The Definition and Needs of Special Education

Special education is generally known as aided education, special-needs education, SPED, or exceptional education. It is defined as a specially designed instruction or educational practice that addresses students with special needs according to their individual differences. In general, the curriculum of special education was developed to meet the requirements of children with physical or mental disabilities. It contains specific instructions conducted not only in a classroom but in home, institutions, hospitals, and other settings.

The instruction’s methodology, content, and delivery aim to ensure the access of every eligible student to general educational standards within the jurisdiction of local agencies. The term of SPED traditionally includes travel training, vocational education, and speech-language pathology services. In general, any other services may be related to special education if they meet the requirements of its fundamental principles.

According to the United States legislation, special education is provided free of charge through the system of public education due to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The majority of students with learning disabilities study in general education classrooms as the essential objective of the IDEA implies the provision of SPED services in a non-restrictive environment. However, paraprofessionals and special education teachers provide lessons for eligible children in separate classrooms or settings as well.

The IDEA guarantees appropriate public education for all students with disabilities and defines the main steps in the process of special education. These five steps include referral and identification, evaluation, the determination of eligibility, the determination of services and the development of an individualized education program (IEP), and reevaluation. Each step may be characterized by timelines that should be necessarily followed by schools in order to prevent delays.

First of all, for the eligibility evaluation, the referral request should be completed in written, electronic, or oral form. The timeline for eligibility determination and evaluation is 65 business days.

After the evaluation is requested and the child’s eligibility for special education is determined, parents and a multidisciplinary team that consists of specialists in the area of exceptional education develop an IEP. This program considers the student’s level of functioning and aims to fulfill his or her educational needs in an almost non-restrictive environment. In addition, the team discusses the child’s progress and elaborates on his or her educational goals as well.

The child’s evaluation concerning the symptoms of any disability and procedural safeguards that imply parents’ rights ensure that he or she will be provided with public education on an equal basis with other students. According to the Federal and State rules, local divisions of public schools are responsible for the placement and the provision of IEP-developed services for students with special needs.

In addition, the IDEA identified disabilities that are currently served under the program – developmental delay, autism spectrum disorders, emotional, intellectual, learning, sensory, and multiple disabilities, traumatic brain injury, speech-language, orthopedic, and other health impairments. Eligible children should be diagnosed with at least one of these disabilities to require particular accommodations for academic progress. Moreover, there are certain main criteria that are applied to determine the existence of learning disabilities.

First of all, a child cannot meet state-approved standards in written and oral expression, basic reading skills, listening and reading comprehension, or mathematics calculation and problem-solving. Traditionally, he or she cannot achieve appropriate results due to mental retardation, emotional disturbance, cultural factors, limited language proficiency, economic or environmental disadvantages, and motor, visual, or hearing disabilities.

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1. ChalkyPapers. "The Definition and Needs of Special Education." September 25, 2023.


ChalkyPapers. "The Definition and Needs of Special Education." September 25, 2023.