Big Ideas in Special Education


This article is centered around specialized approaches implemented in the educational system to demonstrate their beneficial applications to the learning process of handicapped or disabled children. The research article emphasizes the importance of HLPs (high-leverage practices), EI (explicit instructions); SDI (specially designed instructions); and II (intensive instructions) within the education framework for exceptional children. This research paper tries to highlight notions about the differences and similarities of these concepts and defines each approach in detail. It is essential to differentiate these educational tools, as their misuse might entail several critical and severe mistakes on professionals’ behalf while interacting with exceptional children.

SDI (Specially Designed Instructions)

Education for all disabled children is labeled as special education or specially designed instructions. Specially designed instructions were devised and penetrated the educational system to meet exceptional children’s unique needs. SDI is the broad term for special regulations, be it classroom instructions or home ones. SDI is defined as the adaptation for special children who are members of methodology trials to detect the way these children react to the general academic curriculum. SDI is “created by changing instructional content, methods, or delivery to meet the student’s unique needs as a result of a disability” (Riccomimi et al., 2017, p. 21).

Specially designed instructions help handicapped pupils access the general academic curriculum by meeting their needs and fulfilling their goals. SDI encompasses HLPs, EI, and II, and all these components might work as a complex educational facility.

HLPs (high-leverage practices)

According to this research paper, HLPs (high-leverage practices) address particular aspects that correlate to education delivery for exceptional children. These aspects are collaboration, assessment, social/emotional-behavior support, and instructions. HLPs must focus directly and strictly on instructional practice; they must transpire with a high rate of teaching frequency and be research-based. HLPs are means of selection of a concrete set of research-supported instructional guidelines as they are used to clarify and explain instructions to exceptional children. The primary purpose of high-leverage practices is to provide students with support and language and meaning clarity, so they can understand which solution they have to find.

EI (Explicit Instructions)

EI is a regulative approach that is the element of HLPs. The EI approach facilitates the learning processes more effectively for students experiencing different difficulty levels in learning academic skills. The principles of EI are well-organized and embrace diverse techniques, such as scaffold instructions; different forms of knowledge address and increase content coverage. Professionals who resort to this approach act out as additional regulation delivers, who monitor students’ performance closely and help them organize their knowledge.

II (Intensive Instructions)

II is the process “in which the intensity of an intervention is increased to match the severity of student need or lack of expected or adequate academic or behavioral progress” (Riccomimi et al., 2017, p. 24). The II approach is vital in case an exceptional student cannot achieve academic success even after using reach-supported and supplemental interventions. This category of students under the surveillance and support of professionals refers to special education services that might expand their cognitive and mental possibilities.

In conclusion, SDI is dependent upon the identification of exceptional students’ unique learning aptitudes. HLPs are foundational aspects that deliver practical instructions and regulations that help disabled students grasp the primary purpose of the task they are asked to accomplish. HLPs are the multidimensional paradigm that enables teachers to adjust to the students’ academic performance and devise unique approaches and techniques that represent disabled pupils’ needs and skills.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Article

This research paper is well-organized and informative as it is devoted to the subject that is much spoken today. Special treatment of exceptional children today is a current issue. Major educational bodies are in trials to find the most beneficial and applicable approach to help students access the academic curriculum. This research stresses the importance of SDIs that include HLPs, EI, and II, as these particular approaches are the perfect rationales for satisfying disabled students’ needs in terms of enhancement of their mental and cognitive abilities. All these approaches build their hypotheses on the theory of providing more direct, explicit, and additional instructions that stimulate pupils’ academic performance. This research paper is the basis of CEC (the Council for Exceptional Children) findings that prove the fact that this article refers to academic information data that is also proven empirically.

The major strength of this article is that it is not only the theoretical material but also includes severe practical results. All theoretical statistics are backed by the results of professionals taking part in the CEC conference, where they collected information during sessions. They decided to implement SDIs in practice via unique technique designs, such as scaffolded support for disabled students; assistive and instructional technology implementation; social behavior teaching; and others. During practical experiments, a three-question pattern was devised (“What do I know? What do I need to know? How do I solve this problem” (Riccomimi et al., 2017, p. 24)?).

It enabled teachers to discern the exceptional dynamics students manifested while solving the stated problem or equation. After the set of consecutive equations, the students were able to complete tasks independently. It is a case of collaborative work of the teachers and the disabled pupils who managed to reach the final collective educational goal. As to weaknesses of the article, they are absent, as it is a perfect example of research that proves the theoretical material with practical evidence. All terms are clearly defined; the paper is well-structured and organized.

Importance/ Relevance (The “So what?” Question)

As mentioned above, the teachers resorted to the visual word-lines displayed on the blackboard matched to each verbal issue:

  • “What do I know?
  • What do I need to know?
  • How do I solve this problem” (Riccomimi et al., 2017, p. 24)?

The teachers used a scaffolded, four-problem progression in the hope of making the students accomplish tasks independently. In this approach, the teachers implemented the think-aloud models helping the students verbalize three significant questions. Verbalization is an excellent technique for exceptional students who have difficulties understanding problem tasks. After the students realized what they were supposed to do, the teachers provided children with the equation that might be the following setting for the next similar task problem. All these actions were done under the control and support of the teachers monitoring the way the students understand the stated problem.

The final destination point of this scaffolding application is to make the students accomplish tasks independently without asking for additional instructions from a teacher. The teachers used this HLP strategy to decide the effectiveness of this scaffolded instruction and concluded that this HLP approach coupled with IIs was practical and beneficial in special education.


Riccomini, P. J., Morano, S., & Hughes, C. A. (2017). Big ideas in special education: Specially designed instruction, high-leverage practices, explicit instruction, and intensive instruction. Teaching Exceptional Children, 50(1), 20-27. Web.

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ChalkyPapers. (2023) 'Big Ideas in Special Education'. 26 September.


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ChalkyPapers. "Big Ideas in Special Education." September 26, 2023.