I have a number of students with severe disabilities in my classroom that are performing at a level far below their classmates. Should they be in my class? How can I help them?
Students with varying disabilities, representing a wide range of age levels, can be taught very successfully when grouped together, provided the teacher has significant training and assistance. This practice is called inclusion. Since each child's IEP governs his or her schooling, such students need individualized programs but can easily be grouped with others for many lessons. More and more, teachers are expected to meet each child's unique needs regardless of their educational "labels" of special, gifted or general.
Check to see what academic goals exist for each student. Some may need to be with non-handicapped students in order to develop social skills, with limited expectations for academic achievement. Meet with the special educators to determine how you can support these children. Usually, some degree of differentiated instruction (DI) is required.