How to Discipline Students with Disabilities

There’s nothing more difficult than having to discipline a child with emotional disability. These children needs special attention rather than the reward-and-punishment method or giving disciplinary action as with any other regular child. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides “procedural safeguards designed to assure that students with disabilities were not arbitrarily removed from their parent approved program without consent and were guaranteed a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) within the least restrictive environment (LRE)” (Dwyer 1997).

These safeguards, however, are oftentimes misunderstood by school officials which tend to affect other students seriously. Kevin Dwyer gave examples wherein students with disability have caused serious troubles without being given considerable disciplinary action. One child, in one of his fits, punched another who was “quietly waiting in line outside her classroom” (Dwyer 1997). Another sets a trash on fire. As said by the security specialist, when he was prohibited to use the usual disciplinary procedure: “Those kids get away with murder” (Dwyer 1997).

According to Dwyer (1997), “there is nothing in IDEA which restricts schools from disciplining students with disabilities. In fact, some would say that by not addressing these dangerous behaviors the student with special needs is not receiving an “appropriate” education. Both of these children may need specialized services to change the disruptive and dangerous behavior to make sure whatever discipline is used works in preventing a reoccurrence of that behavior. ” In an attempt to increase the positive and decrease the negative behaviors, Dwyer provides practical concepts in giving discipline among children with disabilities.

One concept in which the school may assert positive behavioral response is establishing a code of conduct that includes consequences for violations which “substantially disrupts the rights of others to be physically safe and to be educated” (Dwyer 1997). Dwyer suggested that children with disabilities need assistance and instructions to master appropriate behavior, which basically mean that they need special attention in demonstrating socially appropriate behaviors.

He suggested the involvement of parents in teaching the code of discipline to children with disabilities. He also suggested to incorporate the code of discipline in the disabled child’s IEP (Individualized Educational Program). He held that “IEPs are designed to address both traditional academic needs and in ‘meeting each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability’” (Dwyer 1997). He also said the law provides that schools shall consider “strategies, including positive behavioral interventions” (Dwyer 1997).

An example includes that for a child with attention deficit disorder, the IEP goals must include support and specialized help in increasing attention and sustained effort, probably by rewarding the child’s effort for being attentive. For a child who cannot speak clearly or communicate feelings, alternative methods for communicating and for coping with frustration must be applied “before the disruptive behavior becomes routine and results in disciplinary action which may only increase the disruptive behavior” (Dwyer 1997). Dwyer held that some of these concepts may also be applied to other “troubling students.”

He held that it is the “school’s responsibility to maintain a safe environment conducive to learning” and that any behavior “which block learning and the success of educational program should be addressed”(Dwyer 1997). It is imperative that school officials find a way to address the behavioral needs of children with disabilities, but, as already mentioned, parents also have the responsibility to partake, of which, in the first place, they should have been the one to initiate. “School and parents should work cooperatively to change the pattern of negative behavior,” Dwyer (1997) said.

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