Some children show signs that something is wrong with them immediately upon birth. Some students do not show signs until a few years into acedemia. The student’s teacher may notice that he or she is not understanding a subject. The teacher will then ask the principal for a SST (student study team) on the student. Usually the team will be the general education teacher, the special education teacher, and the principal. They will recommend a plan to support the student. This could consist of one on one help or, if the team and parents agree, repeating a grade. If the student falls roughly two years behind academically, then they will enter special education. The special education teacher will come up with an IEP (Individual Education Plan). After three years the IEP team will review the progress and reassess the student to see if the child should remain in special education. The IEP team also meets once per year to review the goals and objectives of the IEP.
If the initial plan does not work then, as a last resort, the student will be tested for special education. The psychologist runs a battery of tests, then the education specialist continues to administer additional tests. If the student has a normal IQ but academically is about two years behind, then he may go into a Mild/moderate Special Education program with the goal of returning to the appropriate age/grade level in the future. Another way a student may qualify for special education might be through a doctor’s diagnosis. There are 10 diagnoses that belong to this group, Intellectual Disability (Mental Retardation), Spinal Bifida, Quadraplegic, Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism Spectrum, Turrets, and ADHD are the most common. Autism Spectrum has eight subcategories and ranges from High functioning to Low functioning. These students fall under the PL92-104 “IDEA” federal law guidelines.
Students involved in accidents that require a long term recovery may also potentially qualify for special education services. This falls under the federal guides of ADA (American Disabilities Act) 504. This may include a student who requires a hospital stay for over a month, so they may have to have a certified teacher come in and tutor him. After hospitalization he may go back to regular education. The county of Los Angeles has an exemplary Home/hospital program that receives funds for this service alone.
Special education began in the United States in 1975 and although still in its infancy, is making great advancement. It is designed to deliver to students, in the least restrictive environment possible, education that will help them function as productive citizens. It has become more fluid, with students in immersion classes, that is some classes will be in regular education and some in special education to ease the transition into adulthood.