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An Overview of Special Education

Here is a special education program and funding overview. According to the U.S. Department of Education, statistics showed at least 5 percent of all children have some sort of learning disability. Find out what qualifies a student for special ed.

Whether you’re a teacher, a parent, a child, or someone just interested about learning more, it is important to understand how special education fits within the educational framework.

First of all, the National Center for Learning Disabilities defines special education as “specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. Depending on your child's needs as well as the state, school district and local school policies, special education services may be offered in a variety of ways and in a variety of settings.” The United States provides educational opportunities and funding for those with special needs. Who is eligible for special education support?

Thirteen disabilities qualify:

  1. Autism 
  2. Speech and Language Impairment
  3. Hearing Impairment 
  4. Deaf/Blind 
  5. Visual Impairment 
  6. Mental Retardation 
  7. Multiple Disabilities 
  8. Orthopedic Impairment 
  9. Serious Health Impairments 
  10. Emotional/Behavior Disorder 
  11. Traumatic Brain Injury 
  12. Multi-sensory Impairment 
  13. Learning Disabilities

Since 1975, when Congress recognized the need for special education services, various acts of been produced helping those with special needs. The first law that was passed was titled the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. In 1990, an update was passed titled The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA and in 2004 this law was updated again and is now referred to as IDEA 2004. IDEA 2004 provides federal funds to give special education to students with any of the above disabilities. FARE (Free Appropriate Public Education) is protected by IDEA 2004 as a right for every child in every state and U.S. territory. Over 6 million students benefit from special education services.

Students with disabilities have an alarming drop-out rate. In 2000 over 5 percent of students dropped out of high school. Of these students, 27 percent had some sort of learning disability. So while definite steps have been taken to provide special education, IDEA 2004 is not the final destination. And in fact, the U.S. Department of Education is preparing further federal regulations that help define IDEA 2004. Proposals were sent out in June 2005, however the final regulations are not due until late summer 2006. Some states are already implementing the proposed regulations and have their own regulations in addition to the federal mandates. But other states are waiting until the final regulations are issued before implementing their own changes.

Each state has their own state education department with access to the most updated regulations concerning special education. Also under IDEA 2004, each state is required to have at least one Parent Training and Information Center (PTI). These resources are in place to help parents find updated information on the special education available in their areas. As special education resources are fine-tuned and updated, more and more students will have the necessary fair and appropriate education opportunities to help them succeed.