All children have different learning styles. Some are visual learners, who require charts and other graphical representations of information to learn well, and don’t typically understand or retain information when they hear it without these visual aids. Others are verbal, who are able to hear information once and retain it well, and understand things well when they are described and explained, but have great difficulty making sense of numbers and formulas. No two children learn in precisely the same manner, which means that there are a wide variety of teaching styles; however, when it comes to teaching children with special needs, traditional teaching styles are usually ineffective. As a result, teachers in special needs schools must come up with creative alternatives for special needs students.
Mainstream public schools usually have special needs programs for students who require them. Special needs teachers come up with IEPs (individualized education programs), which help to tailor the curriculum in such a way that it is effective for the learning style of that particular child. Unfortunately, there are some limitations to the special needs programs in most public schools. The students in these programs are often kept separate from the mainstream student body, either because they are unable to function in such a setting, or because they may be ridiculed and singled out by the other kids; this means that they are limited to socializing only with the ten or twelve kids in the program, and miss out on a lot of opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities. The IEPs also pale in comparison to the level of personalized education available in dedicated special needs schools.
There are hundreds of special needs schools in the United States, and each of them is intended to serve a different population of students. The group of students who commonly attend special needs schools is an extremely diverse one; we offer listings of the different schools and the demographics they serve, and while some special needs schools focus on one particular group, others offer services for students which suffer from any of a variety of conditions. For example, some special needs schools focus on serving children with multiple sclerosis, while others will offer a curriculum which allows them to service children with any condition which limits their mobility or is physically disabling.
Special needs schools don’t just service children with physical disabilities. They also offer programs for children with many different mental, behavioral and emotional difficulties. There are special needs schools for children with attention deficit disorder, Down’s syndrome, visual impairments, epilepsy and many other difficulties. Such disabilities are not as visible as physical disabilities, but can have just as much of an impact on a child’s learning process, and attending special needs schools give these children the advantages they need to succeed.
Children with physical, emotional, mental or behavioral difficulties don’t just benefit academically from attending special needs schools; they also benefit from having staff that understand and care for them, who are specially trained to handle any emergencies or other situations that might arise. They are able to interact with peers who have similar conditions, who won’t judge or marginalize them, and with whom they can develop meaningful relationships.