First, it’s important to understand that special education is not a single, homogenous set of services. Rather, it refers to a wide range of “specialized instruction” methods and approaches that are designed to meet the unique learning needs of students with disabilities.
Special education services can include everything from specially trained teachers who work one-on-one with individual students to classroom modifications like the use of bilingual teaching assistants in English Language Learner classrooms.
Special education can be an extremely complex and contentious area of education policy. Because the law guarantees students with disabilities an appropriate education, there is often tension between parents who want their children to have access to as many subsidized educational resources as possible and school administrators who must balance special education costs against limited budgets.
Special education (also known as special-needs education, aided education, exceptional education, special ed. or SPED) is the practice of educating students with an IEP or Section 504 in a way that addresses their individual differences and needs. Ideally, this process involves the individually planned and systematically monitored arrangement of teaching procedures, adapted equipment and materials, accessible settings, and other interventions designed to help learners with special needs achieve a higher level of personal self-sufficiency and success in school and in their community which may not be available if the student were only given access to a typical classroom education. Special needs include learning disabilities, communication disorders, emotional and behavioral disorders, physical disabilities, autism spectrum disorders (including Asperger syndrome), ADHD/ADD syndrome and developmental delays.
Special education is a term used to refer to education services that are given in a different way than they’re normally provided, with the goal of helping a student receive an appropriate education. It’s not just one thing; special education is a blend of specific intervention or support for students with disabilities and the opportunity for those students to learn alongside their nondisabled peers in inclusive classrooms.
An IEP is an Individualized Education Program designed for every student with a disability that’s covered under IDEA. This plan maps out the goals for each student to help them make progress in school. An IEP team designs the plan, including: parents; at least one general education teacher (or regular education teacher); at least one special education teacher or service provider; a representative from the school district; and the student (when appropriate).
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal law that governs how states and public agencies provide special education and related services to eligible children with disabilities. IDEA ensures that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living. Under IDEA, states must identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities who are in need of special education services. When these children are identified, the local educational agency must provide an individualized educational program (IEP) tailored to meet each child’s unique needs.