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What is Special Education?

The California Education Code (section 56031) defines special education as:

  1. Specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of individuals with exceptional needs (IWENs), whose educational needs cannot be met with modification of the general instruction program; and
  2. Related services, which are needed to assist IWENS to benefit from specially designed instruction. Special education is an integral part of the total public education system. Other features of special education are:
  • It is provided in a way that promotes  maximum interaction between students with and without disabilities in a manner which is appropriate to the needs of both.
  • Services are provided at no cost to parents.
  • It provides a full range of program options to meet the educational and service requirements of individuals with exceptional needs in the least restrictive environment (LRE) The LRE is generally the setting that is most similar to those attended by general education students.

Special education for eligible students, ages 3 through 22, provides necessary specially-designed instruction, aids, and services, as determined by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team.

Examples of Specially Designed Instruction

  • Systematically teaching a student to walk
  • Using pictures in a lecture-type lesson
  • Using manipulatives in an algebra lesson

Examples of Specialized Aids

  • Books on tape
  • Textbooks with enlarged print
  • Auditory training equipment
  • Communication boards
  • Physical modifications
  • Footrests

Examples of Support Services

  • Collaboration and consultation with teachers and parents
  • Modified lessons
  • Functional behavior plans
  • Orientation & mobility
  • Sign language support

The IEP team, of which the parent is an important member, determines a student's eligibility and identifies any needed program, aids, services, and instruction considered necessary for the student to progress in school. The needed program, aids, and services must be provided in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Members of the student's IEP team meet at least once a year:

  1. To review the student's progress, the IEP (i.e., program and services), and the appropriateness of the placement; and
  2. To make any necessary changes in the child's program.

It is important to know that…

Special Education is the provision of necessary instruction, aids, and services for eligible students such as:

  • Brailled Homework
  • Auditory Trainers
  • Modified Curriculum
  • Physical Assistance
  • Behavior Plans
  • Speech and Language Instruction
  • Various Accommodations
  • Adapted Physical Education
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Consultation with various School Specialists

But also remember that Special Education is a service, not a place.

And, Special Education is NOT appropriate for situations where supplementary aids or services for students with learning difficulties that are due primarily to cultural or economic differences, lack of familiarity with the English language, or limited school experience.  In addition, special education is not designed to meet the needs of students who have temporary physical disabilities.