Special Education: Part 2

Students that qualify for special education can fall into a number of categories. While the most severe and visible categories of special education are usually displayed and discussed, as noted in my first post, special education is broad, complex, and includes a number of services for each individual’s circumstances.

When I speak with non-educators, or when I have watched the news, the students who need special education services are limited in understanding–the range and diversity of students is not evident in the discussion, nor adequately represented in any forum.

Therefore, let me list some categories, demographics, and populations to illustrate the wide-range of need, services, and students that qualify for special education:

  • blind/visually impaired
  • permanent and temporary physical disability
  • deaf & hard of hearing
  • speech impairment
  • language delay
  • specific learning disability–i.e. dyslexia
  • intellectual disability
  • multiple disabilities
  • other health impairment (the all-encompassing category)

Within each of these categories, there is an abundance of diversity. For instance, five students with language delays in the 2nd grade can have 5 different levels of severity in their language delays due to previous support at home and at school, as well as other factors such as the underlying cause of their language delay.

Technically, IDEA has 13 broad categories for special education (autism, blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment). That’s not to say that these categories cannot overlap, will not change over time, or be renamed. Our understanding of health and education is constantly evolving, and so are the labels and practices tied to them.

These categories do not touch on a student’s gender, age, primary language, first language, religious orientation, place of birth, citizenship, family structure, or overall schooling experience. All of these individual factors influence the best placement, ideal service, and the development of academic goals.

The point in all of this is to emphasize that special education services are incredibly vast because the range, diversity, needs, and abilities of students is equally vast. So, in the next conversation on funding, on who will teach what, on where students should be placed, on what constitutes special education, on who needs special education, etc. extend that discussion as far as possible–because that’s how far special education extends.

Special Education: Part 1

Special education has been in the news recently; so, I wanted to take this opportunity to push the conversation further . . .

Special education services are multi-faceted and multi-fold, they depend on the individual child and each individual child has individual needs. So, it doesn’t look the same for anyone in any given context.

When discussing special education, consider and remember the following:

Special education can begin in the very early ages and continue onto the university level, or it can be a portion of a person’s educational career.

Special education services can be:

  • pull-out; or,
  • push-in

Special education can require:

  • occupational therapy
  • physical therapy
  • speech therapy
  • educational therapy

Special education can take place in:

  • a traditional classroom
  • a special education classroom
  • a specialty school
  • a special program and classroom within a school

At the school level, special education is the responsibility of:

  • students
  • parents/families
  • educators
  • specialists
  • administrators

Often, in general discussions or in short segments on television, special education is not illustrated, defined, or understood to be a complex and elaborate system that benefits a wide-range of students.

When I listen, when I watch, when I converse with non-educators in particular, the vastness of special education is not comprehended, and if that is not understood then meaningful dialogue and solutions are not attainable.

Therefore, in our quest to see it funded, funded well, and funded in the future, we must augment the conversation to demonstrate that all students, even those not in special education, benefit and rise in a system that understands that all students deserve an education that offers them the chance to learn, and the opportunity to demonstrate that learning.

If you have questions, if you have concerns, I encourage you to ask and research. If you want to know more, I encourage you to take an in-depth look at your school, the schools in your neighborhood, and the schools in your district.

Special education is an important and integral component of our education system; it deserves more understanding, more research, and certainly more resources.