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What is Special Education, and how it helps students with disabilities?

How does Special Education improve Social Sustainability and help students with disabilites?

What Is Special Education?

Special Education is a specific branch of education where instructors educate children with disabilities. It can be described as a powerful intervention designed to help children with disabilities overcome the obstacles that they might face when it comes to learning.

When it comes to Special Education, it is important to realize that there is no standard way of teaching all of the disabled children. According to the student, the teaching method will be different – there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach for this type of education system.

Each student has to be carefully analyzed so that the instructors can curate the appropriate lesson plan for them. To make it simpler, Special Education pertains to how instructors provide children with disabilities, a personalized education plan that will cater to their success.

Methods of Special Education

There are actually three distinct methods that are commonly used in Special Education.

Preventive Method

The Preventive Method approach actually targets the pre-existing or potential problems that might lead to the disability of a child. This form of Special Education aims to prohibit the development of the child’s condition. With this, instructors aim to reduce or alter the condition that the child has been diagnosed with.

Remedial Method

A Remedial approach means that the instructors aim to get rid of the child’s symptoms. During this approach, the child will learn how to function normally and independently. Common life skills and social skills are usually introduced to children, while this method is in use.

Compensatory Method

This method uses special devices or introduces specific skills to the child to improve their function. A Compensatory Method aims to teach children skills despite their disabilities. For this type of Special Education, children are taught skills that might be normal for other children but are not normal for them.

What is Inclusion?

When we talk of inclusion, we pertain to inclusivity. With this in mind, inclusion refers to everyone – regardless of their genders, disabilities, age, health care needs, abilities, race, or social status, have the right to:

  • Take part in recreational activities within the community.
  • Be appreciated, respected, and understood as an important member of the community.
  • Have access to education classes.
  • Have a job in the community.
  • Get medical attention whenever they need.

For example, a child without a disability and a child with disability both have the right to receive the education that they need and deserve. Everyone has the right to gain access to things that are normal for other people. Just because they are a little different from what we are used to seeing does not mean that they should be prohibited to enjoy their rights as humans.

Why is Special Education Important for Diversity and Inclusion?

Inclusivity means that everyone has the right to participate – no matter who you may be. Education is for everyone, and it does not matter where you come from.

Everywhere in the world, there are many disabled children who do not have access to Special Education. There are a lot of different reasons for this to happen, such as their religion, gender, race, language, and even poverty.

However, we must do our best to make Special Education available for everyone because each child has the right to get the appropriate education for their condition. We can only say that there is inclusivity in Special Education once all disabled children gain access to it.

Special Education needs to normalize inclusivity because this will lead to a more globally-competitive edge for the children. Are we just going to educate those who can pay for it? What about the children who want to learn but can’t because of money and the inability to attend their classes?

This is an important matter because Special Education should not only focus on those well-off children.

Who Needs Special Education?

Now, you are probably curious to know who can get Special Education. Actually, there is a federal law that aids in the regulation of Special Education, which is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

This law states that a child has to meet the criteria to gain access to Special Education. A disabled child must:

  • Need access to Special Education for them to learn about the general education curriculum
  • Have a written documented disability

What Are The Different Types of Special Education Accommodations?

For Special Education, a child needs to be clearly identified as someone with a disability. With this, the child or their guardian may start to request the different accommodations they can provide for their own needs.

There are 5 categories of accommodations that the child may consider:


Under this category, the child can be provided with audio tapes or typewritten files with large fonts, a designated reader who will read the text for the child, a recorded audio presentation, and a reduced total number of items for every page.


Response means that the child is allowed to share his or her thoughts regarding the topic. It is usually done verbally when the instructor asks for answers from the child. It can also be handwritten on the child’s modules.


The child will have access to frequent breaks in-between and during each class. And if needed, there should be an extension for a test’s submission.


The following has to be taken into consideration:

  • A space that has little to no distractions
  • Allow the student to sit wherever he or she prefers
  • Make sure that the lighting in the classroom is not gloomy.
  • Provide test examinations in small batches because if many students are taking the exam at the same time, they might end up being distracted by one another

Test Scheduling

  • A test has to be scheduled over several days.
  • Provide a specific coverage and date of the test

What Disabilities Are Covered By Special Education?

According to the IDEA law, 13 different types of disabilities qualify for Special Education.

  • Autism
  • Deafness
  • Deaf-blindness
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Intellectual disability
  • Hearing impairment
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Speech/language impairment
  • Other health impairments
  • Specific learning disability
  • Visual impairment
  • Traumatic brain injury

What is a Self-Contained Classroom?

A self-contained classroom refers to a special classroom setting with a Special Education instruction responsible for each academic subject’s educational plan for the disabled children.

Usually, a self-contained classroom is kept in a separate classroom from those of the general education classes, but it is contained within the same place.

More often than not, the children under Special Education require a more intensive care and attention from the instructor. Because of this, the student-to-teacher ratio is smaller for Special Education compared to general education classes.

What is Out-Of-district Placement?

Unlike a self-contained classroom that is typically in the same area as a general education class, out-of-district placement means that the Special Education is a program located right outside the local school district area.

Children go here because their local Special Education self-contained classrooms cannot provide them with their special needs.  An out-of-district placement can be public or private, or even residential where they can live in for the school year’s whole duration.

Special Education FAQ

What types of disabilities are covered under Special Education?

  • Intellectual disability
  • Hearing impairment
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Speech/language impairment
  • Other health impairments
  • Specific learning disability
  • Visual impairment
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Autism
  • Deafness
  • Deaf-blindness
  • Emotional disturbance
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About the author

Susanne Ricee

Susanne Ricee is the Diversity and Inclusion Specialist and Researcher at Diversity for Social Impact. Sue brings over 15 years of HR and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion consultation experience.
Sue's previous experience includes Microsoft, Target, and Kraft. Sue is also the manager of Diversity Leadership Directory