What is Special Education?

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.

There are 13 different categories under IDEA they include:

  • Autism
  • Deaf or Blindness
  • Developmental Delays
  • Emotional Disturbance
  • Hearing Impairments
  • Mental Retardation
  • Multiple Disabilities
  • Orthapedic Impairments
  • Other Health Impairments
  • Specific Learning Disabilities
  • Speech and Language Impairments
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Visual Impairments

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 being 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 assessments , 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.