The Importance of Special Education

Grace Hungerford, Staff Writer

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Throughout the United States, the number of students ages 3 to 21 that receive special education services is 6.7 million. That’s 13 percent of all public school students. Although there are various types of special education, no one is left out. Special education combines principles and values with classroom expertise. They use principles and techniques which advocate for the inclusion of students with disabilities in all aspects of schooling, and for the provision of supplementary supports and services. In short, special education is all about putting the needs of the child first.

In New York, the Special Education Services’ program goals are “to ensure that a free appropriate public education and full educational opportunity in the least restrictive environment are provided to students with disabilities by making school programs more effective and improving outcomes for students, ensuring that federal and state regulations are followed and ensuring the protections guaranteed to students with disabilities and their parents are enforced.” (Dept of Health Website). A common question for people not well-informed about special education is, are there any laws to protect children with special needs and special education? The answer is yes, laws which protect special education children include Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and No Child Left Behind. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits schools from discriminating against children with disabilities. It requires schools to provide accommodations for disabled students and students with impairments that substantially limit a major life activity, qualifying them as disabled. The ADA requires schools to meet the needs of children with psychiatric problems. Schools must also uphold standards for children with disabilities under No Child Left Behind. Every student who gets special education is covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act also known as IDEA. This federal law states what all states must do to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

So, who is eligible for special education?  IDEA states that 13 conditions are covered under the law. These 13 conditions are specific learning disability (SLD), Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), emotional disturbance, speech or language impairment, visual impairment such as blindness, deafness or hearing impairment, deaf-blindness, orthopedic impairment, intellectual disability, traumatic brain injury, multiple disabilities and other health impairment like ADHD.  After these 13 conditions, there are four major types of special education found in the classroom. Those four are physical, developmental, behavioral and emotional, and lastly, sensory impaired.

Our own school district has multiple programs which integrates students with special education with regular education students. In Woodward Parkway, there is a buddy system. In the high school, the Smile Club is a program where students of all abilities can come together in a social atmosphere and interact. All together, special education is all about providing children with special needs the best school experience possible. We are extremely lucky to live in a district with such great programs, and to know that all over the United States, there are children going through special education programs and receiving the attention they deserve.