American Special Education and Early Intervention

Special education is a type of education that addresses the requirements of children with special needs. Preventive special education interventions are aimed at stopping the developing problematic behaviors from becoming more serious and harder to change while improving the child’s emotional and social skills at the same time. Remedial education deals with the needs of children who have lagged behind their curriculum, regardless of the reason for the lag; however, in the case of special education, the reasons would be related to disabilities. For instance, early remedial intervention might be used to address speech problems resulting from a hearing loss. Compensatory, special education is aimed at helping children who are entitled to special education, but have been denied it or were not able to receive it at a proper level, and is usually provided as a result of a complaint (Seligmann & Zirkel, 2013).

The features of early interventions that are different from general, special education include a number of principles. In particular, it is believed that the earlier the child’s impairment is identified and the earlier a special education intervention is carried out, the more effective its result might be. Also, early interventions are aimed at helping the family of the disabled child, providing them with the necessary knowledge and information and remedying the additional stress caused by the kid’s special needs, which allows parents to better deal with the child’s needs and behaviors (Akram & Hameed, 2014).

There exist a number of salient features of early special education interventions. For instance, these interventions are individually planned and designed because they must meet the needs of a particular child or infant who has their own peculiar characteristics. It is also required to regularly monitor the child’s progress and modify the instruction. Clearly, these interventions are specialized because these interventions are aimed at assisting a particular child in dealing with their particular disabilities. They are also family-driven because one of the aims of such interventions is to help the family to adapt to the special needs of their child; parents also play an important role in the child’s further development.

They are directed at the goal of helping the particular child to get rid of or alleviate the problems or difficulties that they experience due to their special needs. Early interventions are to be carried out at an early age as possible, in order to address the currently emerging or existing difficulties so that other complications do not appear as a result of these emerging or existing difficulties. Out of these features, the characteristics of being specialized, constantly modified, individually planned, and goal-directed also apply to general special education, whereas the features of being family driven and implemented at as early an age as possible are related to early interventions.

Before the 1950s, people with disabilities were not legally entitled to special education. In the 1960s, there emerged social movements supporting children with disabilities. As a result, in 1966, a Bureau for the Education of the Handicapped (BEH) under Title VI of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) was established. BEH took part in efforts that resulted in adoption of the Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA) in 1970. Also, parents of impaired children cooperated in order to improve the quality of education provided for their children, which was unsatisfactory and did not address the disabilities of particular children; a number of state laws were adopted in 45 states by 1973.

Also since 1973, the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act stated that any receiver of federal funding (local and state educational agencies included) should not discriminate people with disabilities while providing their services. This section, however, was not funded or monitored, and was therefore largely ignored. Further, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) (1975) ruled that all disabled students should receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE); funding was provided in this case. Today, EAHCA is known as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Its name was changed by the amendment of 1990. Other important amendments were made in 1983, 1986, 1990, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2011. Also, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (1990) supplied protection from discrimination in places of public accommodation (including most institutions dealing with education), which included the provision of any services or facilities. On the whole, though, IDEA has become the main act addressing the educational needs of children with disabilities (Spaulding & Pratt, 2015).

Issues connected to early interventions for young children were present in IDEA only in 1986; the section of the law related to this issue is usually referred to as the Part C of IDEA. In 1986, the program of early interventions was established to better the development of young children and reduce the developmental delay, to lower the monetary spending of the society by reducing the need for special education; to minimize the chance of institutionalization of impaired persons, and to improve the ability of relatives to satisfy the special needs of their kids (Spaulding & Pratt, 2015).

There exist problems related to both defining the special educational needs and identifying whether children have these needs. There might exist different definitions of special educational needs; narrower definitions would include children with stronger needs for special education, whereas broader definitions could include children at risk. It might be said that there exists a gray area between children who acutely need special education and children who might potentially need it. The criteria for children’s eligibility for special education services is provided both state and federal laws.

Moreover, it is often hard to identify whether children, especially the youngest ones, have special educational needs. If the impairment is severe enough (such as a hearing impairment), then parents often might identify it and take steps to begin early intervention at the age of ≈1.5-2.5 years (Ansari, 2014). On the other hand, it is frequently very difficult even for professionals (not to mention parents) to identify if children have less obvious impairments, e.g. a learning disability, especially while they are infants or toddlers; these impairments might only be identified at school. If a child comes from a culturally different group, it complicates the situation even further, for professional are not always aware of all the peculiarities of the culture the child comes from; besides, language barriers and similar issues also arise in the process.

Children with exceptional needs are those who have special educational needs either because of a disability or because of being gifted.

When it comes to resolving a dispute between parents and the education provider, parents of a child make a due process complaint and, if a resolution meeting has not allowed to resolve the dispute, it is resolved during a formal hearing. This procedure is carried out according to IDEIA the 2004 amendment to IDEA.

FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, 1974) provides parents with access to their child’s educational records. Today it applies to all educational records held by a school district, regardless of the age of children.

According to even the very first version of IDEA, the EAHCA of 1975, all disabled children were to receive FAPE. To do that, however, it is necessary to identify the disability; for this purpose, the process of screening is used. It starts in early childhood and allows to identify some impairments; but other problems (such as learning disabilities) are often identified when a child starts school.

The procedure of referral also originated in EAHCA, which entitles all the needing children to FAPE. For schoolchildren, the process of referral for special education eligibility starts after a child was recognized as potentially having additional educational needs, and these needs were not met after interventions in general education classroom. Then, a referral for eligibility to special education is initiated. For schoolchildren, the process of referral can be started by school personnel, parents, or any other people participating in the child’s care or education (“The special education referral process,” n.d.). For younger children, the referral may be begun by professionals performing screening. Eligibility for special education is established by IDEA, according to the principle of FAPE, which was already present in EAHCA. The criteria for eligibility are provided by both the federal and state laws.

The continuum of special education services might differ from state to state. This is a number of services aimed at allowing the student to meet their individual need for special education by providing “different service delivery models” (New York State Education Department, 2013, para. 12). It might include “consultant teacher services,… resource room services, related services, integrated co-teaching services,… special class,” and other types of services which allow for an overall satisfaction of the student’s special educational needs (New York State Education Department, 2013, para. 6). The continuum of options that differ in the extent and means of delivery of special educational services is also provided according to the principles of IDEA.


Akram, B., & Hameed, A. (2014). Adaptive emotional abilities of adolescents with hearing impairment. Pakistan Journal of Psychological Research, 29(1), 103-123.

Ansari, M. S. (2014). Assessing parental role as resource persons in achieving goals of early detection and intervention for children with hearing impairment. Disability, CBR and Inclusive Development, 25(4), 84-98. doi:10.5463/DCID.v25i4.356

New York State Education Department. (2013). Continuum of special education services for school-age students with disabilities – questions and answers. Web.

Seligmann, T. J., & Zirkel, P. A. (2013). Compensatory education for IDEA violations: The silly putty of remedies? The Urban Lawyer, 45(1), 281-312. Web.

Spaulding, L. S., & Pratt, S. M. (2015). A review and analysis of the history of special education and disability advocacy in the United States. American Educational History Journal, 42(1), 91-109. Web.

The special education referral process. (n.d.). Web.

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