What is Special Education?

I get asked to explain what special education is, all the time. I tell them that special education is a federally mandated program that is meant to meet the needs of students with disabilities. It provides them with the supports, resources, programs, and accommodations that they need to be successful in an academic setting.

When I discuss the topic, I speak from the heart. This is because I was a special education teacher for three years, working with students who had mild to moderate disabilities. The one misconception that I layman and educators hold about special education is that it is a service that students will need for the rest of their K-12 careers. While this may be true in some cases, it is not in them all.

The purpose of special education is to help students who are functioning below grade to perform at grade level eventually. Once this happens, they can be transitioned out of special education, and participate totally in the regular education program. As a caveat, we all know that for some students, this may not be possible. This includes students with severe intellectual disabilities, behavioral disabilties, physical disabilities, or traumatic brain injuries. Because of the severity of their conditions, special education would be a long-term placement for them

To further explain special education, I am sharing the graphic below. I hope it helps.


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