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Encyclopedia > Special education

Special education is instruction that is modified or particularized for those students with special needs, such as learning differences, mental health problems, specific disabilities (physical or developmental) [1] , and giftedness [2]. Gifted education is a broad term for special practices, procedures and theories used in the education of children who have been identified as gifted or talented. ... In the United States and Canada, the term learning disability (LD) is used to refer to a range of neurological conditions that affect one or more of the ways that a person takes in, stores, or uses information. ... A mental illness or mental disorder refers to one of many mental health conditions characterized by distress, impaired cognitive functioning, atypical behavior, emotional dysregulation, and/or maladaptive behavior. ... Look up disability in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The term disability, as it is applied to humans, refers to any condition that impedes the completion of daily tasks using traditional methods. ... Developmental disability is a term used to describe life-long disabilities attributable to mental and/or physical or combination of mental and physical impairments, manifested prior to age twenty-two. ... Intellectual giftedness is an intellectual ability significantly higher than average. ...


How is Special Education provided?

The provision of Special Education differs from country to country, and state to state. The ability of a child to access a particular setting may be dependent on their specific needs, location, family choice, or government policy. Special educators describe a cascade of services, in which students with special needs receive services in varying degrees based on their degree to which they interact with the general school population. In the main, special education will be provided in one, or a combination, of the following ways.

  • Regular education classes combined with special education services is a flexible model often referred to as inclusion. In this model, children with special needs are educated with their typically developing peers for at least half of the day. In a "full inclusion" model, specialized services are provided in the regular classroom by sending the service provider in to work with one or more children in their regular classroom setting. In a partial inclusion model, the child may attend regular or general education classes and then receive specialized services, such as in a resource room, speech or language therapy center.
  • Pull-out or "resource" classrooms, where the student with the special need leaves the regular classroom to attend smaller, more intensive instructional sessions. Special education services may be provided in other settings at specific times during the day on a pull-out basis, such as resource rooms, occupational, physical and speech therapy, sensory rooms, rooms with special physical equipment, adaptive physical education, etc.
  • Self-contained classes, located in mainstream schools but separate from regular education classrooms, are designed specifically for children who have severe special needs and may be termed support classes, SEN bases or units (in the UK), or a variety of jurisdiction-specific terms.
  • Special schools are specifically designed, resourced and staffed to meet the varied needs of children who need additional support (i.e. physical, cognitive, medical, and psychological].
  • Outreach or related services such as Speech and Language Therapy, Autism Outreach, Occupational Therapy, etc. may be provided to pupils on a visiting basis in their own setting; mainstream school, special school, independent school, home-teaching, etc.
  • Residential centres are live-in schools where complex needs can be met with appropriate medical care and provision of a variety of therapies.

Modifications can consist of changes in curriculum, supplementary aides or equipment, and the provision of specialized facilities that allow students to participate in the educational environment to the fullest extent possible. [3] Students may need this help to access subject matter, to physically gain access to the school, or to meet their emotional needs. A special school is a school catering to students who have special educational needs (SEN), for example, because of learning difficulties or physical disabilities. ...

Support is targeted to the needs of the individual student and can be short or long term. In the United States, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that special needs students be included in regular education activities as much as possible. In Scotland the Additional Support Needs Act places an obligation on education authorities to meet the needs of all children in consultation with other agencies and parents. // The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a United States federal law that governs how states and public agences provide early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities. ... // The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a United States federal law that governs how states and public agences provide early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities. ... This article is about the country. ... The Additional Support for Learning Act is a Scottish law enacted in 2004. ...


In North America special education is commonly abbreviated as Special Ed, SpecEd, SPED, SpEd, in a professional context.[1][2] It should be noted that the term sped is often interpreted as an insult.

In England and Wales the initialism SEN is most commonly used when discussing special education needs. The term is used to denote the condition of having special educational needs, the services which provide the support and the programmes and staff which implement the education. [3]. In Scotland the term Special Educational Needs (SEN), and its variants are not official terminology although the very recent implementation of the Additional Support for Learning Act means that both SEN and ASN (Additional Support Needs) are used interchangeably in current common practice.[4] Acronyms and initialisms are abbreviations formed from the initial letter or letters of words, such as NATO and XHTML, and are pronounced in a way that is distinct from the full pronunciation of what the letters stand for. ... This article is about the country. ... The Additional Support for Learning Act is a Scottish law enacted in 2004. ...


  • Special Education as been a field in which large, empirical studies have been difficult to implement, given the differences in service delivery models. In a meta-analysis of special education, researchers found no significant effect size when examining the relationship between student outcomes and inclusion in special education (see Kavale, K. A., Glass, G. V (1982) The Efficacy of Special Education Interventions and Practices: A Compendium of Meta-Analysis Findings. Focus on Exceptional Children, v15 n4 p1-14).
  • Special education as implemented in public schools has been criticized because the qualification criteria for services are extremely variable from one education agency to another. In the United States, all Local and State Education Agencies must use classification and labeling models that are aligned with the federal definitions, outlined the the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
  • At-risk students (those with educational needs that aren't associated with a disability) are often placed in classes with students with disabilities. Critics assert that placing at-risk students in the same classes as disabled students may impede the educational progress of people with disabilities.
  • Special education programs continue to be criticized by disability activists because they are still often segregated from regular education programs.
  • The currently popular practice of inclusion has been criticized by advocates and some parents of children with disabilities because some of these students require instructional methods that differ dramatically from typical classroom methods. Critics assert that it is not possible to deliver effectively two or more very different instructional methods in the same classroom. As a result, the educational progress of students who depend on different instructional methods to learn often fall even further behind their peers without disabilities.
  • Parents of typically developing children often fear that the special needs of a single "fully included" student will take critical levels of attention and energy away from the rest of the class and thereby impair the academic achievements of all students.
  • Some parents, advocates, and students have concerns about the eligibility criteria and its application. In some cases, parents and students protest the students' placement into special education programs. For example, a student may be placed into the special education programs due to a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks or ADHD, while the student and his parents believe that the condition is adequately managed through medication and outside therapy. In other cases, students whose parents believe they require the additional support of special education services are denied participation in the program based on the eligibility criteria.
  • Criticism of special education and of learning disabilities [5][6][7] recognizes the fact that every child has a different learning style and pace and that each child is unique, not only capable of learning but also capable of succeeding. It claims that applying the medical model of problem-solving to individual children who are pupils in the school system, viewing schools as "sick," as plagued with "ills" that must be "cured", and labeling these children with tags, and in turn, as "mentally ill", systematically prevents the development of the present educational system. Thence, it strongly suggests that we must provide children solutions, not labels and drugs.
"To achieve this homogenization of the classroom, all the non-standard kids had to be "diagnosed" as having some illness, that justified the expense of special ed. And so, in the past decade or two, a host of new so-called disorders has arisen -- attention deficit disorder (ADD), hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), reading disorders, cognitive disorders, and many others -- none of which have been, or can be, traced to any physiological dysfunction whatsoever. These pseudo-scientific diagnoses have caused a whole generation of non-standard children to be labeled as dysfunctional, even though they suffer from nothing more than the disease of responding differently in the classroom than the average manageable student. When this process of labeling and separation is applied to adults -- as it was for several generations in the Soviet Union -- there is a general hue and cry denouncing such action as a malicious suppression of freedom and individual variation. Alas, when the same process is being applied to more and more children in our own land of the free and home of the brave, hardly a voice is raised in protest, and those few who object are berated for attacking the schools!" [8]
It also advices professionals and governments to take these children, tagged with vague, unclear, ambiguous and deceptive "learning disabilities" labels, and put them deservedly back were they belong -- in the educational category.
"The abolition of homogenization and lockstep standardization (as in Sudbury model schools), from the earliest preschool onward, could eliminate virtually overnight most of the crippling costs of special education, that threaten to entwine us in a never-ending upward spiral of demands for funds. All that would and should remain is "special ed" as originally conceived, providing diligently for children with real physiologically identifiable disabilities (such as, cerebral palsy, autism, blindness, hearing impairment, etc.)." [9]
Gerald Coles, in his book, The Learning Mystique: A Critical Look at "Learning Disabilities," asserts that today, with alarming frequency, children of normal intelligence who do not perform at the same level as their peers are branded 'learning disabled', the victims of a neurological dysfunction, and demonstrates that the theories behind neurological explanations are unproven.
It is also claimed that "homeschooled" children in the "unschooling" approach do not suffer at all from learning disabilities. This supports the view that problematic teaching approaches, coercion and non-supportive environments produce most learning disabilities. Likewise, parents that took their children out of school as a result of learning disabilities, and "homeschooled" them, in their own pace and without pressure -- saw how problems disappear.
"Are learning disorder labels the "emperor's new clothes" of the schools? Philosophers have an interesting tool called Occam's Razor, a handy device for cutting through preposterous theories: "the simplest theory that fits the facts of a problem is the one that should be selected." What are the facts? It is a fact that many school children, mostly males, have learning difficulties. But it is also a fact that there is a group of hundreds of thousands of children in the world, both male and female, among whom this "genetic" defect is absent: homeschoolers. In this group, learning difficulties are virtually unknown, except for those children recently in school." [10]

A meta-analysis is a statistical practice of combining the results of a number of studies. ... // The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a United States federal law that governs how states and public agences provide early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities. ... In broad terms, the phrase learning disability covers any of a range of conditions that affect a persons ability to learn new information. ... It is commonly believed that most people favor some particular method of interacting with, taking in, and processing stimuli or information. ... Individual differences psychology studies the ways in which individual people differ in their behavior. ... The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual published by the American Psychiatric Association The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a handbook for mental health professionals that lists different categories of mental disorder and the criteria for diagnosing them, according to the publishing organization the American Psychiatric Association. ... Homogenization (or homogenisation) is a term used in many fields such as Chemistry, agricultural science, food technology, sociology and cell biology. ... Lockstep in the Auburn Prison, c. ... The Sudbury model of education was pioneered at Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts. ... This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ... Autism is a brain development disorder characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior, all exhibited before a child is three years old. ... This article is about the visual condition. ... A hearing impairment or hearing loss is a full or partial decrease in the ability to detect or understand sounds. ... Unschooling is a form of education in which learning is based on the students interests, needs, and goals. ... For the House television show episode called Occams Razor, see Occams Razor (House episode) Occams razor (sometimes spelled Ockhams razor) is a principle attributed to the 14th-century English logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham. ...

Academic resources

  • Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, ISSN: 1468-3148 (electronic) ISSN: 1360-2322 (paper), Blackwell Publishing
  • British Journal of Learning Disabilities, ISSN: 1468-3156 (electronic) , ISSN: 1354-4187 (paper)
  • British Journal of Special Education, ISSN: 1467-8578 (electronic) ISSN: 0952-3383 (paper), Blackwell Publishing
  • Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, ISSN: 1461-7021 (electronic) ISSN: 1359-1045 (paper), SAGE Publications
  • Developmental Neurorehabilitation, ISSN: 1751-8431 (electronic) 1751-8423 (paper), Informa Healthcare
  • Disability & Society, ISSN: 1360-0508 (electronic) 0968-7599 (paper), Routledge
  • Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, ISSN: 1365-2788 (electronic) ISSN: 0964-2633 (paper), Blackwell Publishing
  • Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, ISSN: 1741-1130 (electronic) ISSN: 1741-1122 (paper), Blackwell Publishing

See also

Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis Education and Treatment of Children Adapted physical education is a sub-discipline of physical education. ... The Department for Education and Skills is a department in the United Kingdom government created in 2001. ... Disability studies is an interdisciplinary field of study, which is focused on the contributions, experiences, history, and culture of people with disabilities. ... Exceptional Education, also known as Exceptional Student Education (ESE), usually refers to the education of gifted (also talented) children, as well as children with physical or mental disabilities. ... As part of the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the least restrictive environment is identified as one of the six principles that govern the education of students with disabilities. ... Mainstreaming in education is the process of integrating students who have special needs into regular school classes. ... Please wikify (format) this article or section as suggested in the Guide to layout and the Manual of Style. ... There are very few or no other articles that link to this one. ... 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. ...


Citations and notes

  1. ^ http://www.minedu.govt.nz/index.cfm?layout=document&documentid=7301&data=l
  2. ^ http://www.schoolofchoice.com/academy/specialed.html
  3. ^ http://www.weac.org/resource/june96/speced.htm

General information

  • Wilmshurst, L, & Brue, A. W. (2005). A parent's guide to special education. New York: AMACOM.

External links

  • National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY)
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
  • Teachers TV Special Educational Need Resources
  • [11]
  • Special Education and Medicaid KnowledgeBase
  • Education and Advocacy for Children
  • Special Education Questions Answered
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • Special Educational Needs (SEN) Teaching Tools and Support Websites
  • Schools for Children, Inc. blog covering special education and research into special ed. need and supports
  • When It's Your Own Child: A Report on Special Education from the Families Who Use It Public Agenda, 2002
  • Inclusive Education in Scotland
  • LD Online
  • SchwabLearning.org A parent and educator's guide to helping kids with learning difficulties through free information, resources, and support.
  • Idea.ed.gov Federal disability categories and definitions for parents and educators
  • Mental Health Advocay Services

  Results from FactBites:
Teachers-special education (2261 words)
Special education teachers who work with infants usually travel to the child’s home to work with the child and his or her parents.
Special education teachers show parents techniques and activities designed to stimulate the infant and encourage the growth and development of the child’s skills.
Special education teachers must be patient, able to motivate students, understanding of their students’ special needs, and accepting of differences in others.
  More results at FactBites »



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