Swales definition of the concept of discourse community is that it is a group of individuals who mutually involve themselves in and communicate about a certain issue or topic under a given field (21). Swales justify the description of discourse community by outlining its characteristics such as having a set of commonly agreed goals within a given discourse community and possess a unique mechanism by which its members communicate with one another. As the members of a discourse community communicate, they apply an exclusive participatory strategy in the provision of feedback and information. Therefore, they have specific lexis and one or more genres for facilitating communication (Swales 23). Special education is a discourse community in which the grouping of its members depends on the categorical disability model which classifies individuals with disabilities into those with language and speech impairment, mild mental retardation (MMR), emotional disturbance (ED), and learning disabilities (LD). Programs for addressing the educational needs of the members of the special education community such as inclusive education are facing unsolved such as the failure to accommodate the needs of its members. Special education is facing some issues ranging from unaccommodated learning needs, discrimination of colored students and excessive paperwork among teachers. As a discourse community, the National Association of Special Education Teachers has failed to provide all possible support and assistance to those preparing for or teaching in the field of special education. The problems in the special education sector that are unsolved include adequately accommodating a wide range of student needs, the disproportionate number of children of color that end up in special education and lastly, the overwhelming paperwork that needs to be filed by teachers and administrators.
One of the most challenging aspects in special education is accommodating and satisfying the learning needs of students with learning disabilities. Despite legislative efforts such as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) emphasizing on the provision of education tailored to satisfy the needs of a student with special needs, many teachers cite difficulties in accommodating student needs. While many research studies such that by (Mitchell 41) quote the use of inclusive education as a means of satisfying the student needs, it is a problematic intervention considering an ordinary inclusive class is heterogeneous as it consists of individuals with differing weaknesses, strengths, intelligence and degree of motivation. Furthermore, educational needs change as individuals grown hence the complexity of accommodating learning needs. Some of the educational necessities that are difficult to fulfill include ever-presence of adults during lessons, physical learning assistants, and behavioral assistance. It is even more challenging to accommodate learning needs of individuals with special needs placed in an inclusive classroom where concentrating on the needs of individuals with special needs leads to the distraction of the rest. Furthermore, most of the special school have poorly equipped thus the inability to accommodate educational needs of students.
The other issue affecting special education as a discourse community is a large number of children with color finding themselves in institutions of special education. There still exist predominant placement and referral of colored children especially those from African American origin to special schools. According to Vaughn and Swanson, it is worse when the colored children have disabilities subjectively identified. Such discrepancy still exists in the US despite the presence of well-defined and explicit legislative and legal rules enacted to protect the discrimination in education (19). Different studies, according to Kauffman and Badar, concur on the implicit bias based on race and color in the referrals of children to special schools (14). Referrals institutions for specialized needs should occur after a thorough classroom assessment with the evaluation of the suitability for referral being the behaviors that the children exhibit. The high degree to which children with color are inadequately served, segregated and misclassified is responsible for biased referral to special schools.
The other major issue affecting the members of the discourse community is excessive paperwork among administrators and teachers (Vaughn and Swanson 36). Teachers are the primary victims of issues surrounding the red tape and bureaucracy inherent in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Teachers in the special education sector spend a lot of time with students because their work is demanding. Furthermore, they also spend a lot of time documenting the progress of their students regarding Individualized Education Programss (IEPs) goals as a requirement in the IDEA. Most special education teachers agree that it will take the intervention of better technology to make their work easier such as in the case of writing the goals of standards-based IEPs, data collection and monitoring students progress. It is possible to reduce excessive paperwork through automation of documentation thus freeing more time and energy which they can channel into learning.
It is evident that special education as a discourse community is facing a lot of challenges which threaten the achievement of success in meeting the needs of its members. The major issues confronting special education discourse community include inefficient satisfaction of student needs, the disproportionate number of children of color that end up in special education and excessive paperwork for teachers and administrators. Such issues remained unsolved due to lack of technology and prevalence of discrimination despite the enactment of legislation to address issues such as discrimination.
Kauffman, James M., and Jeanmarie Badar. "Instruction, Not Inclusion, Should Be the Central Issue in Special Education: An Alternative View from the USA." Journal of International Special Needs Education (2014): 17(1): 13-20. https://doi.org/10.9782/2159-4341-17.1.13. Print.
Mitchell, David R. Special Educational Needs, and Inclusive Education: Systems and contexts. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2004. Print .
Swales, John. "The Concept of Discourse Community: Genre Analysis." English in Academic and Research Settings (1990): 1(1): 21-32. Print.
Vaughn, Sharon, and Elizabeth A. Swanson. "Special Education Research Advances Knowledge in Education." Exceptional Children (2014): 82(1): 11-40. DOI: 10.1177/0014402915598781. Print .
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