Kids whisper it in the hallways and don’t want anyone to know. Even parents are afraid to say it, yet school officials talk about all the time. It’s that dirty little ‘S’ word—Special Education!
For too long parents and students have thought of ‘special education’ as the dirty little secret that is kept amongst family members or whispered into the ear of the classroom teacher at the beginning of the new school year. Special Education is not something to be ashamed of. It is a school system’s way to ensure that all of our children are receiving instructional supports that are tailored to meet their individual needs. It’s as if we were all going on a journey, some of us run, others are only able to walk, while still others have someone else to carry them to the end. Special education involves “a wide variety of instructional services that are based on a child’s individual needs. Special education is not a place or a class”, but rather it is a description of the type of support that a student requires to ensure that he/she succeeds.
Some students are very gifted…geniuses even and they get pretty bored with the regular classroom curriculum. In such a case a different education plan would need to be appropriately designed to meet this student’s needs. Although each school district may use a different approach, in general, a gifted student may receive higher level or advanced classes that are more appropriate for his/her abilities and skills.
Similarly, if a child is struggling in the areas of reading writing or math and the educational professionals realize that this child may require additional and more intensive learning supports. A ‘special’ educational plan tailored for this individual will be developed. This student will receive these support services as a student with ‘special needs’. It is this group of students that will receive extra tutoring in the area of difficulty, for example, math, reading, writing or sometimes in terms of behavioral and emotional support services. There is a team of specially trained teachers, paraprofessionals, psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational and physical therapist that all work together to ensure that our children achieve their educational goals. For example: special provisions are made for children who are blind and have low vision or are deaf and hard of hearing, by using audio books, and FM systems in the classroom to assist learning. The idea is to ensure that every child has the best available opportunity to achieve educational success.
The No Child Left Behind Education Act 2001, (a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), outlines that “children have the right to receive education in the ‘‘least restrictive environment.’’ That means that children who have disabilities should remain included with students without disabilities to the greatest degree possible while still receiving those services that allow the child to make progress toward his or her individual goals”. Special education services are designed to help all of our children succeed.
So the next time you hear someone whispering the words “special education…” (insert creepy theme music here) like it’s a bad or shameful thing, let them know that these words aren’t so scary after all. Special education involves a whole team of professionals who work to ensure that they offer the supports needed to ensure that all of our children receive the best educational experience possible. Special education shows that our educators care!