Process of Curriculum Planning for  Learners with Special Needs.

Process of Curriculum Planning for  Learners with Special Needs.
Process of Curriculum Planning for  Learners with Special Needs.

Process of Curriculum Planning for  Learners with Special Needs.

Process of Curriculum Planning for  Learners with Special Needs.


Curriculum is defined as an interrelated set of plans and experiences that a student completes under the guidance of the school (Marsh, 2009). Therefore it includes goals and objectives, curriculum content like subject matter, teaching methods and learning materials.

Contemporary curriculum content for learners with special needs is characterized by its focus on functional skills that can be used in immediate and future domestic, vocational, community and recreation and leisure environment (Heward, 2006).

Therefore, educational programs are future oriented in their efforts to teach skills that will enable learners with special needs to participate in integrated settings, are meaningfully and independently as possible after they leave school.

Functional skills; are wide range of all skills needed by children with disabilities to be able to function well in everyday life. Such skills enable an individual to live independent life (Shulman, 2010).

Skills to be developed depend upon individual needs with a particular impairment and environment upon which influences the individual. Such skills includes, motor skills and mobility, self care skills, and social and emotional adjustment.

Curriculum planning refers to the decision making processes about the content and the organization of learning for which the school is responsible (Kirk, 2000). Therefore different groups of people decide on the variety of topics and issues concerned with the education needs of pupils.

Purpose of curriculum planning process

According to Turnbull et al., (2007), appropriate outcomes for learners with special needs from curriculum planning process are:-
Equality of opportunity; people with special needs will have the same chance and opportunity in life as people without disabilities, example in employment, schooling and political issues.

Full participation; people with special needs have opportunity to be included in all aspect of their community and will be protected from any attempts of segregating them solely on the basis of their disability, example funeral ceremonies, wedding, and participate in societal meeting.

Independent living; people with special needs will have the opportunity of full participation in decision making and to express autonomy in making choice about how to live their life. It consist of the task and functions person perform in accordance with their abilities in order to lead lives as independently or possible. Independent living skills include personal hygiene, food preparation, money management, time monitoring and organization.

Economic self; sufficient people with special needs will be provided with opportunity to engage fully in income producing work or unpaid work that contribute to a house-hold or community.

Things to consider in the process of curriculum planning

According to Turnbull et al., (2007), Curriculum planning for functional living skills for learners with special needs should consider Individualized Education Program (IEP). Individualized Education Program should be effective on considering the following steps:-

  • Evaluation of strength and weakness of an individual.
  • Determination of the nature of specially designed instruction and services.
  • Consult with other specialist like special educators, counselors and therapists.
  • Communicate with parents of learners with disabilities.
  • Designing an appropriate individualized educational program.

Functional skills to the visual impaired learners

Literacy skills; all learners need to be provided with an opportunity to be as literate as they are capable. Current legislation and research indicate that teachers must teach every learner to read, beginning reading instruction continues to be necessary for older learners with developmental disabilities.

The “no child left behind act”, clearly states that all learners must receive this instruction throughout their academic careers (Scocsan and Sjostedt, 2008).
Assistive technology skill; Access for information in real time is a key issue for learners with visual impairment.

High and low technology strategies may be critical for learners to access the general curriculum and enhance communication example key boarding instruction, Note takers, word processing and shortcuts (Scocsan and Sjostedt, 2008). Thus learners with visual impairment should be trained to use different assistive technology which will assist them for communication, using tape recorder to take sounds from teachers and use brail machine.

Orientation and mobility skills; this is the ability to master the path or traveling area and general environment which a learners with visual impairment live. Teachers who have been specifically prepared to teach orientation and mobility to blind and visually impaired learners are necessary in the delivery of this curriculum (Jacobson, 1993).

Learners will need to learn about themselves and the environment in which they move from one area to another. Curriculum must include emphasis on the fundamental need and bane right to visually impaired person to travel as independently or possible enjoying and learning from the environment through which they are passing.

Example, walking with white cane, dog guide and human guide and electronic travel aids.
Social interactions skills; are not learned casually and incidentally as blind and visually impaired individuals as they are sighted persons (Smith and Luckasson, 1995).

So social skills must be carefully consciously and sequentially taught to blind and visually impaired person learner and sequentially taught to blind and visually impaired learner, for example, engaging them in group discussion, and creation of peer groups.

Sensory efficient skills; includes instruction in the use of residual vision, hearing and the other senses (Scocsan and Sjostedt, 2008). Therefore, learning how to use optical devices, augmentative communication devices and learning how to integrate all remaining senses to counter the impact of any missing or impaired senses.

For example learning how to use tactual and olfactory input rather than visual cues to identify ones personal possession or using hearing and other senses to identify people one knows without visual cues.

Self determination; includes decision making, self advocacy and individual responsibility. These skills lead to competence. Self determination should be included in curriculum planning so as to enable visually impaired learners to be competence (Scocsan and Sjostedt, 2008).

Recreation and leisure skills; Learners with visual impairment or low vision need to be exposed to recreation and leisure activities (Scocsan and Sjostedt, 2008). Then, learners should be made aware of modification needed to make an activity accessible. Visually impaired learners must be taught how to perform leisure skills that most learners learn through observation.

Functional skills for learners with speech impairment

Language skills; A learner with speech impairment have a problem in expressing his or her ideas, and other needs for other people to understand (Shulman and Capone, 2010).Therefore they need functional skills such as brainstorming activities before writing, Provision of graphic organizers that prompt the learner in specific areas before writing, tape recorder to record their ideas before writing them down or speaking, and allowing them to use a thesaurus to find words to write or say.

Fluency skills; Speech impaired learners normally get disrupted by sounds syllables and words that are repeatedly and sometimes speech with silent blocks (VanPatten and Benati, 2010). Learners with fluency problems need to be taught functional skills like rereading the same text multiple times, pairing good and poor readers for activities, allowing them to use books written slightly below their reading level, and supports for poor word reading or reading comprehension, if appropriate.

Voice skills; this is abnormal quality of speech including pitch and loudness (Shulman and Capone, 2010). Functional skills to be provided to the learner with this problem are such as seating close to the speaker, listening skills and omitting cross words.

Articulation skills; this refers to the production of sounds incorrectly for example, lips, difficulty articulating certain sounds, such as “l” or “r”. The learners may be given functional skills like video tape-recorded versions of material, videotape or movie that presents the same information, assistive technology to transfer printed words to speech, a reading buddy read aloud textbooks or other printed material, opportunities for several re-readings of the same text (VanPatten and Benati, 2010). Therefore they need to be given a support in reducing the amount of required reading, the complexity, glossary of content-related terms and extra time.

Functional skills for Learners with hearing impairments

Communication skills; according to Turnbull et al., (2007), the communication skills include the following;

  • Bilingual/bicultural education programs; is the development of learner’s competence in two languages. It can be sign language and spoken language, and two culture; deaf culture and culture of learners with hearing parents. Bilingual/Bicultural promotes equality of opportunity regardless of language disability or gender.
  •  Oral/aural methods; involves the use of speech, speech reading and auditory skills for communication. Speech-language pathologist must be involved.
  • Total communication; involves the uses of speech and sign language simultaneously
  • Provision of supplementary aids and services; managing the listening environment/ acoustics with loop system, assistive technology like televisions, movies or video tape and internet. Also uses of hearing aids and cochlea implants.
  • When these practiced are used effectively, they may adjust difficulties in communication skills to the hearing impaired learners.

Integrate vocabulary development; It occurs by showing that words are part of related concepts. In integrated approach vocabulary development, word appear on charts, bulletin boards, and object in the room (Turnbull et al., 2007).

Therefore, it creates opportunities for self expression. It is a large part of learners learning process involves practicing their verbal skills and to define ideas. Also it allows the learners to convert the information into another form and then express it.

Teach about deaf studies; the subject matter of deaf learners should include the basics for interacting with people with hearing loss, sensitivity activities, sign language, deaf social interaction norms, deaf history and organization, Deaf literature and arts, and Deaf values (Turnbull et al., 2007).

Also it is advised to provide deaf role models. Learners with hearing loss should have the opportunity to meet and interact with deaf adults. A role model can be positive example of adult behavior and show the learner with hearing loss visualize their capabilities to create future goals. These may increase the chance for deaf to live independent.

Functional skills for learners with Cognitive disability

Gross motor and fine motor; gross motor using large group of muscles to sit, stand, walk, run while fine motor using hands to be able to eat, draw write. Hop is walking with one leg and creeping (Cronin et al., 2005). These help learner to improve his or her living to live an independent life.

Language; able to train how to facilitate development of expressive and receptive language as well as non-linguistic cues, examples are gestures, facial expression and others (Heward, 2006).

So the curriculum should be created to have functional communication situation that best support learner’s individual speech and language needs. Since language is used for communication that is sending and receiving of information then communication is a fundamental part of the human experience.

Social skills; interacting with others having relationship with family friends and teachers, cooperating with others. Interaction can be done through gaming, sports like playing football, basketball, athletic, shopping and singing (Heward, 2006). Therefore, functional skills increase the child’s ability to interact with people and object in his or her daily environment and may have to be performed by someone else if the child cannot do it.

Cognitive; Learning, understanding, problem solving, reasoning, remembering and responding to the feelings of others. Learning activities in a functional curriculum are chosen because they will maximize a learner independence, self direction and enjoyment in everyday school, home, community and work environment.

Choosing functional academic targets is not simple since learners skills vary from one another (Cronin et al., 2005). Therefore carefully assessment of each learner current routines must be considered to find those skills that are required and or could be used often skills that are likely to be required by future environment should be considered.

Life skills; Integrating life skills into curriculum. As learner with cognitive disability reach middle and secondary school the emphasis on learning functional skills will help them to transition to adult life (Heward, 2006).

Functional living skills for learners with physical disabilities

Physical disabilities is a condition that interferes with the individual`s ability to use his or her body (Kirk et al., 2000). Physical disabilities are difficulties associated with sitting, standing, getting into position, moving, communicating, using and manipulating classroom tools and materials and self-care. Therefore unique needs for children with physical disabilities demand expansion of the traditional school curriculum into three areas.

Motor skills and mobility; These are critical area of skills development for learners with physical disability. They are necessary to maintain upright posture like sit and stand, perform functional movement like reach and grasp, and move around in the environment.

The program priorities for motor skill development should include developing functional movement and posture that are needed to perform classroom and school activities (Kirk et al., 2000). Physical and occupational therapist assume the primary responsibilities for setting goals in motor development and mobility.

They must work closely with teachers, others professionals, and should become familiar with the basic working components of mobility equipped like wheel chairs, braces, crutches, walked and report needed repair or adjustments to the Child`s therapist.

Self care skills; This is a critical area for children with physical disabilities. Self determination and independence training are very important for these children as well. Self skills include eating, toileting, dressing, bathing and grooming.

Learners with severe physical involvement may require physical assistance in eating or may have to be fed. Some children need assistive device or physical help to perform many of these tasks (Kirk et al., 2000). Example utensils with built-up or larger handless, special plates and cups, or nonskid mats to stabilize the child`s plate.

Toileting skills include performing transfers from the wheel chair to the toilet or assisting other in accomplishing transfers. Child who lack sitting ability and trunk control need an adapted toilet seat which provides a more stable sitting surface or back support with straps to help them maintain an upright position. Hand held utensils and other aids can make toileting more convenient for learner.

Social and emotional adjustment; children with physical disabilities sometimes feel that they are powerless. Withdraw and aggressions are normal stages in the process. They need support and help in accepting and adjusting to their disability condition. They have lower sense of self worth, greater anxiety and a less integrated view of self than children without handicap (Kirk et al., 2000).

Therefore it is believed that, people with physical disability tend to accept their condition if environment is conducive and support their condition. When they achieve sense of control over their disability and when they begin to develop new competence.

Functional skills for learners with severe and multiple disabilities

Multiple disabilities refer to concomitant impairment (such as mental retardation- blindness, mental retardation- orthopedic impairment, deafblindness) the combination of which causes such severe educational problem that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairment (Heward, 2006).

Functionality skills; are immediate useful to learners, frequently required in school and non school environment result in less dependence on others and allow the learner to participate in less restrictive environment (Heward, 2006). Example of functionality skills include activities such as learning to dress oneself, prepare a snack, purchase item and recognize common sight words in community setting.

Age appropriateness skills; Learner with severe disabilities should participate in activities that are appropriate for some age peers without disabilities. Adolescent with severe disabilities should not use the same materials as young non disabled children (Heward, 2006).

It is more appropriate to teach recreation and leisure skills such as to engage bowling. It is important to build an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for learner with severe disabilities around functional and age appropriate skills.

Making choices; In the past, learner with severe disabilities had few opportunities to express preference and make choices; the emphasis was on establishing instructional control over learners. Traditionally, person with severe disabilities were simply caused for and taught to be compliant. Special educators are recognizing the importance of choice as a way of marking activities meaningful and as an indicator of quality of life for learner with severe disabilities (Heward, 2006).

Therefore increasing efforts are being made to help these learners to express their preferences and make decision about matters that will affect them. For example, a child might be presented with pictures of two activities and asked to point to the one she would rather engage in.

Communication skills; Many learners with severe disabilities are able to learn to understand and produce spoken language. But because of sensory, motor, cognitive or behavioral limitations, some learners with severe disabilities may not learn to speak intelligibly even after extensive instruction (Heward, 2006).

Many system of augmentative and alternative communication have proven useful including gestures, various sign language system, pictorial communication boards, symbol systems, and electronic communication aids.

Examples are explained below;
Picture exchange communication system (PECS); used by children with autism and severe developmental disabilities with PECS, children learn to communicate with other by selecting and showing cards with pictures and symbols representing their wishes.

The use of dual communication boards can help learners who are deaf-blind discriminate the receptive or expressive functions of responses from a partner.

When a communication partner points for pictures or symbol on her board a receptive message is provided to the learner requiring responses from the learners on his board and provides initiative prompt or corrective feedback to help the learner make expressive message.

The specialized form of communication used by individuals with severe disabilities, they do enable them to receive and express basic information, feeling needs and wants.

Sign language and other communication system also can be learned by a learners, teachers, peers, parents and employers thus encouraging use outside the classroom. After learning to communicate through PECS, sign language communication boards or other strategies, some learners are able to acquire speech skills.

Recreational and Leisure skills; children with severe disabilities cannot learn appropriate and satisfying recreational skills unless they are especially taught. Teaching appropriate leisure and recreational skills help individual with severe disabilities interact socially, maintain their physical skills and become more involved in community activities.

People with severe disabilities do not use their unstructured time appropriately rather than participate in enjoyable pursuits, they may spend excessive time sitting, wandering or looking at television (Heward, 2006).


Generally when teaching learners with special needs or a class having learners with special needs, as a teacher, you should increase the understanding of the disabilities condition, emphasizing the equality of life, increasing sense of control, apply physical education, and use assistive device for communication, movement like wheel chairs and stretcher so as to improve their functional living skills .

Process of Curriculum Planning for  Learners with Special Needs.
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