Mild to moderate v.s. moderate/severe special education

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by Chrysanthemums, Mar 22, 2020.

  1. Chrysanthemums

    Chrysanthemums Rookie

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    Mar 22, 2020

    I'm still a university student and not a teacher yet.

    In the U.S.A., what are the differences between mild/moderate v.s. moderate-severe special education? Other than deaf-blindness, what are some examples of moderate-severe disabilities students may have while having an IQ in at least the borderline to average range (I do understand that some students with mild-moderate and moderate-severe disabilities may have mild to severe intellectual disabilities (seems like students with severe intellectual disabilities would be considered to have moderate-severe disabilities from what I've read), whether or not coexisting with another disability)?

    Would a mild-moderate or moderate-severe educational specialist credential authorize a teacher to teach students with physical disabilities, visual impairment, traumatic brain injury, autism spectrum disorder or speech/language disabilities?

    Would students with emotional disturbance who are receiving special education services typically be considered to have a mild-moderate disability or a moderate-severe disability?
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2020
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  3. urban teacher

    urban teacher Rookie

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    Mar 22, 2020

    It depends on the student. As a mild/moderate teacher, I had students with autism, OHI, LD, TBI and ED all in the same class. They were all considered to have mild/moderate disabilities.
    IQ wise there were all over the map.
     
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  4. Chrysanthemums

    Chrysanthemums Rookie

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    Thanks for your reply. :)

    May I ask what the students you taught were like (not just due to their disabilities but also due to their skills, challenges unrelated to their disability and personalities), and what age were they? What setting do you teach in (e.g. resource room, special day class, or inclusion/general education classroom)? Why did these students need special education services? Is there any particular reason you chose to work into special education and specifically with students with mild-moderate disabilities? (If you don't feel comfortable answering these questions, that's fine and I understand.)

    How did you differentiate the work for students, and adjust strategies for individual students according to each student's skills, subject skill levels and individual needs, as it seems as though you had students who had a variety of needs?
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2020
  5. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    Mar 22, 2020

    Are we doing an assignment for you?
     
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  6. Chrysanthemums

    Chrysanthemums Rookie

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    Mar 22, 2020

    No, I'm not taking any classes that have assignments that require me to detail what is the difference between mild/moderate and moderate/severe special education, and plagiarism or cheating is not something that I would ever want to do.

    It's just that I'm interested in what working in special education is like (although I understand that experiences working in it are probably variable), especially since I'm interested in working in special education myself, and I'd like to be prepared as possible to help students by the time I enter the field of special education (although I understand that I'd probably never be fully prepared). I'm also somewhat interested to know the difference between mild/moderate and moderate/severe special education because if I pursue a special education teaching credential, that may influence what type of special education credential I would want to pursue.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2020
  7. Chrysanthemums

    Chrysanthemums Rookie

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    May 2, 2020

    Thank you very much for all of your replies.

    By the way, I am also interested in the differences between early childhood special Ed, special Ed in an elementary classroom, and special Ed in a secondary classroom. So if anyone has any experiences to share (whether it was in an inclusion/general Ed classroom or a special Ed classroom), I would be interested in them, just because it’s interesting, but also so I could have a better idea what age range I would like to work with.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2020 at 9:37 PM
  8. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    May 3, 2020

    It's important in special education to realize that the designations mild, moderate, severe, and profound refer to abilities to learn, not to physical disabilities. Many, many of the children who have learning limitations also have physical disabilities, but in education, these labels refer to learning abilities, not typically physical disabilities. Almost all pure physical disabilities will be mixed in the general ed population or in the mild only classification -- conditions such as spina bifida, for example, and some types of cerebral palsy (there are so many levels to CP that they can span all of the classifications.) Someone with a strictly OHI designation is usually in the general ed population and not in the mild classifications. (Please note, that for every "rule" there are many exceptions.)

    When I was in college, we didn't use the term "intellectual disability" or learning disability. We used the terms educable mentally retarded, trainable mentally retarded, and severely & profoundly mentally retarded. By today's standards, these words sound horrible, but they were certainly better than the official medical classifications that preceded them, which were moron, imbecile, and idiot, respectively. (This classification system was used until the early 1970s, believe it or not.)

    I've found these descriptions of the modern classifications to be very helpful. I also keep in my mind that people with mild intellectual disabilities are considered educatable. They can learn to read and do basic math -- maybe not to the level of a non-disabled person, but they can be educated and some can learn to live every independent lives. In terms of moderate, they are typically considered trainable rather than educatable -- which sounds a little negative, but it really is just a way of remembering that they need support to live, and because of the huge range in IQs and social abilities, some can live independently with supports, while most others will need more intensive support and assistance. People in the severe classification cannot function independently and will need care throughout their lives.

    Mild intellectual disability
    – A person who can read, but has difficulty comprehending what he or she reads represents one example of someone with mild intellectual disability.
    • IQ 50 to 70
    • Slower than typical in all developmental areas
    • No unusual physical characteristics
    • Able to learn practical life skills
    • Attains reading and math skills up to grade levels 3 to 6
    • Able to blend in socially
    • Functions in daily life
    Moderate intellectual disability – People with moderate intellectual disability have fair communication skills, but cannot typically communicate on complex levels. They may have difficulty in social situations and problems with social cues and judgment. These people can care for themselves, but might need more instruction and support than the typical person. Many can live in independent situations, but some still need the support of a group home.
    • IQ 35 to 49
    • Noticeable developmental delays (i.e. speech, motor skills)
    • May have physical signs of impairment (i.e. thick tongue)
    • Can communicate in basic, simple ways
    • Able to learn basic health and safety skills
    • Can complete self-care activities
    • Can travel alone to nearby, familiar places
    Severe intellectual disability – These people can only communicate on the most basic levels. They cannot perform all self-care activities independently and need daily supervision and support. Most people in this category cannot successfully live an independent life and will need to live in a group home setting.
    • IQ 20 to 34
    • Considerable delays in development
    • Understands speech, but little ability to communicate
    • Able to learn daily routines
    • May learn very simple self-care
    • Needs direct supervision in social situations

    When considering which population you wish to work with, I always keep the following in mind. If you work with mild to moderate, you may need to assist some students with toileting and wiping, and self-care such as washing hands and blowing noses, but usually you will not be changing diapers on a regular basis. You may have to help clean-up accidents, but generally changing diapers is not a typical thing. If some of these things are deal-breakers for you, then stick to the mild classification in special education. If, on the other hand, none of these are deal-breakers, then consider the mild to moderate classification.

    If you choose to work with moderate to severe, you need to plan on not just assisting with toileting, but you will be changing diapers, wiping and washing, sometimes dealing with drooling, and definitely will be wiping noses.

    I know this sounds strange to say, but you have to know yourself, and what you would be comfortable with, and not just what you can "tolerate." If changing the diapers of a student who is a foot taller than you, and 50 pounds heavier than you is a deal-breaker, then you definitely do not want to work in the moderate to severe classification. If you love teaching reading, you do not want to work in the moderate to severe classification. If you enjoy teaching routines and assisting with care, then this might be something you are interested in.

    Now, going back to what I said about every rule having exceptions -- children with autism are an example of exceptions. You may have students with autism who have high IQs and are very academically oriented in subjects they prefer. But these students' limited social abilities make it necessary for them to have more supports than are typical for a child without autism. I've had students in the moderate range, who were fine with taking care of their toilet needs but who couldn't function independently in a classroom environment, and who had behaviors (extreme noise adversion, screaming when frustrated, physical outbursts with frustrated or denied preferred activities, impaired impulse control, and lack of empathy, etc) made it impossible for them to succeed outside a very sheltered educational setting.

    Whatever area you decide on, just make sure it is one that you would be comfortable spending 40+ hours a week in. If your stomach is turned by the thought of changing diapers on a high school student, then you don't want to focus on moderate, severe or profound. If you decide to work with early education (preschool age) make sure you are comfortable teaching them how to wipe their butts after using the bathroom, and wiping snotty discharge off of them on a regular basis -- because these are things taught and learned over time. If you absolutely love teaching reading -- sounding words out and blending sounds, you certainly don't want to choose the moderate or profound levels, because you won't get a chance to do that. You have to look at your gifts and talents, and what you are comfortable with.

    Best wishes as you make your decision.
     
  9. Chrysanthemums

    Chrysanthemums Rookie

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    May 13, 2020

    Thank you for your input. I appreciate it. I believe students with specific learning disabilities are sometimes also covered under the mild-moderate classification?
     
  10. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    May 13, 2020

    Yes, students with many different disabilities are included in the mild/moderate category. The categories of mild/moderate and severe generally are more suggestive of the amount of special education support needed rather than a specific disability.
     
  11. Aspieteacher47

    Aspieteacher47 Rookie

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    I currently teach students in what we call moderate/severe. Most of my students are what we call multiple disabled/medically fragile. Many of my students have seizures, medical needs, and special communications. Only one of my students is somewhat functionally able to use a device that has "Boardmaker" Symbols on the device. The rest of my students are functionally below 18 months cognitively. He is also legally blind in one of his eyes. I have one student who has severe autistic spectrum disorder as well has profound cognitive functioning (below 12 months). I have one student who has Down's Syndrome but he has very limited cognition (below 12 months) as well. All of my students are not toilet trained due to their cognitive levels of understanding or training abilities. They all wear a diaper. Many of my students have behavior issues because of not being able to communicate through conventional methods. Many of them do not recognize even real-life objects. The majority of my students are 18-22. I do have one 17 year old who will be turning 18 next month. It's very difficult to teach adult transitional skills to students who are functioning below 12 months. All of them are totally dependent on adult assistance for everything. I am still required to cover the transition domains: community based instruction, daily living skills, recreation/leisure, social/emotional development, and employability skills. Many of my students use a lot of Ablenet devices (Big Mack switches). I also work in a high school where many of my students have parents who do not speak English either. Not all moderate/severe are as profound as my students, but we still have my type of students in public school. Many years ago, they were in state sponsored schools equipped for their needs. The public schools are not equipped to work with my students' specific needs. The majority of my students have wheelchairs (80%) too and their own school provided LVN's provided due to their medical and physical needs. The LVN's ride with them on the bus to and from school throughout the week. At the moment, we are still in a state mandated quarantine due to the COVID-19 regulations. I'm 6' 5" and some of my average sized students are hard to position due to my size. I am used to this population, but I prefer working in a classroom with students moderate-severe autism which is my specialty.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2020
  12. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Phenom

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    May 14, 2020

    I have seen lots of job postings that will state they are looking for a special education teacher but do NOT specify mod/severe, etc. That is something you could ask in an interview. It could vary by region but I have not specifically seen any type of disability level mentioned in job postings.
     
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  13. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    It often can change from year to year, depending on the student population at any given time. Unless a specific type of certification is required, sped teachers can have students with a variety of disabilities and levels of care needed on their caseloads.
     
  14. Chrysanthemums

    Chrysanthemums Rookie

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    May 20, 2020 at 9:23 PM

    Thanks for your input. Do you mainly teach functional skills in your classroom? What types of skills do you teach, and what to do you do to help your students develop new skills?

    May I ask why do you prefer to work with students with moderate to severe autism, and by that do you mean in a classroom such as a special day class or resource room specifically for students with autism? It is my understanding that autism of any "level" or "severity" does not equate to intellectual disability, but can co-exist with an intellectual disability. May I ask what do you believe is most important when working with students with autism, as well as the other conditions you mentioned including intellectual disability (I do understand that intellectual disability can be mild to profound, and that since the DSM V there are also different severity "levels" of autism specified in diagnoses)?
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2020 at 9:35 PM
  15. Chrysanthemums

    Chrysanthemums Rookie

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    May 20, 2020 at 9:30 PM

    Thanks. I take your point about some job postings not specifying mod/severe etc; thanks for pointing that out. However other than deaf/hard of hearing and early childhood special education credential programs, the special education credential programs I looked at do specify either mild-moderate or moderate-severe special education. According to their websites both the mild-moderate and moderate-severe special education credentials authorize teachers to teach students with emotional disturbance, which is why I asked whether students with emotional disturbance are generally considered to have mild-moderate or moderate-severe needs.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2020 at 5:56 AM
  16. Aspieteacher47

    Aspieteacher47 Rookie

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    May 22, 2020 at 11:37 AM

     
  17. Aspieteacher47

    Aspieteacher47 Rookie

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    May 22, 2020 at 11:45 AM

    The types of life skills I teach are related to real life. I expose them to daily living skills (how to clean, cleaning products (vocabulary), basic money (key is exposure), how to cook, steps in cooking process, materials, ect. I also expose them to community based instruction (visiting the store, restaurant, public bus transportation, ect.) When I say I "expose" them, I mean I allow them to explore. These students are not cognitively able to even perform the simplest tasks independently. Many of the tasks we perform are what we call full physical prompting aka "hand over hand" due to their lack of understanding. I use a schedule of the day for each student using "boardmaker symbols" and they also perform very basic vocation tasks (putting in, assembly, sort, packaging, ect). I use a lot of videos in my daily instruction due to the needs of my students.
     
  18. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    May 22, 2020 at 12:06 PM

    You know, a lot of what you want to know depends on the state. I'm in NJ, and we don't have these classifications at all. If you teach SPED, you are either a Teacher of the Handicap, an endorsement no longer given out, but still valid, that allows you to teach any subject to any classified student - end of discussion. Now, we are TOSD, teacher of students with disabilities, and we can teach any student with a disability in any course where we hold certification in that subject matter. So, as a TOSD teacher of biology, I could have a student with significant intellectual delays, a student with hearing deficits, and students with emotional/behavioral disabilities that could include TBI, all in the same classroom - and I have. That classroom may be a self contained room, push-in, or include a TOSD teacher as a co-teacher in the gen ed classroom, or, the TOSD may teach all students in the room, gen ed and SPED with or without assistance. Just didn't want you to think that the classifications you have listed are the norm for everywhere, and trust me when I say that they are subject to change since many states, like NJ, continue to modify their classifications and certificates.
     
  19. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    May 22, 2020 at 12:10 PM

    They can be either, depending on the classification, so there is no one answer for that. If you have a student who is violent, and volatile, better consider that one mod/severe. If you have a student who just zones in and out, unable to focus, that is mild/mod. That said, in many states, they will both be in the same classroom, and possibly in the gen ed classroom since inclusion is huge in many districts.
     

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