What is special education?
Special education is governed by federal law in most educational jurisdictions. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Special Education is defined as:"Specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability."
Special education is in place to provide additional services, support, programs, specialized placements or environments to ensure that all students' educational needs are provided for. Special education is provided to qualifying students at no cost to the parents. There are many students who have special learning needs and these needs are addressed through special education. The range of special education support will vary based on need and educational jurisdictions. Each country, state or educational jurisdiction will have different policies, rules, regulations, and legislation that governs what special education is. In the US, the governing law is:
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Typically, the types of exceptionalities/disabilities will be clearly identified in the jurisdiction's law surrounding special education. Students qualifying for special education support have needs that will often require support that goes beyond what is normally offered or received in the regular school/classroom setting.
The 13 categories under IDEA include:
Gifted and talented are viewed as exceptional under IDEA, however, other jurisdictions may also include Gifted as part of their legislation. Some of the needs in the above categories cannot always be met through regular instructional and assessment practices. The goal of special education is to ensure that these students can take part in education and access the curriculum whenever possible. Ideally, all students need to have equitable access to education in order to reach their potential.
A child suspected of needing special education support will usually be referred to the special education committee at the school. Parents, teachers or both can make referrals for special education. Parents should have any necessary information/documentation from community professionals, doctors, external agencies etc. and inform the school of the child's disabilities if they are known prior to attending school. Otherwise, typically the teacher will begin to notice anomalies and will relay any concerns to the parent which can lead to a special needs committee meeting at the school level. The child who is being considered for special education services will often receive assessment(s), evaluations or psycho testing (again this depends on the educational jurisdiction) to determine if they qualify to receive special education programming/supports. However, prior to conducting any type of assessment/testing, the parent will need to sign consent forms.
Once the child qualifies for additional support, an Individual Education Plan/Program (IEP) is then developed for the child. IEPs will include goals, objectives, activities and any additional supports needed to ensure the child reaches his/her maximum educational potential. The IEP is then reviewed and revised regularly with input from the stakeholders.
To find out more about Special Education, check with your school's special education teacher or search online for your jurisdiction's policies surrounding special education.
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