Posted in Miscellaneous

Accessing the Core in Special Education

I’ve been a proud member of the “hard-core” club since 5th grade.  Or, in other words, I was able to eat an entire apple, including the core (but, not the seeds-don’t worry!) at science camp.  5th grade had come and gone, but after eating an apple core, I learned some important things about cores.  Obviously, the core is the most central part of an apple.  It also is jam-packed with fiber.  But, as anyone who’s tried to eat something jam-packed with fiber knows, fiber is really good for your body, but is sometimes hard to eat.  So, it makes sense in the field of education, that the core curriculum is the most central or important part of anything that is taught.  However, it can be a bit difficult for students to swallow, or understand, at times.

As a future teacher, I want to make sure my students have access to the information that  has been deemed to be the most important, the most essential. Committees of people who have dedicated their lives to studying curriculum, spent years jam-packing the core curriculum with those most essential bits of information.  But, as a special education major with a severe disability emphasis, I realize that some of this information (like algebra) might be difficult for my students to chew.  I want to give my students access but it sometimes feels like I’m being asked to climb Mt. Everest without being given oxygen: it’s difficult, but not impossible.

One of my teachers had a really good analogy that helped me think about how students with severe disabilities can still access the core.  Imagine the core is orange juice.  We want all of our students to be able to get the benefits of drinking orange juice, right?  But some of our students can’t drink straight orange juice.  One solution is to dilute it.  But if we dilute orange juice, it simply tastes gross and no one wants to drink it. Another solution is that instead of diluting the juice, let’s consider what part of the orange juice is the most essential: Vitamin C.  How about we give them Vitamin C tablets instead?  

Or in other words, instead of diluting the core curriculum, why not give them access to the most important elements of the core?  For example, let’s consider algebra.  What are the core elements of algebra?  According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, they are understanding patterns, representing and analyzing mathematical situations and structures, using mathematical models to represent and understand quantitative relationships, and understanding change.  For some students, part of that might look like 3x+6=18.  But for other students, it might look like this: Joey is setting the table and brings out three plates, but five people are coming to dinner.  Let’s teach him problem solving skills, so he can figure out what to do next.  

Giving ALL students access to the core, or general, curriculum is a pretty new concept.  According to Dr. Browder, on December 9, 2003, students with disabilities were expected to make annual yearly progress, or AYP, on standards like math, science, and reading for the first time (2006). So these last 10 years is the first time teachers have focused on giving them access to the common core standards.  As teachers and future teachers, we’re still trying to figure the best way of giving our students those Vitamin C tablets or introducing them to undiluted orange juice.  Although the best way is unclear at the moment, I know that my students with disabilities have the right to that information and I want them to be able to access it.



My brother was diagnosed with autism before I was born. So, disabilities have been always been a major part of my life. That's one of the reasons I'm studying Special Education at BYU. In my life, I've found people who haven't experience with people with disabilities are really nervous about people with disabilities. I've also found that the scariest thing in life is the unknown. So, I created this blog to help demystify people with disabilities by sharing experiences I've had, my perspective, and hopefully other people's perspectives as well. This blog is not meant to romanticize people with disabilities or mitigate the difficulties associated with being a human being (goodness knows, we all have our faults and can be difficult to live with at times--disability or not). But instead, I hope to show day-to-day experiences and long-term perspectives to give more information about people with disabilities.

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