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Special educators for special needs students

LAU’s Department of Education launches a new postgraduate diploma in learning disabilities and giftedness.

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LAU educators favor inclusionary approaches over those that segregate disabled or gifted students from their peers.

LAU’s Department of Education has for ten years offered a specialization in education for the learning disabled in its master’s program. A new program introduced this year sees specialized courses in learning disabilities taught alongside courses in giftedness as part of a recently launched postgraduate diploma.

“An increase in the number of graduates with a diploma in special needs education is essential to tackle the large number of unqualified teachers working in the field, and to meeting future demand,” says special education consultant Reem Mouawad who runs the Step Together Association, a school and community for special needs individuals.

While a few such institutions have been established in Lebanon, the majority of special needs students attend regular schools, an increasing number of which now have special education departments. Therefore, it is important to ensure the availability of trained educators who can identify such students and offer them the tailored assistance they need.

“Special education is still part of the Ministry of Social Affairs and not the Ministry of Education,” explains Mouawad. “Reform is urgently needed. In the meantime teachers and parents have become more inquisitive and aware of the challenges students face in the classroom.”

As such the most important goal of the diploma, adds Mouawad, is empowering teachers with strategies and methods to enable them to meet the needs of students with learning disabilities.

While Mouawad delivers the courses specific to learning disabilities, Associate Professor of Psychology and Education Ketty Sarouphim has developed new courses in her specialized area of giftedness.

Although the course material covers a range of theories and philosophies pertaining to special education, both educators favor inclusionary approaches over those that see learning disabled or gifted students segregated from their peers.

“Up until the 1970s, segregation was the key for special student populations, but since then the entire field has changed and people began talking about mainstreaming,” explains Sarouphim, a fan of Joseph Renzulli’s work in the field.

Renzulli, a professor at the University of Connecticut, developed the concept of school-wide enrichment, which involves treating every child as though they were gifted and incorporates enriched activities throughout the curriculum. “If you’re a gifted student, it’s very good for you, and if you’re not, you still benefit,” says Sarouphim, who this week gave an introductory talk on the subject to twenty-four visiting teachers from schools across the country.

In the absence of a holistic approach, Sarouphim advocates the pull-out program. Pulling children out of class only during those subjects in which they need tailored teaching enables them to develop and spend the majority of their time alongside their peers. “It is also good for them emotionally. Regardless of their cognitive ability, children are still children,” adds Sarouphim.

 

To learn more about the postgraduate diploma in learning disabilities and giftedness visit the program webpage.


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