What is Special Education? When do I know if my child needs Special Education?

Special education is specially designed instruction that addresses the unique needs of a student eligible to receive special education services.

Special education looks different for everyone. For some students, it looks like pull-out services e.g. a regular education student “pulled-out” to resource rooms for specialized reading intervention while for some other kids, it could mean “push-in” services where a special education specialist goes into a student’s general education classroom to offer support to the student. For some other students, special education may mean a self-contained classroom wherein specialized instruction is taught in addition to special curriculum such as functional life skills, functional academics, functional speech etc.

It is very important for parents to know that special education is not a location/place/classroom but is a service specially designed for your child.

How Do I Know When My Child Needs Special Education?

Sometimes it is as subtle as the gut feeling that your child needs extra help e.g. your child is not meeting developmental milestones or it takes your child longer to complete his homework, or maybe your child has some behavioral issues that seem to get worse by the day etc. Sometimes, your child’s teacher may hint at certain traits your child exhibits while your child is in her classroom. There are many more scenarios that may trigger a parent to start to wonder about their child’s educational development. Don’t ignore these triggers. Seek advice from your child’s medical practitioner. Ask the school district to conduct a Full Individual and Initial Evaluation(FIE). Research has shown that early and intensive intervention is most beneficial to a child than later intervention. Children are ages 0-2 years are eligible to receive early intervention services through their school districts, so parents don’t have to delay seeking help until the child comes of school-age.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) lists 13 categories of disabilities. If you suspect that your child falls under any one of these categories, speak up and request for an FIE. FIEs are done at school district’s expense and at no cost to you. If your child is deemed eligible for special education by virtue of any of the disabilities listed below, your child is then entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Educational at no cost to you.

1. Mental Retardation
2. Hearing Impairments including Deafness
3. Speech or Language Impairments
4. Visual Impairments including Blindness
5. Emotional Disturbance
6. Orthopedic Impairments
7. Autism
8. Traumatic Brain Injury
9. Other Health Impairments
10. Specific Learning Disabilities
11. Deaf-Blindness
12. Deafness
13. Multiple Disabilities.

Finally, if you feel like your child does not fall under one of these categories but still feel like your child can benefit from additional educational help, you can request for evaluation under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Bottom line is, there is help out there for your child. Both the Section 504 and IDEA can provide children and their parents with assistance that makes education a little less stressful.

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