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Who Are Exceptional Children? (page 3)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Oct 25, 2010

The word handicapped is thought to come from a game that involved a “cap in the hand,” and it has the contemporary meaning of assigning extra weight (a handicap) to better performers to “level” a playing field and enhance wagering (Treanor, 1993). Unfortunately, the word conjures up the negative image of a person with disabilities begging in the street. In most instances today, the person-first with disabilities is preferred over the term handicapped.

At risk refers to children who, although not currently identified as having a disability, are considered to have a greater-than-usual chance of developing one. The term is often applied to infants and preschoolers who, because of conditions surrounding their births or home environments, may be expected to experience developmental problems at a later time. The term is also used to refer to students who are experiencing learning problems in the regular classroom and are therefore at risk of school failure or of being identified for special education services.

Some exceptional children share certain physical characteristics and/or patterns of learning and behavior. These characteristics fall into the following categories of exceptionality:

  • Mental retardation (developmental disabilities)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Emotional and behavioral disorders
  • Autism
  • Communication (speech and language) disorders
  • Hearing impairments
  • Visual impairments
  • Physical and health impairments
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Giftedness and special talents

As stated previously, all children differ from one another in individual characteristics along a continuum; exceptional children differ markedly from the norm so that an individually designed program of instruction—in other words, special education—is required if they are to benefit fully from education. It is a mistake to think that there are two distinct kinds of children—those who are exceptional and those who are regular. Exceptional children are more like other children than they are different. Nevertheless, an exceptional child does differ in important ways from his peers without disabilities. And whether and how we recognize and respond to those differences will have a major impact on the child’s success in school and beyond. Keep these critical points in mind as you read and learn about the exceptional children described in this text and the special education programs designed to help them.

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