Intrinsic Barriers to Learning

Speech about inclusive Education Good morning principal and fellow colleagues. I have been given the task to talk to you about Inclusive education and the intrinsic and extrinsic barriers to learning and development. What is inclusive education? In line with international trends, South African education is moving away from special education towards a policy of inclusion (i. e. Inclusion of learners with disabilities, impairments and historically disadvantaged in terms of access to curriculum into mainstream schools). International and South African perspectives on inclusion are closely related to wider social concerns about human rights.

The new Constitution highlights respect for the rights of all, with particular emphasis on the recognition of diversity. This implies an inclusive approach to education in the sense that all learners are entitled to appropriate education. It was argued by Engelbrecht et al. (1999: viii) that this is only possible if one education system is liable for educational provision, and not two systems (i. e. mainstream and special education system). However in order for it to be effective, schools, classrooms and teachers need to be prepared to change and supported in doing so.

There has never been a formal exclusion in our country. Learners with a wide variety of special education needs were and are to be found in many classrooms. The difference now is that these learners are recognised as having the right to access the curriculum and the right to a curriculum which is appropriate to their learning needs. This has implications for the nature of the school and classroom environments, the nature of the curriculum and roles of teachers, parents and communities in the education of all learners.

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This should include disabled and gifted learners, street and working learners, learners from remote or nomadic populations, learners from linguistic, ethnic or cultural minorities and learners from other disadvantaged or marginalised area or groups. ” In other words, inclusion is not simply about reconstructing provision for learners with disabilities, but is a means of extending educational opportunities to a wide range of marginalised groups who may historically have had a little or no access to schooling.

This is of great significance in our country, considering our past (apartheid era). There are many journals and books based on inclusive education, and how to run an inclusive school and classroom, so before going on and on, I will briefly outline occurrences of barriers to learning and development of learners. There are two groups: intrinsic factors – those located within the individual learner themselves. The learners are usually born with specific characteristics such as blindness or a missing appendage.

The second barrier is extrinsic factors – those emanating from outside the learner – that is their environment, home, upbringing and teaching (Weeks, 2003: 19). If we look at: 1. Intrinsic barriers The most prominent intrinsic factors are physical and/ or physiological impairments and personality characteristics which are caused by many factors. If I’m tired of my own voice by now, I don’t want to imagine how you may be feeling, so I will only outline a few general causes (Weeks, 2003:21). 1. 1. Genetic or hereditary factors

We inherit out genetic composition in the form of chromosomes and we receive an equal amount from each parent. Just as one inherits certain characteristics of the parents, for example eye and hair colour, so too, can a physical or physiological impairment be inherited. Examples of this are poor eyesight and low levels of intelligence. Sometimes abnormal genes are not inherited, but something goes wrong with the genetic composition during the very early stages of development in the uterus. This is known as “chromosomal” or “genetic” deviations.

Down’s syndrome and Turner’s syndrome may result and these learners usually have an intellectual impairment ((Weeks, 2003: 22). 1. 2. Before, during and after-birth brain damage A child may suffer brain damage before birth from various factors – radiation, measles or syphilis injections, a defective placenta, an incompatibility of blood groups, etc. During birth they may suffer brain damage if there is a complication at birth and; after birth; brain damage may be caused by accidents, diseases such as meningitis and, polio which may result in permanent muscle paralysis.

Here are a few forms of physical impairments that are directly associated to brain damage: Epilepsy, cerebral palsy, learning impairments such as dyslexia or dyscalculia and certain forms of intellectual, hearing and visual impairments. Learners with these impairments require special educational methods and aids and therefore have special educational needs, for example, blind learners require Braille machines. In the past, these learners were taught in special schools but now, the new legislation includes them in the mainstream of education (Weeks, 2003:22). 1. 3.

Personality problems Some learners have specific personalities that have a negative impact on their academic achievement and gives rise to barriers to their learning. These traits may be inherited or could be shaped by extrinsic factors (Weeks, 2003:23). Examples:

  • Some learners are extremely shy and cannot assert themselves. They lack confidence to ask questions and query statements.
  • Rebellious learners and attention seekers do not want to respect the authority of teachers. Teachers become aggravated and frustrated with them, thus ignoring and punishing them regularly.

This impacts on the learners achievement in a negative way as the learner loses interest and motivation for school work. Learners with a low self-esteem do not have the perseverance to excel. The slightest negative experience is an even greater discouragement on their motivation to do well. Now I will outline the second barrier which is: 2. Extrinsic factors Extrinsic barriers are not barriers within the learners themselves. They are perfectly normal at birth but circumstances outside or beyond are so inadequate that they adversely affect their development and learning and ultimately cause barriers to their learning.

Let’s take a look at the first factor (Weeks, 2003:23). 2. 1. Environmental factors 2. 1. 1 Unfavourable socioeconomic circumstances Learners of lower socioeconomic groups face many barriers to their success in education. Many do well in school despite the difficulties faced in other aspects of their lives. However, they are much more likely than their peers of a higher socioeconomic environment to be behind in their accomplishment and to leave school earlier and with fewer qualifications, and are at far greater risk of being excluded from school.

There are many reasons why learners of lower socioeconomic groups tend to have low achievement. Some face so many difficulties in their lives that schooling may seem to be of low priority to them and to the organizations providing support. Schooling is also often given insufficient priority when making and reviewing care plans. There are additional factors associated with this way of life that are not conducive to achieving good academic results on the part of the learner.

The following are examples of rife conditions: Poor medical services, poor lighting, cramped, overcrowded and noisy homes makes studying difficult, limited time for study because learners are often expected to do house chores and work over the week end to supplement the family income, a lack of cognitive stimulation because there is little or no reading material at home, poor language use, a shortage of role models, a general attitude about resignation of life, Irregular and poor school attendance and lastly, a general relaxation of morals (Weeks, 2003:24).

These destructive social circumstances usually initiate a chain reaction. There are few schools in these areas and when there is education it is not of a very high standard (it is related that good teachers are usually found in favourable environments). According to Reglin (1992) these learners would perform better at school if their parents and family members got involved with their school academics and social lives, which we as teachers utterly agree. 2. 1. 2. Urban and rural areas In cities, learners often grow up in apartment buildings, usually both parents and the single parent works.

There is no parent supervision when learners return home from school and therefore the learner can do as he / she pleases. Young learners are confined to the flat and do not have the opportunity to play outside, whereas the older learners roam freely in malls a on the street. There is very little control over their schooling and homework and this leads to slim stimulation to scholastic achievement. Contrastingly, in rural areas, literacy is much higher than in cities. Parents who themselves are illiterate; do not always see the value of education for their children.

They expect them to leave school at an early stage so that they can supplement the family’s income. These learners attend school very irregularly because they have to herd cattle and till fields (Weeks, 2003:25-26). 2. 1. 3. Prosperous areas Environments need not be disadvantaged to have a negative effect on learners’ improvement at school. In prosperous areas there are factors that give rise to barriers to learning in learners. Since these learner’s grow up without hardship, have plenty of money and their need are provided for, these learners get easily bored and seek excitement elsewhere in the form of drug and alcohol abuse.

Of necessity, these learners will show deterioration in school achievement. Additionally, pressure is placed on these learner’s to achieve and this causes rebelliousness and depression. The second extrinsic factor is: 2. 2. Upbringing 2. 2. 1. Mistakes in upbringing

  • Learners who are pressurised by parents to achieve, become hostile and negative towards school.
  • Overprotective parents deny their children the freedom to become independent. Their decisions are made for them by their parents; hence they do not take responsibility for their work. Some parents show little interest in the activities of their children and do not encourage them to achieve academically.
  • Poor disciplined homes allow children to do as they please. These learner’s are disorganised and are not disciplined in their studying. Disorganised homes constitute one of the main causes of learning problems in learners. These are just to mention a few mistakes, the next factor in upbringing is: 2. 2. 2 Unstable and broken homes. Another factor that plays a role in acting as a barrier is: 2. 3. School factors Poor teaching due to the lack of qualifications, lazy and unmotivated teachers, stereotyped teaching methods, teachers are not looked at as role models and teachers do not have empathy for learners.
  • Incomplete participation on the part of learners because of domestic vices, scholastic backlogs, emotional problems and peer pressure.
  • Inappropriate study material.
  • Inefficient school organisation.
  • Crowded classrooms and,
  • At-risk schools, where learners and learners are estranged, low standards and poor quality, incomplete studies, disciplinary problems and frequent absenteeism and teachers suffer from “burnout”.

And the last two extrinsic factors to barriers to learning are, a difference in language and culture and limited job prospects. The latter is a well-known fact that because of the poor economic growth in our country, very few job opportunities have been created. This means that many school leavers do not succeed in finding jobs. Consequently they lack the will to achieve. QUESTION 2 2. 1. A Hearing Impairment For a learner with a hearing impairment the following steps will be taken by me (Weeks, 2003:158):

  • Obtain advice from a teacher trained to teach the deaf. If possible the learner should wear a hearing aid.
  • The learner must sit in front of the class.
  • Speak to the learner while facing the learner so that he / she may read my lips (if possible) and pay attention to facial expressions, gestures and body language.
  • Speak clearly, naturally and at a normal pace, unless asked to slow down.
  • If the learner is not facing me, I would gently touch him / her on the shoulder or arm to indicate that I want like to talk to him / her.
  • Explanations will begin with concrete, example working from concrete to abstract. The use of visual aids will be most helpful since vision is the primary means of receiving information to the hard-of-hearing learner.
  • For reinforcement, new vocabulary words would be repeated in different contexts and written in sentences, many words presented look alike to the lip-reader.
  • All announcements and instructions will be written.
  • An interpreter will be used where needed.
  • Vibrations and excessive noise will be avoided.
  • I will not talk while writing on the chalkboard.
  • When writing materials:
  • Long sentences will be broken up Difficult vocabulary load will be reduced
  • Concept density will also be reduced
  • Questions asked by other learners will be repeated so that the learner in question knows what I am referring to.
  • Carbonless note taking paper can be used. The volunteer note taker needs to take eligible notes and then give the learner with the hearing impairment a copy.
  • Obtain feedback from the learner at every opportunity as an indicator of the level of understanding.
  • Provide an outline in advance of the lesson or activity to give to the child in advance and also list expectations. Encourage parental involvement, for example, attending speech therapy after school. 2. 2. A Visual Impairment Depending on the type of eye condition and the amount of residual vision of the learner, assistance would be given (Weeks, 2003:151).
  • A learner with myopia (nearsightedness) or cataracts:
  • The learner must sit in front of the class, near the chalkboard so that he / she may see better.
  • Repeat what is written on the chalkboard to help the learner check his / her own work.
  • A magnifying glass will be kept on my table which may be useful to the learner if the print in textbooks is too small. Also when using duplicated copies, the print would be large, dark and visible.
  • With regard to his / her notebook – instead of using ordinary A-4 books, a blank book could be used by drawing horizontal parallel lines with a black koki – this will be more visible to the learner and it will be easier for the learner to write between the lines.
  • Contrastingly, if the learner suffers from hyperopia (farsightedness):
  • The learner will be placed at the back of the class
  • Since these type of children enjoy outside play more than having an nterest in school work, concrete apparatus would always be kept for their usage.
  • As for a learner suffering from albinism, their eyes are sensitive to light, therefore:
  • The learner would be placed in a darker place in the classroom, away from the windows and glare.
  • If there is no dark side, curtains will be used to regulate the amount of light coming into the classroom.
  • Due to a lack of pigmentation that protects the skin, they are very vulnerable to skin diseases and cancer.

Therefore, to avoid sunburn, their school attire should be cotton long sleeve shirts and trousers, and hats with wide brims. Additionally, they should make use of medicinal creams for the skin. Textbooks can be recorded on tape for the learner. Also doors should be kept either opened or closed because open doors can be a potential hazard. The learner could bump into them and get hurt. Passages between desks should be kept clear to prevent the learner from stumbling over stray objects (Weeks, 2003:152). 2. 3. Cerebral palsy For a learner with cerebral palsy I would support the learner by (Weeks, 2003:180):

  • First, viewing the classroom as if I were going to have to navigate it in a wheelchair or walker. Make sure the classroom is set up to provide accessible resources for someone in a wheelchair or with a limited range of movement.
  • See that the learner is comfortable with his / her orthopaedic aids.
  • Take time to introduce and explain these aids to other learner’s.
  • Build the learner’s self-esteem at every possible opportunity.
  • Try to have a way to secure paper or moveable objects to the workspace so they can be utilized without having to be secured by another hand.
  • Look around for areas where the cerebral palsy learner might benefit from additional support, like a handrail or ramp. Understand that the learner might require additional time to reach the classroom or get set up for the class.
  • If the learner has difficulty with handwriting, I would make use of a type writer and teach the learner how to use it.
  • Insure that I know what to do if a cerebral palsy learner begins to seizure.
  • Insure the time allocation for taking tests and completing tasks is compatible with the cerebral palsy learner’s abilities or it could be orally.
  • I would allow lessons and discussions to be taped.
  • The learners would also be placed in the front of the class to help with vision or hearing problems. Use of small groups for discussion and work collaboration will encourage active listening and communication skills.
  • Learners in the class would take turns to carry the cerebral palsy learner so that they get used to it, in case of an emergency or a need to improvise.

QUESTION 3 Epileptic seizure Ease the learner gently to the floor, clearing the area of hazards and without preventing movements. Then I would place something flat and soft (like a folded jacket or a pillow that will be kept in the class) under the learner’s head.

The learner would be turned to one side to keep the air passage clear. I would not try to force his/her mouth open and neither hold the tongue, nor would I put anything in the learner’s mouth. If the learner is known to have epilepsy, I would follow the parent’s instructions (a written and signed copy of instructions). When jerking movements stop, the learner will be allowed to rest. When full consciousness has returned to the learner, he/she would rest under supervision. If a seizure lasts for longer than 10 minutes or if another starts right after the first, I would call for emergency services.

The parents of the child will be notified of every seizure the child has during school hours. If the learner has no history of epilepsy, the parents will be notified immediately and have an immediate check-up by a medical doctor (Weeks, 2003: 189-190; Epilepsy, South Africa, Reg. 001-912). Additionally, all learners in the class will be trained to help the epileptic learner during a seizure; however, only two specific learners will be assigned to help each time so that all learners do not leap to the epileptic learner when a seizure occurs.

The rest of the class would clear and create space. QUESTION 4 4. 1. ECD Phase At any school one can witness a variety of different behaviours. Behaviour patterns are acceptable if they elicit the approval of adults and peers. However, a class can include learners who:

  • Show aggressive behaviour and react aggressively towards others.
  • Have a display of bullying, threatening, or intimidating behaviour.
  • They physically abuse others.
  • Deliberately destroy other’s property.
  • Show little empathy and concern for the feelings, wishes, and well-being of others. Show callous behaviour towards others and lack of feelings of guilt or remorse.
  • They may readily inform on their companions and tend to blame others for their own misdeeds. The above behaviours become apparent and should be taken in a serious light when:
  • They occur to a serious extent and over a period of time.
  • The symptoms appear to worsen.
  • They occur in conjunction with social aggression.
  • They negatively impact the learner’s academic development. Furthermore, behaviour problems are unacceptable when they prevent:
  • Other learners from participating in class activities. The teacher from managing class activities effectively. If I have a learner with the above behaviour in my class the following steps (Essa, 1995:22, cited in Weeks, 2003: 237) will be taken to support and assist the learner:
  • Investigate the causes of the problem behaviour.

Problem behaviour can stem from non-variable external factors (Essa, 1995:22, Weeks, 2003: 237) such as chronic illness, food or environmental allergies, or the child’s diet. As a result the child may feel a bit irritated, function on a generally lower level or experience a lower level of tolerance.

These problems may not be removed but I as a teacher will treat such a learner with sensitivity, be supportive and try to create an environmentally friendly space for him / her.

  • Positive reinforcement is one of the most important techniques and is used in conjunction with others to change unacceptable behaviour or encourage positive behaviour. I would show the learner approval by either smiling, hugging or saying something positive. This would be repeated regularly to achieve quick and good results.
  • Ignoring the learner proves to be a very effective strategy.


It is very useful when learners try to secure the attention of adults through their irritating or unacceptable behaviour. But when the child acts in a positive manner then I would pay attention and praise the child and reinforce positive behaviour. Also if the child persists with the negative behaviour, all teachers would be asked to ignore him/ her.

  • When aggressive behaviour should be stopped, the learner will be withdrawn from the group and be given a time-out. The child should be warned beforehand only when the third transgression occurs should he / she be removed from the group / class.

The child will be taken to an isolated area and explained why he / she has been removed and then be left there without looking or talking again to the child. The rest o0f the class will be told that he / she needed a time-out. Only after a certain amount of time (when I feel it’s time-up) will the child rejoin the class. Positive behaviour reinforcement will begin immediately thereafter.

  • If the Learner is overwhelmed by the classroom activity and is over sensitive to stimulation will be allowed to move to quiet corner for a while until they feel calmer.

The reason for his / her behaviour is external and therefore this strategy will help him / her to calm down.

  • Prevention is an excellent technique, but can only work if I am aware of what leads to the problem behaviour and if I’m a keen observer. This method is effective for younger learners who do not have self-control and who do not yet have the ability to express themselves.
  • Redirection can be used for a two year old by directing the child’s attention away from something and by giving him / her a toy to play with.

Two year olds do not possess the social skills of sharing things; therefore the child will gradually learn these skills with my help. If it was an older learner, he / she will be guided to overcome social problems.

  • A child of four or five is often willing to change problem behaviours and feels embarrassed about an outburst. I would therefore find a quiet, calm place and discuss the situation and work with the child to find a workable solution.
  • If I feel a learner’s problem behaviour is a result of need for attention, I would use the special time strategy.


I will set a special time which I can spend alone time with the child. Probably every alternate day or twice a week. During this time I would do what the child would like to do and fulfil his / her wishes.

  • Another strategy that can be used is a highly visible reinforcement like a star chart.


Successful positive behaviour is reinforced in this manner and it should not be used as an indication of failure. The use of the above techniques depends on the type of problem behaviour and the child. Hyperactivity and Distractibility are manifestations of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Hyperactivity is actually a surplus of motor activity where learners are over active, running around, fiddling, touching everything in their path, never quiet, pushing and kicking other children and moving about without any purpose or aim. This can be quite disturbing and irritating for both the other learners and the teacher as well. Distractibility is also known as ‘sensory hyperactivity’, refers to children that are continually moving around, on the go in terms of attention. Most things that they see or hear (sensory stimulus) catches their attention, but they are unable to concentrate on one particular thing for a long time.

They are unable to control their attention, because any slight sound or movement distracts them. Due to this, they are unable to complete tasks and move from one unfinished task to another. Hyperactive and distractible learners cannot pay attention to instructions properly, often misunderstanding when spoken to, cannot wait their turn during tasks, act impulsively and therefore come across as undisciplined. These learners also seem to have temper tantrums and rapidly changing moods which makes it difficult to handle them in the classroom. This cam result in the learner having a poor self-concept because they of the many mistakes they make.

It is important for teachers and learners to work together to being able to better handle these learners and this can be done by having a better understanding of this particular kind of behaviour. :- Recognising the symptoms and identifying the learners strong and weak points:-

  • Identifying easy and difficult tasks and situations
  • Identifying sills necessary for each task and situation
  • Investigating your own thoughts and feelings
  • Other people’s reactions Understanding the learner’s world:-
  • Learn to understand the learner’s behaviour
  • Keeping the learner’s level of development in mind Discussing problems with the learner
  • Verbalising the learner’s unexpressed feelings
  • Communicating more than words
  • Anticipating problems rather than waiting for them
  • Distinguishing between the learner and the learner’s behaviour

Providing Structure such as relationship, task and situation structure is also important as it provides the learners with safer environment where they are able to develop optimally. Therapeutic discipline is also important and is different from punishment because it shapes, corrects and reinforces behaviour. (Weeks, 2003: 239-246)

Who is going to be tasked with integrating music & math? Who’s going to be responsible, in any school, for joining the arts w/other subjects? IME, most elementary classroom teachers have come through public school systems whose arts have been eviscerated, so those teachers are FAR less likely to be musically literate than they might have been when I was in public school *mumble mumble* years ago. As an elementary general music sub a few years ago, I pretty much had to co-opt teaching limericks in the 4th-grade poetry unit because their classroom teachers didn’t really understand, musically, the meter of the poems; even teacher-created limericks left a lot to be desired in terms of the 6/8 meter/rhythm characteristic of limericks. I find it hard to imagine that they’d be the best folks to use rhythmic or metric subdivisions to teach fractions. So will this task fall then to the music teachers? Elementary music teachers in MCPS already have their own music curricula to deliver, even within the “intrinsic barriers to learning” approach of Curriculum 2.0 – and they see the kids once per week, assuming no field trips/assemblies/standardized testing/snow days/holidays, AND they have to spend time assessing what they’re teaching already because “Data-Driven.” When could they possibly find time to do this in addition to what they’re already tasked with doing (which is theoretically to get kids to a basic level of music proficiency in less time per week than classroom teachers have DAILY with kids in reading, so already set up to fail )? Is there going to have to be concentrated staff development to get classroom teachers to a level of musical proficiency that will enable them to add one more thing to their curricula?

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