Special Education According to the Federal Laws Term Paper

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Special Education

According to the Federal Laws of the United States of America, "Special Education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability [IDEA 97-300.26(a)]." The revised statutes of Arizona defines a child with disability as "a child who is at least three but less than twenty-two years of age, who has been evaluated and found to have a disability and who, because of the disability, needs special education and related services [ARS 15-761(2)]." Under federal law, a student can qualify for special education services under the disability categories of mental retardation, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities [IDEA 97-602(3)(a)]. (Special Education - Definition), (Learning Disability Resources) & (Legal Definition of Special Education)

According to the U.S. federal code (Section 300.7-(10) of 34 CFR Parts 300 and 303), Learning disability can be defined as "a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia." According to the 'lectric law library, Special Education is defined as "Specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parent, to meet the unique needs of a handicapped child, including classroom instruction, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions." (Special Education - Definition), (Learning Disability Resources) & (Legal Definition of Special Education)


Special Education is a method in the mainstream education process that addresses the needs of those children who are marred by physical and mental disabilities. Since such children cannot form part of the mainstream educational process, there was a need for a different method that catered to the academic needs of such students. Thus the branch of 'Special Education' came into being. It looked into the basic requirements of children who suffered from mental and physical disabilities and therefore could not avail regular education. Special education is a process that is a uniquely designed mode of instruction by the department of education at no extra cost aimed at fulfilling the requirements of a student with mental and physical disabilities.

It is common knowledge that students who suffer from mental and physical disabilities cannot be a part of the mainstream educational process. They tend to require extra attention, more care and some unique methodologies to deal with their state of mind and body so as to facilitate a better and more effective educational process. Children ho suffer from mental and physical disorders are those who have learning disabilities thus preventing them to be a part of the mainstream education system. A learning disorder is one wherein the student is devoid of the psychological ability to perform basic learning functions such as learning, ability to use and apply languages, perform functions such as understand and analyze what is being taught. Due to their inability, they require special care and attention thus requiring a very different method of education.

Several laws and regulations under the United States Federal Code facilitate the application of Special Education thus catering to the needs of those students who are mentally and physically challenged. Students with mental disabilities are those who suffer from brain injury, brain dysfunction, perceptual disabilities, dyslexia, developmental aphasia and other brain disorders that come in the way of a child's ability to apply his or her mental abilities in a free manner. In the United States of America, Special Education programs are conducted and maintained by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in coordination with the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY) and the Federal Resource Center. The program so conducted by these organizations is regulated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act better known as IDEA.

Impact of changing demographics on educational service delivery in the United States:

huge number of immigrants enter the United States every year. This has had a tremendous impact on the public school population across the United States of America. It is widely believed that within the next fifty or so years, the population of the United States will become more diverse than it is in the present day. Among those immigrating to the United States, a huge majority belongs to the Asian and Pacific countries from where groups are migrating into the United States more than ever before. The arrival of more and more students with physical and mental disabilities from these regions has given special and increased significance to the concept of Special Education.

Moreover, a marked impact is felt in the educational scenario with the influx of ever-increasing number of migrants. Enrolments in schools across California have been on a steady rise. The percentage of Hispanic population has grown progressively. It is widely believed that by the year 2009-2010, the Hispanic population would have a considerable majority among other groups. Studies show that the African-American and the White population have maintained a southward trend. Among those whose population has remained fairly constant are the students of the Asian, Pacific Islander and Philippine origin. An ongoing development is the marked increase in special student populations, especially those who need to learn English. A series of statistical data has been presented hereunder for better understanding and analysis.

Table #1: Students by Ethnicity - State of California


Percent of Total

American Indian


Pacific Islander





Multiple/No Response

Source: Educational Demographics Office, CBEDS (sifae02 5/7/03)]

Graph #1: State Enrolment

Source: Educational Demographics Office, CBEDS (sifae02 5/7/03)] (Remedial & Special Education: Creating classroom environments that address the linguistic and cultural backgrounds of students with disabilities) & (State of California - Educational Profile)

Federal and State Educational legislations across the United States have made it mandatory for all students with disabilities to participate in their state and district assessments. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) reauthorization of the year 1997 expressly declares that "children with disabilities are included in general State and district-wide assessment programs with accommodations, where necessary." Furthermore, the Act adds that Alternate Assessment shall be provided to those students affected by disabilities for whom the standardized assessment stands unsuitable despite the provision of accommodation. The United States Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in the year 1975. This legislation mandated schools to serve those students with physical and mental disabilities.

Ever since, a huge number of students have been identified under this category and allotted to receive special education. This included a large number of students from varied ethnic and racial backgrounds. Separate classifications of students were made such as; learning disabled, emotionally disturbed and mildly, moderately or severely mentally retarded. These classifications were necessitated primarily so as to identify those students who required extra care and educational support. However these classifications among students receiving special education were not well received among students, teachers and parents in particular. General opinion suggested that such classifications did more to contribute to failures than the much required progress among such students which was painstakingly low. Moreover, it was felt that such classification added to fears of being permanently labeled. For years together, this remained an issue that was unresolved at all educational levels imparting special education.

According to elaborately conducted studies, more than 14% of black students form part of the special education program while the rate is pegged at 13% of American Indians, 12% of Whites, 11% of Hispanics and 5% of Asians. It is widely believed that this notably marked difference among different communities has indeed caused widespread anxiety. The apprehension so noted is but natural. 2.6% of black students have been identified as mentally retarded when compared with 1.2% of white students. An estimated 1.5% of black students are classified to be emotionally disturbed when compared with 0.91% of whites. However, mentally disabled students who are challenged with disorders related to learning form a minority group. Before any conclusion shall be arrived at, educators are required by the Individuals with Education Disabilities Act, to first provide superior learning to those students in a normal classroom environment. The need for Special Education practices shall be determined only after it has been concretely ascertained that the student in question is beyond doubt needs extra educational support. Such extra educational support shall be provided by means of Special Education programs. (Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education)

The proportion of children requiring special education has risen since the mid 1970s which witnessed the introduction of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The percentage of K-12 students who were recognized as needing special education increased from 8.3% in the year 1976-77 to 11.8% in the year 1998-99. It is believed that almost all enrolments in the 1970s can be related to the rise in one single category known as…

Sources Used in Document:


Special Education - Definition' Retrieved at http://www.dysart.org/specialed/definition.htm Accessed on March 30, 2004

Learning Disability Resources' Retrieved at http://curry.edschool.virginia.edu/sped/projects/ose/categories/ld.html Accessed on March 30, 2004

Legal Definition of Special Education' Retrieved at http://www.lectlaw.com/def2/s056.htm Accessed on March 30, 2004

Remedial & Special Education: Creating classroom environments that address the linguistic and cultural backgrounds of students with disabilities' retrieved at http://static.highbeam.com/r/remedialampspecialeducation/november011998/creatingclassroomenvironmentsthataddressthelinguis / Accessed on March 30, 2004

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