|Special Education Teachers|
Special education, describes an educational alternative that focuses on the teaching of students with academic, behavioral, health, or physical needs that cannot sufficiently be met using traditional educational programs or techniques.
This article will focus mainly on the teaching of students with disabilities; see Gifted education for more information on that subject.
Children with disabilities have always been part of our communities. In the past, some “special” education was provided to individual children on a one to one basis, such as Jean Itard’s work with Victor, the “wild child of Averyon”. As formal education became established, welfare or religious groups for the care of children with disabilities often became involved in their education. Government provision of special education services generally followed after voluntary groups had shown what could be done.
Progress in Special Education saw a major reversal as the eugenics movement took hold. Under this theory, it was irresponsible to care for and educate people with disabilities as it would “weaken society”. The more scientific approaches, such as behaviourism, to studying disability, led to a new understanding of special education and the vision that all children could learn, no matter what diagnosis they were given.
Initially education was provided to children of school age – about six or seven. In the 1970’s research into Early Childhood Intervention, the provision of special education from birth or first diagnosis, showed that the earlier special education was provided, the better the outcome for the child and the entire family.
Special Education changed with Wolfensburger's theory of Normalisation - that all people with disabilities have the right to lead "normal" lives, including being part of a family, attending a local school, and holding a job in the community. This theory led to the concept of Inclusive Education, where schools no longer provide "regular education" and "special education" but provide a service which includes every child, no matter what he or she needs at the time.
Special Education services now extend past school-age into adulthood, as a better understanding of life-long learning has been gained. It includes school-based activities as well as family and community activities, and has become a major testing ground for better teaching for all children, not simply children with disabilities.
Special Education has a different quality in different countries. The political, economic and social pressures in each country has led to a different form of Special Education, with different sets of policies and practises.
Special education programs in the United States were made mandatory in 1975 when Congress passed the Education for the Handicapped Act (EHA) in response to discriminatory treatment by public educational agencies against students with disabilities. The EHA was later modified to strengthen protections to disabled pupils and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The two most basic rights ensured by the IDEA is that every disabled student is entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). To ensure a FAPE, a team of professionals and parents meet to determine the student's unique educational needs, develop annual goals for the student, and determine the placement, program modification, testing accommodations, counseling, and other special services that the student needs through the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The educational agency is required to develop and implement an IEP that meets the standards of federal and state educational agencies.
The LRE mandate requires that all students' educations be with their nondisabled peers to the greatest extent possible, while still providing a FAPE. The LRE requirement is intended to prevent unnecessary segregation of the disabled. Some special education services (such as speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, etc) may be provided within the mainstream class and these services are outlined in each child's IEP. Students in Special Education will also need a transition plan, focusing on their life after school.
The article Special Education in the United States deals with the full system of review and implementation in more detail.
England and Wales
The education systems of the United Kingdom vary greatly between the four nation states. In schools in England and Wales, special education is referred to as SEN (Special Educational Needs.) Each school is required to have a Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator, or SENCO, whose responsibility it is to ensure all pupils in the school with SEN receive the appropriate support to facilitate their successful education. According to Teachernet, a UK government website set up to aid teaching staff, the current SEN Code of Practice came into force at the beginning of January 2002, replacing the original version dating to 1994.
To qualify as having SEN, a student must be assessed by a professional, usually an Educational Psychologist, Doctor or Psychiatrist. If a disability or difficulty is identified which it is considered, presents a significant challenge to what is considered normal learning patterns, and education, a recommendation or application can be made for the issue of a Statement of Educational Need, which entitles the student to the appropriate learning support.
Disabilities that may merit the issue of a statement include, Physical disbility, e.g. the lack of functioning or loss of limbs or movement, Motor or fine motor disability, Learning difficulties or disabilities, developmental disorders, mental illness or incapacity, or behavioural difficulties. With the correct support, many students with SEN have the potential to develop into productive, successful and fully integrated members of society, as has been proved the case on numerous occasions.
In Scotland the term SEN (Special Educational Needs) was in use until very recently when it was replaced with the term addition support needs (ASN) in 2005. The new concept of 'additional support needs', introduced by the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, refers to any child or young person who, for whatever reason, requires additional support for learning. Additional support needs can arise from any factor which causes a barrier to learning, whether that factor relates to social, emotional, cognitive, linguistic, disability, or family and care circumstances. For instance, additional support may be required for a child or young person who is being bullied; has behavioural difficulties; has learning difficulties; is a parent; has a sensory or mobility impairment; is at risk; or is bereaved.
There will be many other examples besides these. Some additional support needs will be long term while others will be short term. The effect they have will vary from person to person. In all cases though, it is how these factors impact on the individual persons' learning that is important and this will determine the level of support required. 
The model of Special Education in Australia followed British patterns quite closely. "Asylums" and "Schools" for children were begun in the late 1800s by charitable organisations. The government began to provide special classes from the 1920s, but it was not until the 1980s that a comprehensive system for educating all children, no matter their disability, was taken on as a government responsibility. This initially meant supporting children in Special Schools or separate classes.
Newcastle and Macquarie Universities were two influential universities in promoting Early Childhood Intervention and Inclusive Education from the 1970s until today. Special Education teachers are still trained at those institutions.
In 1996 an influential report by David McRae, known as the McRae report, found that the way children with disabilities had been catered for had changed very little over the years. He proposed government funding be tied to the child rather than the setting in order to encourage more inclusive education. While not all of his recommendations have been heard, this report resulted in a change in funding and an increase in the number of children with disabilities being included in their local schools. Today most children with disabilities are educated in their local schools, although the majority have mild disabilities. There are also small special classes attached to local schools, and special schools, which accept children who have moderate, severe, or profound disabilities. The Distance Education unit also provides special education to students who live in isolated regions.
To gain Special Education support, children need to have a diagnosis provided by a paediatrician or a psychologist. Families have the right to choose their own placement - special school, special class, or local school - dependent on places available. It is a requirement that an IEP (Individual Education Plan) be written with the family at least once a year so that goals for individual children are agreed upon by all those working with the child. Provisions differ enormously state by state - for example, NSW is the only state which does not provide therapists (speech, physio) for students. Western Australia has Education Support teachers working to support students in school, while Victoria relies a great deal on untrained integration aides.
The following is a list of commonly used acronyms in the field of Special Education.
? AAA Assessment of Adaptive Areas
? AAC Augmentative and Assistive Communication (or Augmentative and Alternative Communication device)
? AAMR American Association of Mental Retardation
? ABA Applied Behavior Analysis
? ACES Academic Competence Evaluation Scale
? ACT American College Test
? ADA American with Disabilities Act
? ADHD Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
? ADOS Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale
? AFB American Federation for the Blind
? AFT American Federation of Teachers
? APA American Psychiatric Association
? Arc formerly Association for Retarded Citizens
? ASD Autism Spectrum Disorders
? ASHA American Speech, Language & Hearing Association
? ASL American Sign Language
? ASR Automatic Speech Recognition
? ATA Assistive Technology Act
? AYP Adequately Yearly Progress
? BES Behavior Evaluation Scale
? BIP Behavioral Intervention Plan
? BTE Behind the Ear (hearing aids)
? CA Chronological Age
? CAI Computer Assisted Instruction
? CARS Childhood Autism Rating Scale
? CBI Community Based Instruction
? CBM Curriculum Based Measurement
? CCTV Closed Circuit Television
? CDC Centers for Disease Control
? CDD Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
? CDF Children's Defense Fund
? CEC international Council for the Education of Exceptional Children
? CEI Computer Enhanced Instruction
? CES Coalition of Essential Schools
? CHAT Checklist for Autism in Toddlers
? CIC Completely In the Canal (hearing aids)
? CODA Child of Deaf Adult
? CMI Computer Managed Instruction
? CMV Congenital Cytomegalovirus
? CYC Chicago Youth Centers
? DATA Developmentally Appropriate Treatment for Autism (as in DATA Project)
? dB Decibels
? DCDP Deaf Children of Deaf Parents
? DSM Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
? DSM-IV 4th Edition of the above DSM
? EBD Emotional or Behavioral Disorders
? EDBD Emotional Disturbances and Behavioral Disorders
? EHA Education for All Handicapped Children Act
? EI Education International
? ELL English Language Learner
? EMR Educable Mental Retardation (no longer used)
? EPGY Education Program for Gifted Youth (Stanford U)
? ERIC Eduational Resources Information Center
? ESEA Elementary & Secondary Education Act (or NCLB)
? ESL English as a Second Language
? FAE Fetal Alcohol Effects
? FAPE Free Appropriate Public Education
? FAS Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
? FBA Functional Behavioral Assessment
? FEC Foundation for Exceptional Children
? FM Frequency Modulated as in FM transmission devices
? IAES Interim Alternative Education Setting
? IDEA Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
? IEP Individualized Education Program
? IFSP Individualized Family Service Plan
? INTASC Interstate Teacher Assessment & Support Consortium
? IRC Internet Relay Chat
? ITC In The Canal (hearing aids)
? ITE In The Ear (hearing aids)
? ITEA International Technology Education Association
? ITP Individualized Transition Plan
? ITPA Illinois Test for Psycholinguistic Abilities
? LD Learning Disabilities
? LEP Limited English Proficient
? LRE Least Restrictive Environment
? MA Mental Age (no longer used)
? NBPTS National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
? NCD National Council on Disability
? NCEO National Center for Educational Outcomes
? NCLB No Child Left Behind Act (or ESEA)
? NEA National Education Association
? NASP National Association of School Psychologists
? NICHY National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
? NIDCD National Institute for Deafness and Communication Disorders
? NII National Information Infrastructure
? NIMAS National Instructional Materials Access Center
? NIMH National Institute of Mental Health
? NINDS National Institute for Neurological Disorders & Stroke
? NMHSCE New Mexico High School Compentancy Exam
? NMSBA New Mexico Standards, Benchmarks and Assessments
? NMTA New Mexico Teacher Assessment
? NNER National Network for Educational Renewal
? NTID Natinoal Technical Institute for the Deaf
? OAE Otoacoustic Emmissions
? OCR Office of Civil Rights
? OERI Office of Educational Research and Improvement
? OSEP Office of Special Education Programs
? OT Occupational Therapist
? OTL Opportunity To Learn
? PALS Peer Assisted Learning Strategies
? PBL Project Based Learning
? PBS Positive Behavior Support
? PDA Personal Data Assistant
? PDD-NOS Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified
? PECS Picture Exchange Communication System
? PI Physical Impairments
? PKU Phenylketonuria
? PLT Principles of Learning and Teaching
? PT Physical Therapist
? ROP Retinopathy of Prematurity
? RTC Real Time Captioning
? RTI Response to Intervention
? RWC Rear Window Captioning
? SAT Scholastic Assessment Test
? SBE Standards Based Education
? SES Socioeconomic Status
? SFA Semantic Feature Analysis
? SIS Supports Intensity Scale
? SLP Speech Language Pathologist
? STAT Screening Test for Autism in Two year olds
? STORCH Syphilis, Taxoplasmosis, Other, Rubella, Cytomegalovirus & Herpes
? SWD Students Without Disabilities
? TAEVIS Tactile Access to Education for Visually Impaired Students
? TASH formerly the Association for People with Severe Handicaps
? TDD Telecommunications for the Deaf (now TTY)
? TBI Traumatic Brain Injury
? TEACCH Treatment & Education Of Autistic & Communication of Handicapped Children
? TLRBSE Teacher Leaders in Research-Based Science Education
? TLC Teaching Learning and Computing
? TMR Trainable Mental Retardation (no longer used)
? TRS Telecommunications Relay Service
? TTY Text Telephone (formerly TDD)
? UDL Universal Design for Learning
? VCO Voice Carry Over
? YAP Young Autism Program
Wilmshurst, L, & Brue, A. W. (2005). A parent's guide to special education. New York: AMACOM.