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MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER: So an intellectual disability,or intellectual disability, refersto a state of functioning, specifically,that is measured by significantlysub-average general intellectual functioning.So lower intellectual functioning, typically,is measured by IQ test, by significantly sub-averageperformance on adaptive behavior measures,and which occurs in the developmental period.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And the developmental period is, in most cases,through the age of 18.So children, and youth, with intellectual disabilitytypically have some impairment, or condition,that results in impaired cognition,and lower intelligence, less effective performancearound adaptive behavior, and such.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And, historically, it was-- the term usedwas mental retardation.And that maybe how more people are familiar with it.But over the last decade, the termhas changed to intellectual disability,but that movement, that shift, reflectsmore than just a change in terminology.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Over the past 20 years, historically,issues of intellectual disabilityhave been associated with a medical model whereintellectual disability was seen along with other chronic healthconditions as an extension of the medical model.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And many of the conditions that resultin intellectual disability, Down,Syndrome Fragile X Syndrome, genetic or environmental causesfor intellectual impairment, have a medical basis.And over the history of time, with regard reallysince the mid 1800s, standard practiceshave sort of focused on segregating peoplewith intellectual disability.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Institutions were formed around a medical model,and people with intellectual disabilitywere viewed as patients.In the mid 1900s, there began to be an emergence of rights,a civil rights kind of focus, parents and familymembers wanting their son or daughter to have education.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: As children and adults with intellectual disabilitybecame able to function in schools, as theyacquired jobs, and were living in the community,these deficits models became less helpful.So over the past 20 years, there'sbeen a movement toward re-conceptualizinghow disability, and intellectual disability, is understood.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Instead of being a function of a medical model, or a deficitsfocus, intellectual disability isunderstood as really the gap between a person's capacities,as what is their strengths, what can the person do,and the demands of the context, whether it's school, work,home, whatever, the community that that person must exist in.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And disability resides in the gap between personal capacityand the demands of the environment.And anything you can do that enhances personal capacity,but also modifies or changes the environment to reduce that gap,makes disability not completely irrelevant, but, by and large,if you're successfully functioning in a context.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So in schools, for example, we do a lot of workwith young people looking at issues of universal designfor learning.And how can we modify the context,in this case the curriculum, so that students who can't readcan have access to the content.And, of course, through digital text, and visual, and audio,and other kinds of modifications,students with intellectual disabilitycan gain greater access.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So intellectual disability-- back to the point--intellectual disability is really a statea functioning that results when the mismatchbetween personal capacity and what a young person can do,and the demands of the environment, are disparate.And most of our focus in education, and in adult realmto rehabilitation and employment supports focuson modifying the environment, changing the context,and also providing additional enhancement capacity.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Fundamentally, intellectual disabilityis a form of a developmental disability.Lifelong, it's something that the young personwill live with his or her entire life.And in general, people with intellectual disabilitydiffer from students with learning disabilitiesbecause a learning disability tendsto be sort of content, or area specific,in terms of the person's ability to read, or to write.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Whereas in intellectual disability,the level of cognitive impairmentresults in global impairment.So students with intellectual disabilityhave difficulty across topics, and not justa particular topic.Now that said, people with intellectual disability,like all human beings, have strengths.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And so there are some people with intellectual disabilitywho require fewer supports in certain content areas.But, by and large, the primary distinctionis this sort of global impairmentversus content, or area specific.The fact of the matter is though thathaving intellectual disability, and previouslythe term mental retardation, carriesa great deal of stigma associated with itin our society for a variety of reasons.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And when the learning disability categorywas introduced a lot of students who had previouslybeen identified as having, quote,"mild mental retardation," at the time.So this would be young people with intellectual disabilitywith limited support needs-- they'reable to function more successfully, typicallyhigher end of IQ, in terms of the range--sort of became subsumed under that general umbrella.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So sometimes, particularly for studentswith less severe intellectual impairment,the line is pretty blurred in terms of that.But again, the performance on an IQ test, at least historically,students with learning disabilitieshad to have average, or above average,scores on intelligence testing, whereas to qualifyunder the categorical area of intellectual disability youhave to have two standard deviations below the mean.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So an IQ of, in general, 70 or below to qualify.Again, those lines get blurred and with RTI,and other innovations, even the field of learning disabilityis moving away from that sort of historic discrepancymodel of evaluating students with learning disabilities.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Well there's only one form of intellectual disability.You either have intellectual disability, or you don't.And that's, again, that issue of intellectual disabilityis a social construct in that it's measuredand it becomes obvious, or observable,in terms of functioning.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So if you're not functioning successfulin environments, and in context, than thatmight be because of lower intelligence and capacity.So we have levels of impairment in the contextof intellectual disability.And the terminology there is shifting.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Historically, we've talked about peoplewith mild, moderate, severe, and profoundintellectual disability.And those are typically categorized as, basically,standard deviations away from the mean with 70 to 55being mild, and then stair-steps downfor moderate, severe, profound.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Those are not all that helpful, in many ways.You can line 10 people up with a 55 IQand you have, really, 10 different peoplewho have very different support needs.So IQ is not a really good indicatorfor what kinds of instruction and supportsa person will need, and how you'regoing to need to modify the environment,and what kinds of strengths a person has.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And, obviously, all of that is thencomplicated by behavioral issues or medical challenges.So we're moving more toward what'scalled a supports model, or supports paradigm,where what we're looking at, and what we're measuring,is not so much personal deficit, or personal incompetence.And if you don't do well on an IQ testit's a measure of personal incompetence, basically,which is how you qualify mostly for serviceslike special education and other vocational rehab as adults.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: But we're moving toward measuring the supportneeds of people so that we're looking at type, intensity,and duration of supports that are neededfor people to be successful.So does a person need high levels of supportto be successful in a work environment,or in a school environment, or across environments.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So we've moved away from measuring--and that then provides a much more direct routeto trying to determine what kinds of interventionsyou introduce to enhance capacityand to change the environment.Again, IQ is a proxy indicator.Certainly, somebody with a very low IQ,you're going to assume they have a lot of support needs.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: But for any individual, and any person,it may vary from another person with exactly the same IQ.So we've moved to a supports model.And so we're no longer really talkingabout mild, moderate, severe or profound mental retardation,or intellectual disability.But what we're talking about are levels of support needs.So we talk about people with intensive and extensive supportneeds as being folks with the most significant cognitiveimpairment and needing the highestlevel in intensity of supports.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So people with intellectual disabilitydo vary in their intellectual functioning and the types,intensity, and duration of supports that they need.In schools that will vary in termsof the type of interventions.And for some students with intellectual disabilityyou need much more focus on historically functional skillsindependent living, self care, kinds of skills.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: More and more, though, with the adventof demands within the Individuals with DisabilitiesEducation Act, to promote access to the general curriculumfor all students, we're looking at how do wecreate instructional materials through universal designfor learning, and ways of teaching,differentiated instruction, and other things,that allow students to learn core content areas,to focus on math, science, and reading.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So it used to be that if you had moderate intellectualdisability it was presumed that you couldn't learn to read,and those are no longer good presumptions.So level of impairment is one wayto look at types of intellectual disability,although it's still intellectual disability.And then you have a myriad, literally thousands,of disorders, and conditions, and circumstancesthat can result in the kind of cognitive impairment damageto the central nervous system thatresults in impaired cognition.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And so classically the two most prevalent Down Syndrome,so that's a chromosomal abnormality thatresults, typically, in intellectual impairment.Although for people with Down Syndromethey vary a great deal in the degree to whichtheir intellectual capacities are there.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Fragile X Syndrome is another very common causeof intellectual impairment.In that case, most students with Fragile X Syndromehave mild levels of cognitive impairment,or less extensive support needs.There are a myriad of other conditions,really far too many to talk about Williams Syndrome,and Rett Syndrome, and they each have often sort of result in,for example, Rett Syndrome affectsgirls and young women and results, typically,in severe intellectual impairment.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So and then, of course, there areenvironmental and other factors thatresult in intellectual impairment.We know things like exposure to lead and mercury resultsin intellectual impairment.So none of those in and of themselvesare intellectual disability.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Those are medical conditions thatresult in this state of functioningthat we call intellectual disability.The condition, or the state of functioning that we nowcall intellectual disability has a long historyin terms of efforts to intervene and to support.The earliest such efforts were in Europe in the late 1700s.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Prior to that there was very little effortto educate or to habilitate peoplewith intellectual disability.They were seen, people with intellectual disability,were seen as being uneducatable, basically.In the US, it was really the mid 1800s,where the first efforts to educate peoplewho were then called feeble-minded.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And, even that was folks who had limited support needs.And then, historically, we built a system in the US,and around the world, that focused on institutionalizationand congregating people together whohad intellectual disability.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: The larger those systems grew, the morethey became last normalized and often very stigmatizing.And so, in the early part of the 20th century, the 1910sand the 1920s, an era in America thatwas dominated by eugenic thought peoplewith intellectual disability wereviewed as part of societal problem.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: They were seen as propagating inferior genetic structures,being menaces to society, those wereterms that were frequently used.And so we went from creating institutionsthat were designed to, in some way,educate or rehabilitate people with intellectual disabilityto creating institutions that were intendedto isolate, and to segregate, and keep people awayfrom society.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And included, in 1927, the United States Supreme Courtpassed a ruling that was titled Buck versus Bell ruledthat involuntary sterilization of some people,including people with intellectual disability,was constitutional.And so over a period between really the early 1900sand the 1970s it's estimated that between 50,000 and 70,000people with intellectual disabilitywere sterilized against their will,and often without their knowledge.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And so we moved into the 1950s, the post World War II era,and families began to reject this notion of sendingtheir son or daughter to the institution.And so they began to fight for community inclusion.The Kennedy administration was a proponentof community inclusion because of their family history.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: One of the Kennedy siblings, Rosemary,had intellectual disability.And so there was an explosion of resources and focuson community based activity.So more and more people with intellectual disabilityeventually began gaining access to education in the mid '70s,and the institutions began to close.There are now something like 20 states thatdon't have institutions for peoplewith intellectual disability.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And it's likely that model has run its course completely.So more and more people are in the context of community.And the stigmatizing notion, and the stigmaassociated with intellectual disability,has diminished as more and more people get to know somebodywith intellectual disability.And yet, in general, the public is still notknowledgeable about intellectual disability.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: There's fear associated with, howdo I interact with someone with intellectual disability?And then there often is ridicule associated with that.And so one of the campaigns that's currently going onis the notion of doing away with the R word, or retarded,and using retarded as an adjective.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And yet, you hear it all the time.And it's associated with fact that people with intellectualdisability often cannot do the same things that their peerswithout intellectual disability.And if you look at, historically,for example, terms like idiot, imbecile, and moron, whichare now all sort of in the common languageas terms of sort of gentle humiliationaround not being very smart, thosewere all at one point in time actual clinical termsto describe a certain population of peoplewith intellectual disabilities.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So in the early 1900s, the clinical termfor severe intellectual disability was idiot.Imbecile was moderate.And moron was mild intellectual disability.So these terms become part of the vernacularabout making fun of people, really.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Again, I think we're a of more enlightened society.I'd like to think than we were 20 years ago, or 30 years ago.The more interaction you have someonewith intellectual disability, the moreyou begin to understand that mostly they'relike everyone else.They have capacities.They have worth and value.But until you have those kind of personal interactionsthe stereotypes remain.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: There was a story that was in the,I can't remember whether it was the '70s or the '80s,the hockey player, Wayne Gretzky,a giant in the field of hockey was dating,the woman he was dating, had a brother with Down Syndrome.And so he did a community service kind of adthat basically it was he and this young man, the young manwith Down Syndrome's name was Joey.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And he talked about people like Joeybeing able to work real jobs, and if you give them a chance,and it was a public spot that was supposed to raise awarenessof intellectual disability, and to show,any time you associate anyone with somebodylike Wayne Gretzky in Canada, particularly, you'regoing to raise their social capital.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: But one of the effects of that, itwas very widely disseminated, and the term Joeybecame to be used to refer to people with Down Syndromespecifically, and became a derogatory term.So one of the reasons that we focusa lot of moving away-- so as longas the notion of intellectual disabilityis associated with deficits, and with what people can't do,then there's going to be, unavoidably, there'sgoing to be stigma associated with that.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And so that's why we've tried to move awayfrom those reliances on medical models and deficitsto look at strengths based models where we're focusedon what is it that the person can do?What is the strengths that that person brings to a context?What are the demands of the context?And how can we modify the context,whether it's the curriculum, whether it's a job, whateverelse, so that people could be successful?
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And we actually have a lot of tools to do that.It's just that we haven't taken those next stepsthat those kinds of things are widely disseminated.And, unfortunately, it remains the realitybut that in both public and in public schoolsintellectual disability is seen as a deficit,and seen only through the lens of deficit and defectiveness,and not strengths.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: But a lot of our work has moved into the realmof positive psychology, looking at strengths based things.Our own work is in an area around promoting, enhancing,the self determination not only of children and youthwith intellectual development disabilities,but children with disabilities, youth with disabilities,and, in fact, all young people.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And being self determined fundamentallyjust means making something happen in your life,causing things to happen in your life.It comes from a root of determinism.Determinism is the philosophical doctrinethat all things are caused in some way, shape, or form.So self determination, or self determinism, talks about selfcaused action versus other caused.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And for a lot of people with disabilitiesother people do things for them, or to them.They make decisions for them.They schedule every aspect of their lives.The systems that provide supportsare very dependency creating.School's can be too dependency creating.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And so our work has been in enhancing students' capacitiesto act volitionally, to set and achieve goals,to solve problems, to engage in self advocacy activities--to stand up for yourself-- self knowledge, self awareness, selfregulation activities so that you self manage your own,self govern your own, behavior.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And every young person can become more self determined.Even if you have quite severe cognitive impairmentwe can enhance your capacity to make choices,to express preferences.We can teach skills that enable you to self regulate more.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And we've shown, through randomized trial design'sresearch that young people across disability categories,including young people with intellectual developmentdisabilities who are more self determined, first of allin the context of schools, they'remore likely to achieve educational and transitionrelated goals.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And secondly, in terms of post school outcomes,they're more likely to achieve greater employmentand independent living outcomes.So there's been quite a lot of workin the area of self determination over the last 20years.And we have a fairly substantial knowledge base.And it happens that that's one of the major areasin this broader field of positive psychology.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So our work has began to look at issues around characterstrengths, and hope, and optimism,and constructs that typically have notbeen associated with disability.If you do it is a defect and a deficit,you're not thinking about issues of hope, or optimism,or happiness, or self determinationand these kinds of things.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So, I think, as a field we're moving to the strengths basedmodels to think about interventions that supportpeople and how can we, again, modify the contextso that people can be successful.Again, technology is going to have huge role in that.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Anyone who uses a smartphone knowsthat the GPS data that allows you to figure outwhere you are every time you're in a foreign city,or a different city, or how to get from one place to another.You don't need to know how to read a map anymore.You need to be able to plug a few numbers into a GPS device.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And they're going to be more and more things like thatthat are around the curriculum.But as an example of how things are reallydramatically changing, a couple examples,25 years ago if you wanted to be a cashier in a grocery storeyou actually had to have fairly good rudimentary mathskills, right?You had to be able to add and subtractand to be able to make change and do all these things.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And if you had a cognitive impairment and thatwas difficult, that was something you were probablynot going to be a very good job for you.In this day and age, you have to beable to scan a bar code over a scanner,and depending on how the cash register quote,"computer" is set up, it can make the change for you.It can tell you what to do.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So nothing about personal capacityhas changed in that time.What has changed completely is the context.And now that is a viable job for somebodywho has an intellectual impairment.Looking forward to 20, 25 years, oneof the largest barriers to successful employmentand generally better quality of life and other outcomesfor people with intellectual and development disabilityhas been transportation.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Unless you live in an urban hub and haveaccess to lots of publicly supported transportation,it's very difficult to get to jobs consistently.In a lot of places in America, particularly rural America,there's nothing available.Well we are heading into an era wherewe will have cars that drive themselves.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And, quite realistically, 20 years from now,it won't matter what skills you have.Nothing about that skill set willhave changed except you will be able to use a carto get where you need to go when you couldn'thave done it 20 years ago.So there's just lots of things around technologythat is changing that will enable peopleto be successful in typical environments, typical contexts.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Technology, as I said, has and will play an important role.We have in the field of disability,historically, talked about assistive technology.And these were devices, typically,that were developed to help somebody,or to support somebody, who had a particular impairment.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: If you couldn't speak verbally, an augmentative,or alternative, communication device enabled you,gave you a voice, really.Just as, if you can't walk independentlya wheelchair provides that means to access.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And so, the difficulty as we talk about universal designfor learning, it's the applicationof principles of universal designto the educational context.But, of course, universal design and the principlesaround universal design emerged, first of all in architecture.How do we design buildings that enableall people to have access?
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So ramps.And not just go back and retrofit.Universal design is about the design of buildings,and built environments, such that all people can gain accessto that, playgrounds, as well.How do you build playgrounds so that a child whouses a wheelchair can play on that playground?
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So then the next level was applying these principlesof universal design to technology.Technology had been developed that could benefita wide array of people and students with disability.Yet in many cases, it wasn't usable by those people,because of features of the technology.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So universal design as applied to technologybegan to look at how do we develop communication devices,mobility devices, devices that are intendedto help if you have a sensory impairment?How do we design those in ways that everyone could benefit?And then, as an aside, we take that to universal designfor learning, it's how do we design curriculum and materialso that all students can have access to it?
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So a lot of our work has been, and work in the field,is how can we take existing off the shelf technologiesand use them either for the purposesthat we have historically used them for, say a communicationdevice?Instead of building a separate machine,how can you use an iPad to enable somebody to communicate?
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So now there are a number of appsthat have become more and more sophisticated.They're still not quite as up to the levelof the synthesized voice types of com devices,but they're getting there.And how can we use the functions of a cell phoneto enable somebody to be successful in any context?
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So I'll give you an example.This was a prototype in Boulder, Colorado, the bus system.So one of the difficulties of riding a bus, even in a city,or an urban area that has a lot of bus transport,is it can be very confusing.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: You may be waiting at a bus stop,but if you're an elderly person with say dementia,or you're a person with intellectual disability,there maybe three or four buses come bybefore the one you're supposed to get on comes by.So you've got to know which one you're supposed to get on.Well that usually means looking at a fairly complicated tableof routes and numbering systems and everything.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: I think it's confusing for most peopleif they're in a city where they don't know the systemto figure it out.But if you have intellectual disabilityor you have a developmental disability,like autism, it can result in you getting on the wrong bus,getting completely lost, and oftento very, very tragic outcomes.But there's a lot of technology supports in placethat can deal with that.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So this prototype system in Boulder,there was a city-wide local area network,so there were a couple of computersand a couple of people that worked those computers,each bus in this prototype systemwas equipped with capacity to be in touch with that local areanetwork at all times.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Plus, each user who needed that kind of supporthad a handheld device, a smartphone, basically, thathad all the things that are on smartphones.It had GPS data.It had voice telemetry, so you can call.It had video recording capacity.And it communicated with both the bus driverand with the local area network.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And so at any point in time, if you're a bus driveryou know that you have somebody whois using one of these devices who'swaiting at a very specific space.So you're looking out for that person.You know they're there.The person using the device gets messages that say,this isn't your bus, don't get on this bus.Wait for another bus.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Don't get on.And then when it's the right bus,the device tells the person that thisis the bus you need to get on.So you've got a bus driver looking out.They're aware that these people are there.You've got users who are being supported by this technology.If anything goes wrong, if the bus gets missed or something,the person can be in immediate video and audiocontact with the folks at the local area networkback in the central source.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So that they can say, OK, show me where you are.So you could use your camera in your video phoneto show exactly where you are, exactly whatcorner you're standing on.And then that person can give you very specific directionsand say, do you see that tree over there?Go stand by that.And then we'll get that.So it's not 100% foolproof.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: But in a system like that, a personwith a disability, and particularlyan intellectual impairment, can accessa system that then enables them to go shopping,to go to the movies, to be able to go see friends,to be able to work, and do those things that require you to beout and about your communities with a veryhigh degree of safety involved.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And none of that-- that used to sortof sound like Star Wars, or Star Trek, kinds of things--all of that stuff is now just in your smartphone.There's nothing very spectacular about that.It's just using that kind of technology.So again, we have a long history of using assistive technologyto support people.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And I think we're moving into an erawhere a lot of what we had built devices forare going to be in existing smartphones,and tablet PCs, and computers, and the kindsof wearable technology is going to be--Google Glasses, the first start of this-- but wewe're going to have wearable technology.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Our automobiles will recognize us because the computersthat we wear.So many things in the environmentwill be able to recognize and to respond to you.One of the big important areas for peoplewith cognitive disabilities is the issuesaround cloud computing.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And there is a group out in Colorado,the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, thatreally pioneers a lot of this stuff.But right now if you have a cognitive impairment,the device you use has to be configuredso that you can successfully use it.If it's too complex, or the computers too complex,you have to use specially designed programs.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Hopefully, we'll get to a point where programs are universallydesigned, but until then you haveto kind of design these things.And so if you're not at that computerall your technology supports are gone.But as we move more and more thingsinto the Cloud what will happen isthat those personalized modifications for notonly people with intellectual disability, for all of us,what are our preferences, will bemoved into Cloud based deposits so that it won'tmatter what device you're using.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And again, there will be wearable devicesthat we won't even know about.But those personalisation will happen at that level.And so you'll have greater access to a broader community,and not just have to have a single device with you.So we're moving from an era of specially designed technologyto trying to harness the power of informationelectronic communication technologies,but to ensure that those don't go the way of the alarm clockso that they're designed to be so complex that the person whowould benefit from them can't use them.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Yes, there's a lot of applicationof this kind of electronic information technologythat will be in the classroom and bean important part of the classroom.And particularly in instruction, wetalked about universal design for learning and modifyingmaterials.If you're in a sixth grade language arts class,and you can't read, or you don't read well,then when the rest of the class isreading some of the standards from middle school languagearts classes, young adult novels, like, Bud not Buddy,and Road to Terabithia, and other things like that,you either have to have somebody reading it to you,or, most likely, you're involved in some other activity.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: But you can take, and commercial productshave now, take the text in those novels,in those young adult novels, convert themto a digital content, format them using XML,and other ways of marking up that language,and you create basically ebooks that enable a learner.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So first of all you have standard features such as youcan highlight a paragraph and it reads it aloud to you,so if you don't read well you can have parts of itread to you.You can hyperlink complex words, and a studentcan click on that word, and not only does that bring up, say,a written definition, but you can as easilylink that to a video where you can use video, or pictures,to help define what the word means.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: You can do a lot of things both in providing accessto that content but also to teach the reading skillsthat go along with that.So you can have prompts that enable,and various levels of things.Traditionally a question around comprehension, or prediction,let's say, prediction, you're predictingwhat might happen next in the story.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So traditionally that would be somethingthat a student would write out.The question would be, what will happen next?What will Johnny do next in the story?And then there'll be a written response.Well if you can't write, you can't do that, right?But, you could just as easily, and these kinds of programsallow you to record audio, that answers the same question,right?So if you can talk, and you can speak, you can record that.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Well, if that's too complicated, if you don't speak well,or you have difficulty understanding,you can then just say, provide three choicesand you say, which one of these would you think will happen?And then you can also provide prompting big ideas,and advanced organizers, the thingsthat have been used for a long time to have studentsget ideas about which one.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So you can build in these educational componentsaround reading as well as making sure the students are learningbecause young adult novels like that are notonly about learning to read.In fact, mostly the kids that are readingthem know how to read, it's about how do youlive in a society that has people of different ages,people of different backgrounds, race, ethnicity?
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: What does it mean to be a citizen?How do you deal with difficult circumstances?That's what you learn about when youread these kinds of young adult novels.And the most sophisticated of these e-readersare still emerging.They're not here yet.But they will be sort of web browsers on steroids.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And I've seen examples where you take a digital text,and you run it through one of these e-readers,and you can toggle, you can do thingslike, say, you're an English language learner,and English is not your first language,you can actually just as you would choosefrom a menu in a web browser, you can menuchoose between any number, it doesn't matter really,any number of languages.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So maybe you're having difficulty understandingwhat this particular paragraph says or means in English,you can toggle to Spanish, or French, or whatever you want.You can read it in that and then you go back to the English,it helps you understand that.You can just as easily have that voice out in that.But if you have a visual impairmentand you need to have a better contrast you can obviouslychange the size of the font, you can change the backgroundcolor, so that it's not just black letterson white background, but white letters on black background.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: If you have a hearing impairment and sound of speechdoesn't work, the more sophisticated of these devicesactually can take that digital textand convert it to a signing avatar.So that it's literally either two hands that you see,or you can have a full body avatar who's doing the signing.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Again, there's nothing very magic about it.It's a way that we markup text, and that we use text.And when you begin to look at how we can personalizeinstruction for students so that avatars can provide instructionthat look like students.And there's a lot of benefits to that in teaching skillsthat go beyond sort of standard content related skills.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: If you're teaching life skills in the communityyou can't really teach every possible consequenceif you're in a job, and employer and employee relationships.But in using avatars, using these kindsof almost virtual reality kinds of things,you can create scenarios that teach young people,in safe environments, what might be other environments.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So we don't know very much about that yet,and the technology is pretty sophisticated, and somewhatexpensive, but it will happen.We'll need to know then, do students-- oneof the characteristics of studentswith intellectual disabilities, theyhave a difficult time generalizingfrom learning in one context to another context.So we know with adolescents, if we're wanting a young personwith intellectual disability to be successfulin the environment which they're going to live, learn,work and play, we have to actually be sure that whatthey've been taught in school generalizes to thoseenvironments, and often it doesn't.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So we have to actually either teach those life skillsin those environments, so there's a lot of communitybased instruction, and going out into the community.Or we need to make bridges between what's taught in schooland what's applied later on.I think these technologies will provide, eventually,a more reasonable way to begin to ensure a greatergeneralization.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: I think we'll still have a need for some studentswith intellectual disability to learn in their communitiesas they get older, but, frankly, there's pretty good evidencethat for all kids learning in your community,project based learning, if you're sitting in a science laband then you go out to the local wetlandsand you do a project out in that wetlands,and you work out there, that information, the knowledge youacquire there is retained longer than if you justread it from a textbook.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So for all kids, really, those kindsof community based learning experiencesshould be a part of high quality education.So there's lots of ways that I thinkthat these kinds of e-readers, ebooks,are going to change how content is delivered.I think it has the potential to equalize resources.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Books are expensive.Schools in poorer areas, in lower SES areas,don't have access to the latest books,to the latest curricular materials.But digitizing the stuff can bring down the costso that you can deliver this stuff more equitably,even in less resource rich environments.So that's the hope at least.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: The process of labeling is a necessityin terms of gaining access to resources.Schools have limited resources.State governments have limited resources.So when we talk about who needs specially designed instruction,which is special education, we have historicallysaid we need to look at those students who qualify basedon some diagnostic process that labels themas having this or that condition.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And so it has been, to some degree, a necessity with regardto how do we most effectively distribute limited resourcesand ensure that the people who need the most resourcesget access to that.Unfortunately, intellectual disabilityis the prime example.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: When you are labeled as having intellectual disability peopleview you differently.They view you as defective.They view you as disorder.They view you as quote, "retarded."And so it changes how people interact with you,what they expect of you.People with intellectual disabilityare held at very low expectations.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Often people don't think that they can work.We have a robust knowledge base on howto support people, even with severe intellectualimpairments, in work environments,in typical work environments.We know how to do this.And yet, 80% of the people in the United Statesremain, if they're working with intellectual disability,they're in a sheltered workshop, they'renot in a meaningful job.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: They're earning pennies to the [INAUDIBLE].It's because people have very low expectationsand this research to practice takes a lot of time.So the issue of labeling is one of contrasting, basically,the benefits you accrue by being labeledas having, in this case, intellectual disabilityversus the stigma, the low expectations,and the negative stereotypes thatare associated with having that label.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And our argument is, first of all two arguments.One is that people shouldn't be labeled unless thereis a clear benefit to the person being labeled.And you can make the case, in many cases,that having the label in the category,intellectual disability in schoolsis less beneficial to the student then not.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Particularly, if they have fairly limited support needs,don't have to have a lot of extensive stuff.So first of all, the rule of thumb isdon't label people unless you reallyhave to and there's clear benefitto somebody from taking on that label.But, more importantly, we think, if we move away from diagnosticprocesses that are focused on these medical models,the deficits model, IQ testing, and adaptive behaviour testing,and all that, and we move to models that look at supportneeds.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So what type, intensity, and duration of supportsdoes a person need to be successful in school,work, community, whatever else.First of all, you're not labeling the person.The person is not getting diagnosed with anything.You're looking at the type, intensity, and durationof supports a person will need to be successful.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Secondly, that broadens the pictureso that it really doesn't matter whether you have autism,whether you have a learning disability, whether youhave intellectual disability.What type, intensity, and duration of supportdo you need to be successful?So when we look at the support paradigms,and more and more, this is happeningat the state level for systems aging,and developmental disabilities, and mental health systems.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: They're all looking to look at waysof determining support needs thataren't disability or condition specific,or driven by diagnosis and classification,but, in fact, are driven by who needs the most supports.We're still in, and probably always willbe in, situations where there are simply notenough resources for everyone to get everything, right?
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So we still have to make decisions about who gets what.In current context, I think if youtalk to people who work with people with autism, what youwill find is that they're not very well servedby the current system because they don't qualifyunder the categories that have historically stateshave supported.And, yeah, a person with autism may need various levelsof support to be successful in the context of work ,or school, post secondary education.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: If you adopt these broader supports models,you're just looking at who is it thatneeds the resources to provide these supports the most.And it moves away from the necessity of categorizing,and moves away from the stigma associated with categorizing.Until we move completely away from this notion of we'vegot to diagnose every category, we've got to label,we're going to remain bound to these kinds of thingsthat result in stigma.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So again, we have to have ways of divvying uplimited resources, whether that resource issomething like special education,or Medicaid, Medicare, whether it's state services.There are a lot of the resources that peoplewho have some level of support need need.But if we can go to these broader modelswhere it doesn't really matter whether you havedementia, or intellectual disability,or cerebral palsy, or a learning disability,or autism, what matters is you need this type, intensity,and duration of support in this area of your life,then we can make decisions without havingto fuss too much with labeling and categorizing.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: We talk about this in the context of really threegenerations of inclusive practices.When Public Law 94-142 was passed in the mid 1970s,the only model we had for habilitating and educatingstudents with intellectual disabilitywas the historic model of institutionalization.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Programs were segregated and separate.So we created a system that createdseparate classrooms and separate schools.Not based upon any data or indicationthat that was more effective than anything else,it was just how we'd always done it,and we didn't know any better.And so as the '80s went by and into the '90s,dissatisfaction with those kinds of segregated experiencesfor students with intellectual and developmental disabilitiesrose and their began to be a focus on including studentswith intellectual and developmental disabilitiesin general education settings, in the general educationclassroom, in their neighborhood schools, and those things.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So the first generation was reallygetting students physically locatedwith their non disabled peers.And because mostly through early years in special education,certainly from the '60s on, studentswith intellectual disability weretaught in separate facilities.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: It may be the church basement, or the local nonprofit agency,they weren't part of the public school system.And so when they became integratedinto the public school system it was in a similar modelwhere you had segregated classrooms.And so, step one, the first phase,the first generation of inclusive practicewas simply having students attend the neighborhood schoolsthat they would attend if they didn't have a disability,to be educated with their same age, chronologically same agepeers, and, importantly, to receive the specializedinstruction that they needed.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Because, of course, IDEA defines special educationas specially designed instruction.We set up a system that defined special educationas a place you went to, a place you go,you got sent to special education.Or as a way to refer to a student,he or she is a special education students.But special education is specially designed instruction.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And so the first generation was moving young peoplewith intellectual and development disabilitiesinto general education classroomsand providing specialized supports within that context.The second generation was, what do we do with young peoplewhen they are in the general education classroom?So research and practice developed a whole hostof strategies, differentiated instruction,cooperative learning, collaborative teaming, teamteaching, all those strategies that we knowcan enable teachers to successfully teach young peoplein the context of the general education classroom.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Now IDEA, what we've long called the LRE, least restrictiveenvironment, language, for years that'sbeen interpreted that if the severityor nature of a student's disabilityrequires such that they can be educated in other environments,segregated other environments outside.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: If you read the LRE language though what it says is thatonly if, because of the nature or severityof student's disabilities, a student cannot be successfullyeducated with the addition of supplementary aidsand services, can you then place outside of the generaleducation classroom.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So the new generation then, the third generation,of inclusive practices are takinginto account those first two generations.So we know that students benefit a lot, socially and other ways,from being with their non disabled peers.We know that we have strategies, differentiated instruction,collaborative teaming, the rest of them,that we can use to teach students.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Now, the challenge is how do we provide supplementary agentservices that enable them to be successfuland to learn in those environments?And we talked about that, these issues of universal designfor learning, these issues of multitude systemsand supports where Tier One is high qualityinstruction for all students.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: The provision of various curriculum adaptationsand other ways of enabling young people to learn.I would argue that we're at a point in time, at least whatwe know, where we can provide the kind of supplementary aidsand services, so that's the modifications to the classroom,modifications to the curriculum, and modificationsto who's there, the special educationteacher, regular education teacher, and the speciallydesigned instruction, that's the special education service,and the related services that enable virtually all studentsto be successful in that context.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: If we incorporate these kinds of universal design for learning,digital book, kind of things, high quality instruction,that the vast, vast, vast majority of studentswith intellectual disability can besuccessful in the context of the general education setting.It gets more complicated as studentsget older and the gap between the general educationcurriculum and the students' capacities widens.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And students, as they get older, continueto need instruction that isn't in the general educationcurriculum.But the law doesn't say that theyhave to only get general education curriculuminstruction.It says that we must provide an educational program thatprovides involvement with, and progress in,the general education curriculum as wellas other educational needs.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And those other educational needsare the things, the independent living skills,the kinds of job related employment training,that students with intellectual and developmental disabilitiesneed.Now I would argue that students with learning disabilitiesneed those same things.They're not being very successful whenthey transition to adulthood either.So there are always difficult circumstancesin supporting students.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: And I think at the high school level,I think all students, with or without disability,ought to be learning in the context of their communities.So students with intellectual disabilitymay do that more than others, but it's justa degree of difference.I think all students with intellectual disabilitycan still benefit from some instructionin general education settings in the high school,as well as being involved in the wide arrayof extracurricular activities.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: So we've done a disservice by thinking about this as either,or which I think we do.But I honestly think that we havethe knowledge, the pedagogical knowledge,have a lot of curriculum adaptation kinds of strategies.We have a lot of work to do but we're at a pointwhere we're only beginning to investigatehow successful students can be if they're includedin high quality instruction that takesinto account all those things.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: But we have that all in place, and my senseis that students can be very successful in those settings,and that they're better off in those settings.One of the lessons that intellectual disabilityas a field should teach us all isthat separate is never equal.We have time, and time, and time again, wehave illustrations of that.
MICHAEL L. WEHMEYER [continued]: Separate is not equal.And as long as we maintain separate settings,separate classroom, students are notgoing to be as successful as they could be.We are simply limiting the possibilitiesthat young people have.
Michael Wehmeyer Discusses Intellectual Disabilities
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Professor Michael Wehmeyer from the University of Kansas opens up to SAGE Publications about his experience and research in special and inclusive education, including working with students with intellectual disabilities and autism, the important role of assistive technologies, creating an inclusive classroom environment, and more.
Professor Michael Wehmeyer from the University of Kansas opens up to SAGE Publications about his experience and research in special and inclusive education, including working with students with intellectual disabilities and autism, the important role of assistive technologies, creating an inclusive classroom environment, and more.