Introduction to Special Needs Education

Special Needs Education is a field of education that provides programming for children with special needs. It includes general education, from Pre-K through 12th grade, as well as educational and vocational programming for people who are 18 years or older. It has existed in the United States since the early 1900s, but has been evolving ever since.

As early as the 1920s, educational programming was being developed for individuals with special needs in the United States. The programming was designed around educating students with physical disabilities or intellectual disabilities and was initially delivered in segregated settings. By the 1950s, mainstreaming efforts were underway, which sought to integrate students with disabilities into mainstream school settings. In addition to mainstreaming, programs like those offered by the ARC (Association for Retarded Citizens) began emphasizing life skills development over academic achievement.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed in 1975 and mandated that all students receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). This legislation also required that students receive their special services in the least restrictive environment (LRE) possible. This legislation was updated in 2004 and continues to be a driving force behind special education policy and practice today.

A special needs child is any child that has a physical or mental limitation that has been identified by either a school district or by their family. The term “special needs” refers to any child that has a requirement for specialized services and accommodations in order to succeed in life.

Special needs children can have physical limitations such as problems walking or talking, but they can also have mental or developmental limitations such as autism, ADHD, speech impediments, dyslexia, and more.

This course will teach you about common special needs and how you can teach effectively across various special needs. At the end of this course you’ll be able to identify various special needs and create lesson plans that cater specifically to each need while working within your existing systems.

Differentiating between a student’s learning needs and their access to resources is crucial in understanding the field of special education. What constitutes a “need” versus “access” is largely dependent on socioeconomic and cultural factors, making it important for educators to understand how these factors may impact their work.

The first step in identifying students who may have special needs is through the process of screening. After a student has been screened and found eligible for services, the district assigns a case manager, who coordinates all aspects of the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), including but not limited to creating the IEP, providing input during IEP meetings, and making sure that all necessary paperwork is completed and filed.

The case manager will also assign an intervention specialist to work with the student directly. The intervention specialist conducts evaluations and assessments; provides direct instruction; helps implement accommodations; and works with parents and teachers on matters related to the student’s progress.

In order for special education programs to be effective, collaboration between parents, teachers, administrators, and specialists is essential.

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