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National Center for Special Education Research


Secondary School Experiences and Academic Performance of Students With Mental Retardation
NCSER 2009-3020
July 2009

Accommodations, Services, and Supports Provided to Students with Mental Retardation

Some youth, particularly those with disabilities, need supports and interventions beyond the traditional classroom experiences to be successful at school (Tindal and Fuchs 2000). Among the overall group of secondary-school students with mental retardation, 97 percent were reported to receive some type of accommodation or support (table 19).15 Providing additional time was a frequently reported form of accommodation; 69 percent of students with mental retardation were provided with more time to take tests, and 64 percent received additional time to complete assignments. More than half of students with mental retardation had tests read to them (56 percent), received slower-paced instruction (54 percent), or were given shorter or different assignments than the rest of the class (53 percent). Forty-seven percent received modified tests, 46 percent were assessed on the basis of modified grading standards, and 43 percent received alternative tests or assessments. Physical aspects of the classroom were modified for 10 percent of students with mental retardation.

High- and moderate-functioning students with mental retardation were more likely to receive certain accommodations and supports than were low-functioning students. Eighty-nine percent of high-functioning and 68 percent of moderate-functioning students received more time to take tests, compared with 29 percent of low-functioning students (p < .001 for both comparisons). More than two-thirds (67 percent) of moderate-functioning students received additional time for assignments, whereas less than half of low-functioning students (48 percent) received this accommodation (p < .05). Seventy-one percent of high-functioning and 54 percent of moderate-functioning students had tests read to them, compared with 31 percent of low-functioning students (p < .01 for both comparisons).

Other types of supports or assistance that enhance classroom participation also were provided to 80 percent of students with mental retardation (table 20). Special education teachers monitored the progress of 58 percent of these students, and 39 percent of students with mental retardation were reported to be supported by a teacher's aide, instructional assistant, or other personal aide. Thirty-six percent received more frequent feedback, 26 percent received learning strategies or study skills assistance, and 23 percent were assisted by a peer tutor. Less than 15 percent of students with mental retardation received self-advocacy training, a reader or interpreter, or tutoring by an adult.

Across the different levels of parent-reported cognitive functioning, 56 percent of low-functioning students were supported by a teacher's aide, instructional assistant, or other personal aide, which was significantly higher than the 42 percent of moderate- and 27 percent of high-functioning students who received this form of learning support (p < .05 and p < .01, respectively). Sixteen percent of high-functioning students and 12 percent of moderate-functioning students had the support of a reader or interpreter, compared with only 3 percent of the low-functioning group (p < .05 for both comparisons).

In addition to the accommodations and supports received in their classes, 70 percent of secondary students with mental retardation were supported by a variety of related services deemed necessary for the students to benefit from their special education programs (table 21). Thirty-one percent of students with mental retardation received speech or language therapy, 30 percent participated in adaptive physical education, and 29 percent received special transportation because of their disability. Social work services were provided to 16 percent of students with mental retardation, 15 percent received psychological or mental health services, and 14 percent were provided with assistive technology services or devices. Both behavioral intervention services and health services were received by 11 percent of students with mental retardation, whereas less than 10 percent received therapeutic services or communication services.

Students with the three levels of parent-reported cognitive functioning differed significantly with regard to many of the related services and accommodations. Eighty-nine percent of low-functioning students and 78 percent of moderate-functioning students with mental retardation received some type of related service, compared with 51 percent of high-functioning students (p < .001 for both comparisons). Forty-nine percent of low-functioning students and 37 percent of moderate-functioning students received speech or language therapy, whereas 15 percent of high-functioning students received this service (p < .001 and p < .01, respectively). Nearly one quarter (23 percent) of low-functioning students received communication services, significantly more than the 5 percent of moderate-functioning students and 1 percent of high-functioning students who received these services (p < .05 and p < .01, respectively). Two thirds (67 percent) of low-functioning students received adaptive physical education, compared with 35 percent of moderate- and 9 percent of high-functioning students (p < .001 for both comparisons). The percentage of moderate-functioning students also was significantly higher than the percentage of high-functioning students receiving adaptive physical education (p < .001). A total of 60 percent of low-functioning students received special transportation, whereas 34 percent of moderate-functioning students and 9 percent of high-functioning students received this service (p < .05 and p < .001, respectively). The percentage of moderate-functioning students also was significantly higher than the percentage of high-functioning students receiving special transportation (p < .001). One third of low-functioning students received assistive technology services or devices, a significantly higher proportion compared with the 16 percent of moderate-functioning students and 4 percent of high-functioning students (p < .05 and p < .01, respectively). Twenty-nine percent of low-functioning students received health services, compared with 9 percent of moderate- and 5 percent of high-functioning students (p < .05 and p < .01, respectively). About one-third (32 percent) of low-functioning students received occupational therapy, compared with 7 percent of moderate-functioning students and 1 percent of high-functioning students (p < .01 and p < .001, respectively). Finally, 26 percent of low-functioning students received physical therapy, which was a significantly higher percentage than the 5 percent of moderate-functioning and 1 percent of high-functioning students (p < .05 and p < .01, respectively).

The related services and supports provided to students with mental retardation were meant to be coordinated and integrated into students' overall educational programs. To facilitate this coordination and integration of services, a case manager was assigned to some students by their schools. A case manager "coordinates and oversees services on behalf of the student. In some schools, this person might be the child's special education teacher. In other schools, supervisory school district personnel may assume this responsibility" (Mattson 2001, p. 14). Thirty-three percent of the overall group of secondary students with mental retardation had a case manager provided from or through their school. Twenty-four percent of high-, 38 percent of moderate- and 36 percent of low-functioning students were reported to be supported by a case manager.

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15 Support includes receipt of any of the accommodations and other learning assistance listed here and in table 20. Students may have received more than one kind of accommodation or support.