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Special Education is a general term used to describe the law’s requirement of specially designed curriculum for children with disabilities. These services are provided by public schools and are free of charge.

A member of the Judson ISD Special Olympics team lifts weights.

A member of the Judson ISD Special Olympics team lifts weights.

"What is an ARD?"

And Other Special Education Questions Answered

According to Education Week, the number of students in special education courses has increased over the past decade. 

  • In 2007-08, 6.5 million or 13.4 percent of all students were in special education programs. 
  • Ten years later, that number increased to almost 7 million, or 13.7 percent. 
  • The number of students who spend most of their time in regular instruction classes as a part of a more inclusive approach to education, is 63.4%. This is a significant increase from 31.7% of students in 1989. 
An NEISD student uses an adaptive PE bike.

An NEISD student uses an adaptive PE bike.

Advantages of Special Education

  • Students with learning challenges are often more eager to learn in regular classrooms amongst other students who do not have the same limitations.
  • Special education tools and services offer long-lasting benefits for the length of a special needs student’s life.  They display more independence, lower instances of depression, and more positive feelings of self-esteem.
  • Special education instructors and special services benefit not only those kids with special needs, but all students within an inclusion classroom.

Some benefits of special education services:

  • SPED resources and teachers help all kids in inclusion classrooms, not only special education students.
  • Special ed services provide life-long benefits to students, including higher levels of independence, lower chances of depression, and greater self-esteem.
  • Children with learning disabilities are more excited to learn in a classroom with other students without disabilities.

Federal Law

Federal law defines an individual with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more critical life activities.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (or IDEA) legislation ensures that students with a disability are given Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) tailored to their specific needs.

In the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, discrimination based on disability is prohibited, and the requirements of students with disabilities must be met just as the needs of non-disabled students are met. Some children can be covered for services under Section 504 who do not meet the IDEA criteria, as Section 504 includes a broader definition of disability than that of IDEA.  

Some conditions that qualify as disabilities include dyslexia, epilepsy, heart disease, specific learning disabilities, autism, diabetes, allergies, low vision, poor hearing, or chronic illnesses.

What are special needs?

Special needs are defined as physical, emotional, behavioral, or learning disability or impairment that requires special services or accommodations. It’s a more generalized term. However, when it comes to federal law and the rights of a child to receive an education, the term disability is used.

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