Importance of special education
Every child has the right to the same opportunities as others, regardless of the difficulties they face. Special education is of great importance for children with learning disabilities, because it gives them the opportunity to get quality education in line with their unique needs. Special education enables every student to gain a high level of independence and reach their full potential.
According to UNICEF, about 93 million children around the world have been diagnosed with some form of disability. Over 50% of that number do not attend school at all, which robs them of the right to a better life. Aware of the importance of special education, countries around the world have developed different systems aimed at improving child care, education, and the quality of life in general. To achieve that goal, various laws have been passed to adequately address and solve the problems of children with special needs.
In the United States, the significance of special education is primarily defined by the following laws: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (specifically Section 504). These laws define the rights of individuals with disabilities, protecting them from discrimination in everyday life. In addition, these documents guarantee the human rights of individuals with disabilities, and modify the education system in order to ensure equal opportunities for education and a better life for all.
This is primarily possible thanks to IDEA which, as a federal law, defines ways in which the state finances special needs education. Thanks to IDEA, parents can apply for help and ask for special educational conditions for their children, regardless of whether they have a developmental, mental, emotional, or physical disability.
Free and appropriate public education
The laws mentioned above provide students with disabilities access to educational services that allow them to enjoy the same rights as students without disabilities, setting forth a framework describing that instruction should be provided in a regular classroom, a classroom specially modified to meet the special needs of students, or under special conditions (individualized education or instruction in small groups in a special-needs classroom). It is also important to note that public schools are obligated to provide special educational conditions at no additional cost.
In order to meet specific student needs an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is created for each child with learning disabilities. This way, the school designs an educational plan they need to implement based on the identified disability. The IEP is designed by a team comprising teachers, specialists (e.g. special education teachers) and family. The role of parents is crucial in this process, because they know their child best, and can provide a lot of valuable information.
The goal is to provide the child with the necessary support so that they can advance and get a quality education. Thanks to the IEP program, many special-needs students achieve results on par with the results of regular students.
The importance of special education lies in the fact that it helps children with special needs to exercise different rights that used to be inaccessible:
Providing an adequate learning environment
Children with special needs, e.g. autism, visual and hearing impairment, or speech and language impairments can participate in instruction and school life to a great extent on equal terms with other children. Schools have proven methods to involve them in lessons so that they feel accepted, while at the same time fulfilling the primary educational mission.
In cases when this is not possible, because children require special learning conditions, teachers who specialize in the field of special education, and other experts are hired to work with the child (physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy).
Respecting the principle of equality in all segments of education
Education doesn’t only involve classroom instruction, but also other activities where children should have equal opportunities. Sport is an important segment of education, and a great opportunity for everyone to feel welcome and accepted. This is why all children, regardless of their impairments, are actively involved in this segment of education. The same applies to all other school activities, such as drama and music clubs. This way, the school helps children to be accepted, while at the same time teaching other children to be tolerant and accepting of differences.
Positively impacting mental health
A quality and well-designed learning disability education positively impacts the child’s psychological development. Regardless of impairments, with the right approach, the child will not be excluded and alienated, but will have a fulfilling social life. A better understanding of their disability by other children will lead to their acceptance as equal members of the community.
Why is special education an important element of the basic education program?
Differentiated education is a modified form of the basic education program, meaning that the same material is covered yet in a different way. Through differentiation, material is broken down in line with the students’ needs depending on the difficulties the child needs to overcome in order to effectively learn.
Research data show that children with disabilities spend 80% of their time in general education classrooms, which means that they attend regular education. In other words, they learn the same material, except that certain things are done differently. Thus, for example, potential difficulties with reading or writing will be resolved through oral exams. In that sense, special education should be an integral part of the basic education program with teachers trained to work in an inclusive learning environment.
The value of aided education
The most important mission of special education is to provide students with special needs with development opportunities and a learning process that will improve the quality of their life. This can only be done through the cooperation of schools and government institutions that provide free appropriate education. This way, children acquire knowledge in line with their unique needs and abilities, with the help of special educators and advanced classrooms.
This process has a great value for society as a whole, because special-needs children get the opportunity to be accepted into the community, which helps them to become more independent and happier, surrounded by people who understand their needs and support them at every step of the way.