Everyone learns at his own pace, but some children require a little extra push or have special needs in education. Special ed, the common lingo for special education, refers to alternative education programs that teach children with academic, behavioral, social, health, or physical needs that extend beyond what can be offered in a typical classroom.
In the United States, children with disabilities from age birth to 22 years are eligible for special ed. Special schools are designed to give services to children based on their age. Babies and toddlers might receive care at home, through a daycare, or from a special school. School-age children receive special needs in education through public or private schools.
Some children who receive early intervention from special ed or attend a special school during their infant and toddler years might be able to attend a typical school for Kindergarten and above. Other children might have severe disabilities and will require continued care through special ed.
Disabilities that are considered as eligible for special needs in education include physical, mental and emotional disabilities. Some disability categories include:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Developmental delay
- Emotional disability
- Language or speech impairment
- Cognitive disability
- Learning disabilities
- Blind or low vision
- Deaf or hard of hearing
- Multiple disabilities
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Orthopedic impairment
- Other health impairment
Different states have different laws requiring eligibility for special ed, but some federal laws, including Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), apply to children with special needs. To see if your child qualifies for special ed, you must submit a request to the school for an evaluation. Upon completion of the evaluation, which includes psychological and educational testing, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is developed, which might include services such as speech, occupational, or physical therapy as well as the provision of a classroom aide.
For children with special needs in education, it falls upon the parent to initialize placement in a special school. There are federal laws regulating special ed, and sometimes parents have to fight for these services. If you feel your child will benefit from special ed services rather than those provided by a typical classroom, talk to your school and research information on your local Department of Education office. These resources can help you get the special needs in education from which your child might benefit.