in neuroscience have provided a different understanding of individual differences, characterizing them instead as predictable, normal variability that exists across the population. Brain functions and characteristics fall along a continuum of systematic variability. Thus differences are incremental, distributed, and dynamic rather than stable and categorical within an individual. This contradicts the idea of bright lines between an idea of normalcy and deviation from normalcy, and challenges the practice of diagnosing and labeling individuals” (Meyer et al., 2014: 26).
Moreover, “The scientists were not looking for sources of dis-ability but rather vari-ability” (Meyer et al., 2014: 79), “recognizing further the diversity of persons with disabilities” (UN 2007: Preamble, point (i)) “as part of human diversity and humanity”. (UN, 2007: Article 3, Point (d)).
…on special education needs
The research on identifying, listing and characterising disabilities and educational needs is constantly changing, altering the definitions and the educational practices.
For example let’s take “dyslexia” and reading difficulties: Since 1896, when Dr. Pringle-Morgan was the first described the condition as we know it (Pringle-Morgan, 1896) and named it Congenital Word Blindness, many have changed. Let us ‘jump’ a century: Some considered that there are different sub-types ‘within dyslexia’: (I) orthographic, surface, and phonological or (II) dysphonetic and dyseidetic, while still others include phonological processing deficits, naming speed deficits, and double deficits. In 2013, from DSM-IV separate diagnoses of Reading Disorder, Mathematics Disorder, Disorder of Written Expression and Learning Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, DSM-5 broadened the category. The new single diagnosis is Specific Learning Disorder, providing detailed specifiers for the areas of reading, mathematics, and written expression. From the medical to social model and from Congenital Word Blindness to Specific Learning Disorder, (and who knows where next!), learning difficulties more and more are been seen as human differences or diversities and not as deficits.
Another example is special education and inclusive education. Special education (and thus the term “special educational needs”) delivers and monitors a specially designed and set of comprehensive, research-based instructional and assessment practices and related services to students with difficulties and disabilities (Hornby, 2014: 5). Special education has to do with students in separate Special classes or/and Special schools. On the other hand, Inclusive education is a practice that brings students, families, educators and community members together to create schools, focused on bringing about full participation in society of all people with disabilities (Hornby, 2014: 5). The philosophy of the inclusive education lays on the Salamanca statement on special needs education (UNESCO, 1994) and on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN, 2007). Inclusive education is all about students at Mainstream classes / schools.
…on emotional difficulties
The emotional difficulties tend to be underestimated, ignored and to be considered temporary. On the contrary, these difficulties can be persistent, silent and long lasting. Cognitive scientists proved that emotion organizes drives, amplifies, and attenuates students’ thinking and learning (Meyer et al., 2014: 30). “Emotion is fundamental to learning” (Hinton et al., 2008). Intense anxiety (anxiety of achievement), financial crisis, divorce, a (life-threatening) illness, grief (Papadatou, 2009 and Papadatou, 2012) etc., have a major impact on student’s emotion and, therefore to his/her learning.
Note: The emotional dimension of learning. The emotional dimension of learning relies on the very important teacher-student relationship (as referred also above) and on a positive classroom climate (Matsumura 2009). Emotions are having an important influence on learning process, as emotions have a higher priority than cognitive processing, alerting our attention (Matsushita 2018:50). In a positive learning environment, and by focusing on students’ strengths, students’ self- confidence and self-efficacy can be increased, maximizing engagement and learning outcomes. In an inclusive, learning-friendly environment (UNESCO 2015) everyone can feel included by providing also multiple means of representation and multiple types of action and expression of the information (Meyer et al. 2014). Information connected to survival or information with a strong emotional component has a high possibility of being permanently stored in our brain (Matsushita 2018:51).
Note: check out https://4myfiles.wordpress.com/2014/07/27/dsm5/ & https://4myfiles.wordpress.com/2014/07/27/dsm5-2/
Hornby G. (2014). Inclusive Special Education – Evidence-Based Practices for Children with Special Needs and Disabilities, ISBN 978-1-4939-1483-8, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4939-1483-8, Springer, pg. 95-96.
Matsumura L.C., Slater S.C., Crosson A., (2008), The Elementary School Journal, Vol. 108, No. 4 (March 2008), pp. 293-312, The University of Chicago Press, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/528973
Matsushita K., Edt. (2018), Deep Active Learning – Toward Greater Depth in University Education, ISBN 978-981-10-5660-4, DOI 10.1007/978-981-10-5660-4, Springer
Meyer A., Rose D.H., Gordon D., (2014). UDL, theory and practice, E-book ISBN: 978-0-9898674-1-2, CAST, Inc., http://udltheorypractice.cast.org.
Papadatou D., (2009). In the face of death: Professionals who care for the dying and the bereaved, ISBN 978-0-8261-0256-0, New York: Springer.
Papadatou D., (2012). Merimna: The Society for the Care of Children and Families Facing Illness and Death. Grief Matters, 15, 3, 64-69.
Pringle-Morgan W., (1896), “Congenital Word Blindness”, British Medical Journal, Nov.7, pg 1378.
United Nations (UN), (2007). UN General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: resolution, adopted by the General Assembly, 24 Jan. 2007, A/RES/61/106, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f973632 or htmlhttp://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/convention/convoptprot-e.pdf
UNESCO, (1994). The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education Adopted by the World Conference on Special Needs Education: Access and Quality Salamanca, Spain, 7-10 June 1994, http://www.unesco.org/education/pdf/SALAMA_E.PDF.
UNESCO, (2015), Diversity: Toolkit for Creating Inclusive, Learning-Friendly Environments, UNESCO Bangkok Office, TH/APL/15/012, ISBN 92-9223-032-8
UPIAS, 1976, Fundamental principles of disability, London: Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation. http://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/UPIAS-fundamental-principles.pdf.
 see (Meyer et al., 2014: 129) for more bibliographic data.