Special Education In The US


As more and more children in this nation are diagnosed with disabilities or other difficulties, schools have designed special services to suit the unique needs of students coming from this sector. These services are now part of what we call special education system.

Children who receive these services usually confront difficulties at school whether be it problems with staying focused, having unusual behavior or difficulties with reading, comprehension, or writing.

Most of the time, these difficulties are attributed to students’ special needs, such as a learning or physical disability, emotional trouble and several others.

Thus, children who possess these special needs have the right to seek special education or support from the public school system.

Special Education Defined

Special education is a type of instruction which is designed to meet the needs of children with disabilities.

This is usually done without incurring cost to the parents. Special education includes individualized instruction done inside the classroom, at home, in hospitals and other medical institutions, or in any other environment.

Every child who participates in special education receives instruction designed to meet their individual needs with the goal of helping them learn the information and skills which other children at the school are learning.

The educational system in the United States may be different from that of another country’s.

Children who have, for example, learning disability makes it difficult for them to read, comprehend, or write, can receive special education which includes a set of instruction and individualized help to support the learning of the child.

Also, students with disabilities are protected by federal laws which assure that they will receive free, necessary and appropriate public education, as it is the obligation of public schools to give students this special help.

Two of the most important laws are Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a federal law that mandates for the providing special education for children with disabilities in the United States.

It also enables the implementation of early intervention services in infants and preschoolers of the State. Most recent amendments in this law were approved by Congress in December of 2004.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights law which state that all programs and activities receiving federal funds shall prohibit discriminating participants based on disabilities.

This law applies to public school districts. Under 504, a person with a disability is a person with a physical or mental impediment that substantially limits one or more principal life activities and has a record of that limitation.

The task of checking whether school comply to the requirements of Section 504 falls under the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education (OCR).

Special Education Eligibility

IDEA offers a definition for a “child with a disability,” and the law lists down 13 different categories of disabilities under which one can be eligible to receive special education and other related services. These list includes the following conditions:

  • Autism
  • Deaf-Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Developmental Delay
  • Emotional Disturbance
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Mental Retardation
  • Multiple Disabilities
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Other Health Impairment
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Speech or Language Impairment
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Visual Impairment Including Blindness
  • Parent Participation

While it is the obligation of public schools to offer students with special needs the help they need, it is also important that parents get involved and advocate for the rights of their children. In fact, it is a parent’s’ right under the mentioned laws and schools are mandated to accommodate parents in asserting these right.

Parent and school relationship can make a tremendous difference in the education of one’s child.

There are times when parents believe that they do not have the same rights as other parents due to certain differences – when they are from a different country, do not speak English, or have not finalized their immigrant status.

It is however guaranteed that the US educational system treats all students and parents equally regardless of the language they speak, immigration status, or origin, in order for them to actively participate in the educational process of their children

Rob Clark

SchoolCampus.org admin staff managing editor

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