The recent Supreme Court decision in Endrew F. presents an opportunity to reflect on current approaches to educating students with disabilities. In this talk, I will discuss challenges with how special education is currently provided and explore possibilities for enhancing the education that children and adolescents with disabilities receive. I will provide examples of individualization, intensification, and innovation from my line of research focused on improving literacy outcomes for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I will discuss implications for how we train special educators and the potential for us to ensure that students receive an education that is appropriately aligned with Endrew F. and, therefore, actually ‘special.’
Christopher J. Lemons, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Special Education at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and a member of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. He is the Co-Director of the National Center for Leadership in Intensive Intervention (www.nclii.org). His research focuses on improving academic outcomes for children and adolescents with intellectual, developmental, and learning disabilities. His recent research has focused on developing and evaluating reading interventions for individuals with Down syndrome. His areas of expertise include reading interventions for children and adolescents with learning and intellectual disabilities, data-based individualization, and intervention-related assessment and professional development. Lemons has secured funding to support his research from the Institute of Education Sciences and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, both within the U.S. Department of Education and from the National Institutes of Health. Lemons is a recipient of the Pueschel-Tjossem Research Award from the National Down Syndrome Congress and the Distinguished Early Career Research Award from the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division for Research. In 2016, Lemons received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers, from President Obama. Prior to entering academia, Lemons taught in several special education settings including a preschool autism unit, an elementary resource and inclusion program, and a middle school life skills classroom.