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Special education is the individually planned and systematically monitored arrangement of teaching procedures, adapted equipment and materials, accessible settings, and other interventions designed to help learners with special needs achieve the greatest possible personal self-sufficiency and success in school and community.

Students with special needs, such as learning differences, mental health issues, specific disabilities (physical or developmental)[1] , and giftedness are those whose needs are addressed within the classroom setting. [2] However generally, the term "special education" refers specifically to students with learning disabilities, mental conditions, and other disabling conditions. Beginning in 1952, Civitans were the first to provide widespread training for teachers of developmentally disabled children.[3]


The provision of education to people with disabilities or learning differences differs from country to country, and state to state. The ability of a student to access a particular setting depends on the availability of services, location, family choice, or government policy. Special educators have historically described a cascade of services, in which students with special needs receive services in varying degrees based on the degree to which they interact with the general school population. In the main, special education has been provided in one, or a combination, of the following ways:

  • Inclusion: Regular education classes combined with special education services is a model often referred to as inclusion. In this model, students with special needs are educated with their typically developing peers for at least half of the day. In a full inclusion model, specialized services are provided within a regular classroom by sending the service provider in to work with one or more students in their regular classroom setting. In a partial inclusion model, specialized services are provided outside a regular classroom. In this case, the student occasionally leaves the regular classroom to attend smaller, more intensive instructional sessions, or to receive other related service such as speech and language therapy, occupational and/or physical therapy, and social work.
  • Mainstreaming: Regular education classes combined with special education classes is a model often referred to as mainstreaming. In this model, students with special needs are educated with their typically developing peers during specific time periods.
  • Segregation (Self-Contained): Full-time placement in a special education classroom may be referred to as segregation. In this model, students with special needs spend no time with typically developing students. Segregated students may attend the school as their neighbors, but spend their time exclusively in a special-needs classroom. Alternatively, these students may attend a special school.
  • Exclusion: A student who does not receive instruction in any school is said to be excluded. Such exclusion may occur where there is no legal mandate for special education services. It may also occur when a student is in hospital, homebound, or detained by the criminal justice system. These students may receive one-on-one instruction or group instruction. Students who have been suspended or expelled are not considered excluded in this sense.

With increasing experience over the past few decades in the field of special education, the concept is shifting away from the student's level of disability as the prime determinant of physical placement (i.e., the degree of exclusion/segregation s/he experiences) toward the challenge of modifying teaching methods and environments so that students might be served in typical educational environments. In the US, the President's National Council on Disability has called for special education to be regarded less as a "place" and more as "a service, available in every school." [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

Modifications can consist of changes in curriculum, supplementary aides or equipment, and the provision of specialized physical adaptations that allow students to participate in the educational environment to the fullest extent possible.[9] Students may need this help to access subject matter, to physically gain access to the school, or to meet their emotional needs.

Support is targeted to the needs of the individual student and can be short or long term. In the United States, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that special needs students be included in regular education activities as much as possible. In Scotland the Additional Support Needs Act places an obligation on education authorities to meet the needs of all students in consultation with other agencies and parents.

In England there are support services available which can help parents in particular with the educational provision of their child. Parent Partnership Services are support services which ensure the involvement of parents in the planning and delivery of their child's educational provision.

Ten Facts about Autism

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By Lisa Jo Rudy, Guide 
1. Autism Is a 'Spectrum' DisorderPeople with autism can be a little autistic or very autistic. Thus, it is possible to be bright, verbal, and autistic as well as mentally retarded, non-verbal and autistic. A disorder that includes such a broad range of symptoms is often called a spectrum disorder; hence the term "autism spectrum disorder." The most significant shared symptom is difficulty with social communication (eye contact, conversation, taking another's perspective, etc.).
2. Asperger Syndrome is a High Functioning Form of AutismAsperger Syndrome (AS) is considered to be a part of the autism spectrum. The only significant difference between AS and High Functioning Autism is that people with AS usually develop speech right on time while people with autism usually have speech delays. People with AS are generally very bright and verbal, but have significant social deficits (which is why AS has earned the nickname "Geek Syndrome").
3. People With Autism Are Different from One AnotherIf you've seen Rainman or a TV show about autism, you may think you know what autism "looks like." In fact, though, when you've met one person with with autism you've met ONE person with autism. Some people with autism are chatty; others are silent. Many have sensory issues, gastrointestinal problems, sleep difficulties and other medical problems. Others may have social-communication delays - and that's it.
4. There Are Dozens of Treatments for Autism - But No 'Cure'So far as medical science is aware, there is at present no cure for autism. That's not to say that people with autism don't improve, because many improve radically. But even when people with autism increase their skills, they are still autistic, which means they think and perceive differently from most people. Children with autism may receive many types of treatments. Treatments may be biomedical, sensory, behavioral, developmental or even arts-based. Depending upon the child, certain treatments will be more successful than others.
5. There Are Many Theories on the Cause of Autism, But No ConsensusYou may have seen or heard news stories about possible causes of autism. Theories range from mercury in infant vaccines to genetics to the age of the parents to almost everything else. At present, most researchers think autism is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors - and it's quite possible that different people's symptoms have different causes.
6. People Don't Grow Out of AutismAutism is a lifelong diagnosis. For some people, often (but not always) those who receive intensive early intervention, symptoms may decrease radically. People with autism can also learn coping skills to help them manage their difficulties and even build on their unique strengths. But a person with autism will probably be autistic throughout their lives.
7. Families Coping with Autism Need Help and SupportEven "high functioning" autism is challenging for parents. "Low functioning" autism can be overwhelming to the entire family. Families may be under a great deal of stress, and they need all the non-judgemental help they can get from friends, extended family, and service providers. Respite care (someone else taking care of the person with autism while other family members take a break) can be a marriage and/or family-saver!
8. There's No 'Best School' for a Child with AutismYou may have heard of a wonderful "autism school," or read of a child doing amazingly well in a particular type of classroom setting. While any given setting may be perfect for any given child, every child with autism has unique needs. Even in an ideal world, "including" a child with autism in a typical class may not be the best choice. Decisions about autistic education are generally made by a team made up of parents, teachers, administrators and therapists who know the child well.
9. There Are Many Unfounded Myths About AutismThe media is full of stories about autism, and many of those stories are less than accurate. For example, you may have heard that people with autism are cold and unfeeling, or that people with autism never marry or hold productive jobs. Since every person with autism is different, however, such "always" and "never" statements simply don't hold water. To understand a person with autism, it's a good idea to spend some time getting to know him or her - personally!
10. Autistic People Have Many Strengths and AbilitiesIt may seem that autism is a wholly negative diagnosis. But almost everyone on the autism spectrum has a great to deal to offer the world. People with autism are among the most forthright, non-judgemental, passionate people you'll ever meet.  


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