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Encyclopedia > Special Education in the United States

Special education programs in the United States were made mandatory in 1973 when Congress passed the Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA) in response to discriminatory treatment by public educational agencies against students with disabilities. The EHA was later modified to strengthen protections to disabled pupils and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA is found in Title 20 of the United States Code, starting at section 1400. A congress is a gathering of people, especially a gathering for a political purpose. ... The term disability, as it is applied to humans, refers to any condition that impedes the completion of daily tasks using traditional methods. ... The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a United States federal law, , most recently amended in 2004, meant to ensure a free appropriate public education for students with disabilities, designed to their individualized needs in the Least Restrictive Environment. ... The United States Code (U.S.C.) is a compilation and codification of the general and permanent federal Law of the United States. ...

The two most basic rights ensured by the IDEA is that every disabled student is entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). To ensure a FAPE, a team of professionals and parents meet to determine the student's unique educational needs, develop annual goals for the student, and determine the placement, program modification, testing accommodations, counseling, and other special services that the student needs through the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The educational agency is required to develop and implement an IEP that meets the standards of federal and state educational agencies. // Public education is education mandated for the children of the general public by the government, whether national, regional, or local, provided by an institution of civil government, and paid for, in whole or in part, by taxes. ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ...

The LRE mandate requires that all students' educations be with their nondisabled peers to the greatest extent possible, while still providing a FAPE. The LRE requirement is intended to prevent unnecessary segregation of the disabled, and is based on Congress' finding that over twenty years of research and experience demonstrates that education of disabled students is more effective by having high expectations of such children and ensuring their access to the general curriculum to the maximum extent possible.

Some special education services (such as speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, etc) may be provided within the mainstream class (i.e. inclusion) or in a separate classroom if this is decided to be the LRE. Students receive individualized services to meet their goals, and these services are outlined in each child's IEP. Special equipment may be used, such as a standing frame, to encourage inclusion and achieve multiple IEP goals at once (i.e. standing while working on speech). Students in Special Education will also need a transition plan, focussing on their life after school, starting at age 16. The transition plan focuses on the learner's goals for the future, addressing living and employment. Speech therapy is the corrective or rehabilitative treatment of physical and/or cognitive deficits/disorders resulting in difficulty with verbal communication. ... Occupational therapy (OT) is skilled treatment that helps individuals achieve independence in all facets of their lives. ... Physical therapy (also known as physiotherapy) is an allied health profession concerned with the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of disease and disability through physical means. ... A standing frame (also known as a stand, stander, standing technology, standing aid, standing device, standing box, tilt table) is assistive technology used by a child or adult who uses a wheelchair for mobility. ...

Most educators also believe that children with disabilities and nondisabled children should be taught together whenever possible. Isolating children with disabilities may lower their self-esteem and may reduce their ability to deal with other people. In addition, nondisabled children can learn much about personal courage and perseverance from children with disabilities. The practice of integrating children with disabilities into regular school programs is called mainstreaming. Students with disabilities attend special classrooms or schools only if their need for very specialized services makes mainstreaming impossible (i.e. a child with a wheelchair cannot participate in physical education, while a child with AD/HD may have trouble concentrating in a large class.) Many children with disabilities attend regular classes most of the school day: They work with a specially trained teacher for part of each day to overcome their disability. These sessions may be held in a classroom called a resource room, which may be equipped with such materials as braille typewriters and relief maps for blind students. Other students with disabilities attend special classes most of the day but join the rest of the children for certain activities. For example, youngsters with mental retardation may join other children who do not have retardation for art and physical education.

Although the place where instruction occurs (the setting) is seen as important in the field of special education, the types of curricular modifications and interventions may be a more important area to focus on in the future. Special education programming is influenced by behaviorism to a larger extent than general education.


The referral

Parents who suspect or know that their child has a problem making adequate school progress should request an evaluation from their local school district. The request, called a "referral for evaluation," should be initiated in writing. The referral should be addressed to the principal of the local public school or the special education coordinator for the district, and should provide the child's name, date of birth, address, current school placement (if applicable), and the suspected area of disability or special need. Upon receipt of the referral, the school district will contact the parent to set up a meeting time in order to explain the process and obtain written consent to perform the necessary evaluations. To prepare for this meeting, parents should be able to describe their child's problems in depth, providing examples of their child's difficulties in the classroom. Parents can request any evaluations they feel are needed to add to the picture of the child's specific educational needs, such as speech and language testing, occupational therapy testing or neurological testing. All evaluations needed to provide a full picture of the child's disabilities must be provided by the school system at no cost to the family.[1]

The Evaluation

After the referral process, the district will begin the evaluation. The law requires a comprehensive school evaluation involving all areas of suspected disability. Testing must be in the native language of the child (if feasible). It must be administered by a team of professionals, which must include at least one teacher and a specialist who is knowledgeable in the area of the child's disability. Testing must be administered one-to-one, not in a group. Any tests or other evaluation materials used must be administered by professionals trained and qualified to administer them; i.e., psychological testing must be conducted by a psychologist trained to administer the specific tests utilized. In addition to testing, an observation of the child either in school or in a comparable situation is required for an initial evaluation, and often at later stages as well. It is through the observation that the child can be assessed while interacting with his peers and teachers. To insure objectivity and cross-referencing, this observation must be conducted by a person other than the child's classroom teacher. The observation need not be done exclusively in the child's classroom, especially when the child's suspected area of disability may become manifest in larger settings, such as the lunchroom, hallways or gym. For children over twelve years of age, vocational testing is required. This requirement is in keeping with the spirit of the IDEA 1997 Amendments that encourage preparation of children for useful employment. The vocational testing should identify areas of interest and skills needed to attain employment after graduation from school. During the testing process, the parent is free to provide any privately obtained evaluative material and reports. Although sometimes costly, private evaluations can be very valuable in providing the Special Education Committee with the expertise of specialists trained in the area of the child's disability who may have a more objective view than school system personnel. Experts may include professionals such as psychotherapists, psychiatrists, neurologists, pediatricians, medical personnel, and tutors. Professionals who have been working with the child over time can often provide the district with a long-term view of the child's needs.[2]

Developing the Individual Education Program (IEP)

The Individual Education Program is developed by a team (sometimes referred to as the Committee on Special Education) that must include:

  • A representative of the school district (not the child's teacher) who is qualified to provide or supervise special education.
  • The child's teacher(s). If the child is in a general education class and receives special education services as well, both teachers are required to attend.
  • If the program to be recommended includes activities with general education students, even if the child is in a special education class in the school, a general education teacher is required to attend.
  • One or both of the child's parents. Consistent with the IDEA's stated policy, parents should expect to be treated as equal participants with school personnel in developing the IEP.
  • The child should attend the meeting whenever the parents think it is appropriate.
  • Professionals who are qualified to explain the results of the testing. Usually this requires at least the presence of a psychologist and educational evaluator.
  • Parents may bring with them any others involved with the child who they feel are important for the IEP team to hear; for example, the child's psychologist or tutor.
  • Parents may elect to bring an educational advocate and/or lawyer knowledgeable in the IEP process.
  • Although not required, if the child is receiving related services (such as speech therapy or occupational therapy), it is valuable for related service personnel to attend the meeting or at least provide written recommendations concerning the services in their area of specialty .
  • In some localities additional members are required. For example, New York State requires the presence of a parent member. A parent member is the parent of a child with a disability (not the parent of the child for whom the IEP is being developed) who has had special training in the workings of the IEP process.

Parents must be notified of the meeting in writing. The notification must indicate the purpose, time and location of the meeting and list the people who will be in attendance, including the name and position of each person. If parents are unable to attend at the appointed time, the meeting should be rescheduled to accommodate the needs of the family.[3]


Once all the evaluative material is presented and reviewed at the meeting, the IEP team must first determine whether the child is eligible for special education services. An eligible child will require special education intervention in order to enable him/her to receive the benefits of instruction and an education. If the team finds the child eligible for special education, they must then classify the child. The classifications include:

  • Learning Disabled (LD)
  • Speech Impaired (SI)
  • Deaf Visually Impaired (VI)
  • Traumatic Brain Injured (TBI)
  • Mentally Retarded (MR)
  • Emotionally Disturbed (ED)
  • Hearing Impaired (HI)
  • Orthopedically Impaired (OI)
  • Autistic Other Health Impaired (OHI)

The IDEA allows, but does not require, school districts to add the classifications of Attention- Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) at their discretion.[4]

The Individual Education Program

The IEP must include:

  • A statement of the child's present levels of educational performance, which describes the effects of the child's disability on all affected areas of the child's academic and non-academic school performance.
  • A statement of annual goals including short-term objectives. Annual goals must describe what the child is expected to accomplish in a 12-month period in the special education program. Short-term objectives should describe the steps required to achieve the goals. Goals and objectives are specific in all areas in which the child is receiving special education services.
  • A statement of the specific special education and related services to be provided to the child and the extent to which the child will participate in regular education programs .
  • The projected dates for the initiation of services.

After the IEP meeting the parents must be given written notice of exactly where and how the services will be provided for their child. Most often, the suggested program will be located within the public school system in the district. When a student's disability is such that his or her needs cannot be met in the district, the school district may suggest a placement in an out-of-district program. These programs can include a Day Treatment Program, a Non-public Special Education School, a Residential School or Home Instruction. In all cases, parents should visit the sites that are recommended to observe the program to determine if the program is appropriate for their child.[5]

Impartial hearing/mediation

Parents may disagree with the program recommendation of the school district. In that event, parents may reject the district's recommendations by notifying the school district in a clear and concise manner of the reasons for the rejection of the IEP recommendation. This notice must be given in writing within 30 days of receipt of the program recommendation.

The IDEA provides for two methods of resolving disputes between parents and school districts. These include:

1. Mediation that may be a viable means to review small disagreements with the IEP, such as the number of sessions for a related service or the size of a special education class.

2. Impartial Hearing which is a due process-based formal proceeding that allows the parents to challenge the district's individual education plan in whole or in part.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Understanding Special Education and the Law; The referral; URL accessed March 24, 2006.
  2. ^ Understanding Special Education and the Law; The Evaluation; URL accessed March 24, 2006.
  3. ^ Understanding Special Education and the Law; The IEP; URL accessed March 27, 2006.
  4. ^ Understanding Special Education and the Law; Classification; URL accessed March 27, 2006.
  5. ^ Understanding Special Education and the Law; The Individual Education Program; URL accessed March 27, 2006.
  6. ^ Understanding Special Education and the Law; Impartial hearing/mediation; URL accessed March 27, 2006.
March 24 is the 83rd day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (84th in Leap years). ... 2006 (MMVI) is a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... March 24 is the 83rd day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (84th in Leap years). ... 2006 (MMVI) is a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... March 27 is the 86th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (87th in Leap years). ... 2006 (MMVI) is a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... March 27 is the 86th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (87th in Leap years). ... 2006 (MMVI) is a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... March 27 is the 86th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (87th in Leap years). ... 2006 (MMVI) is a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... March 27 is the 86th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (87th in Leap years). ... 2006 (MMVI) is a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ...



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