Customized Education for Special Needs Students is Overdue

Oct 31, 2019 by

Special Needs Students Require Customized Education

The heavy demands of standardized education can be overwhelming for all students, but for those with special needs, it can be a nightmare. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires public schools to accommodate students with disabilities, often what’s needed is an entirely different curriculum or class setting. That’s where customized education comes in.

Customized education can have many definitions, but the general idea is that one size does not fit all or even most. Schools might be required to adjust test-taking rules and absence policies to accommodate students with a disability, but they can’t realistically rearrange their entire curriculum to teach each student the way they learn best. In this way, truly customized education requires creating independent schools that have the time and resources to create custom plans for each student.

Students with autism and brain injuries, including cerebral palsy, especially benefit from customized education. The effects of cerebral palsy make it difficult for many kids to function in a traditional classroom setting. For instance, poor motor control and coordination, lack of muscle tone, poor posture and balance, and difficulty speaking can make a traditional curriculum challenging.

Specialized schools and ESAs are a good start

More and more private schools are opening to accommodate kids with special needs, and programs like Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) make it easier for parents to afford these schools. For example, Erika Hartley – the mother of two autistic sons – uses an ESA to send her kids to Pieceful Solutions Academy (now known as PS Academy). Any money left over after tuition can be used to pay for tutoring, books, therapies, and other educational-related expenses.

PS Academy is just one of many schools that provide special needs students with the proper environment needed to thrive. An ESA makes it possible for parents to move their kids out of public or charter schools into a private school environment supported by government funds.

So far, six U.S. states have an ESA program including:

  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Nevada
  • Tennessee

Customized education should be the standard for all students

Although kids with disabilities are often the subject of this discussion, customized education benefits everyone. Customized education is an approach that plays to each student’s strengths, needs, interests, and skills. A personalized learning plan would benefit every student at every level of education. However, the availability is lacking. If parents want to send their kids to special schools, they need to pay for tuition, and it’s not cheap.

Due to the cost and time involved, public schools are unlikely to provide personalized learning plans for students. For years, public schools have been facing severe budget cuts that force them to drop art and music classes. Asking a public school to create a system that tailors lessons to each student is out of the question. Unfortunately, for many, the option of attending a private school is equally out of the question.

Personalized learning is overdue

We already know the traditional educational system contains flaws that fail many students, so why hasn’t anyone figured out how to bring personalized learning to public schools? There has to be a way to at least start the process, even just one class at a time.

Perhaps instead of buying laptops and tablets for students to use in the classroom, those funds would be better spent designing a system to create a customized education plan for each student. It wouldn’t take much effort to start small. For example, there could be three different types of high school English courses that each play to a different interest. One could be a poetry class, one might be a British Literature class, and the other could be a class that has each student write, edit, and publish a book by the end of the semester.

Some schools do offer different types of English classes, but these classes are usually reserved for juniors and seniors while the freshmen and sophomores are stuck with the boring classes.

Parents and teachers want to see their kids thrive. Personalized education may not be the answer to all problems seen with traditional education, but it’s definitely an important and overdue start.

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