Special education is defined as “Specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.” IDEA was put into place on October 30, 1990 when the (EAHCA) “Education of All Handicapped Children Act” (itself having been introduced in 1975) was renamed “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.” (Pub. L. No. 101-476, 104 Stat. 1142). IDEA received minor amendments in October 1991 (Pub. L. No. 102-119, 105 Stat. 587).
Special education was put in place to provide additional services, support, programs, and specialized placements or environments to ensure that all students educational needs are provided for regardless of disability. In today’s world, there are many students with special learning needs and these are addressed through special education.
The range of support for special needs students vary based on the child’s need and the jurisdiction of the educational system they are attending. Each country, state, or jurisdiction has different policies, rules, legislation and regulations that governs what special education is.
Students who qualify for special education support have needs that will often times require support that goes beyond what is offered in the regular school or classroom setting. The types of disabilities and exceptions are identified in the jurisdiction’s law surrounding special education.
In IDEA, under the definition of “child with a disability”, there are 14 terms.
4. Developmental Delay
5. Emotional Disturbance
6. Hearing Impairment
7. Mental Retardation
8. Multiple Disabilities
9. Orthopedic Impairment
10. Other Health Impairments
11. Specific Learning Disability
12. Speech or Language Impairment
13. Traumatic Brain Injury
14. Visual Impairment Including Blindness
In order to meet the definition and eligibility for special education and related services, a child’s educational performance must be adversely affected due to the disability. Being “adversely affected,” doesn’t mean that the child must be failing in school in order to receive special education. According to IDEA each state must make a free and appropriate public education available to any child with a disability who needs special education even if the said child has not failed or been retained in a grade or course and is advancing from grade to grade.
Under IDEA gifted and talented (a student who displays high intelligence, is highly creative, artistic, or has leadership skills) is viewed as exceptional (Gifted students are not protected under IDEA regulations because they do not have the required disabilities as listed under IDEA), but other jurisdictions may also include gifted and talented in their legislation.
Gifted and talented is viewed as “the exceptionally able student who posses or demonstrates high levels of ability, in one or more content areas, when compared to their peers in the local district and who require modification of their educational program if they are to achieve in accordance with their capapbilites.” Title IX, Part A, Section 9101(22). Here in Tennessee, we have (TAG) Tennessee Association for the Gifted which is a state affiliate of the (NAGC) National Association for Gifted Children.
If you have a child you think needs to be in a special education service due to the child’s disability, or a teacher coming to you with a worry about the said child, then by all means, speak with your child’s school. A special needs committee meeting will be held at the school level. The child in question will receive assessments, evaluations, or psycho testing depending on the educational jurisdiction to determine if the child qualifies to receive special education supports or programming.
Prior to the conducting of any type of assessment or testing, the parent will need to sign consent forms agreeing to the tests or evaluations. In some cases and at some schools, inclusion of the special education student is allowed and often times urged if the school believes the child can benefit from the inclusion. Inclusion is the educational practice of educating children with disabilities in classrooms with children without disabilities. There are two models of inclusion.
Push In which has the special education teacher enter the classroom to provide instruction and support to children. The push teacher will bring materials into the classroom. The teacher may work with the child on subjects the child needs assistance in such as math or reading. The push teacher also can provide instructional support to the general education teacher, helping with ideas of how to instruction the special needs child.
Full Inclusion which places the special education teacher as a full partner in a classroom with a general education teacher. The general education teacher is the teacher of record, and is responsible for the special needs child, even though the child may have an IEP (Individualized Education Program)
Knowing that your child needs special education is a scary idea at first, but if you learn to ask questions, share your thoughts and concerns with teachers, evaluators, and doctors. Deciding whether to place your child in a special education classroom or to have your child in full classroom inclusion will be up to your child’s needs, abilities, and possible outcomes of such a decision. Your school will work with you in order to decide the best educational placement for your child.