Approximately 6.7 million students in American public schools have been diagnosed with learning disabilities and receive special education services. (Citation https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cgg.asp) Understanding how to support students with special needs is central to success as an educator. This competition offers Educators Rising students the opportunity to explore deeply and to develop recommendations regarding effective educational supports for students with special needs. 

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) groups students into fourteen disability categories. They are: 

1. Autism 

2. Deaf-blindness 

3. Developmental delay 

4. Emotional disturbance 

5. Hearing impairment 

6. Intellectual disability 

7. Multiple disabilities 

8. Orthopedic impairment 

9. Other health impairments 

10. Preschool disabled 

11. Specific learning disability (e.g., dyslexia) 

12. Speech or language impairment 

13. Traumatic brain injury 

14. Visual impairment 

This year’s competition focuses on intellectual disability. Intellectual disabilities are characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, which include many everyday social and practical skills. According to the 2018 “The Condition of Education” report by the National Center for Education Statistics, 6% of students that were provided services under the IDEA during the 2015-16 academic year had an intellectual disability. 

The purpose of this competition is to work collaboratively to learn more about intellectual disabilities and to produce a research-supported position paper and presentation to explain and to advocate for positive practices in schools to support the education of students with intellectual disabilities. Imagine that the local school board has asked you: “What specific steps should we take to support the education of students with intellectual disabilities? Also, why should we accept your recommendations?” 

Team members will collaborate on a research-supported position paper, which will be no shorter than four full pages and no longer than six full pages, to offer their recommendations. The minimum number of student collaborators is two, but there is no maximum. The position paper must include cited references (MLA, APA, or Chicago style are acceptable) and a works cited sheet, which will not count toward the four-to-six-page length requirement. (Also, the title page doesn’t count toward the length requirement. If you are unable to reach the minimum length required, resume the research process — there is a lot of quality material out there on this topic.) The position paper will be submitted with the competition application and will be scored by judges prior to the national conference. 

Team members should research intellectual disabilities and best practices to support the education of students with intellectual disabilities. You are encouraged to embark on this research using traditional sources as well as primary sources (ex. conducting interviews with individuals impacted by this disability or professionals who support individuals with this disability, etc.). Then team members should discuss the research in order to determine recommendations for their paper and presentation. 

There are two components to this competition: 

A position paper: submitted and scored by judges prior to the national conference; and 

An interactive session (including a presentation) with judges onsite at national conference. 

More information can be found at the link below:

Researching Learning Challenges