Unit 1: What is Special Education?

Return to Main Page of Course: Special Education in the Secondary Setting

RIGHT NOW please click HERE to go to the K-W-L Chart Secondary Special Education to begin the first activity based on this course.

After beginning the K-W-L chart (in an effort to begin to access prior knowledge that you have about Special Education in the Secondary Setting and to have you focus on what you want to learn from this course) please review the information below regarding Special Education and Individualized Education Plans.

Background on Special Education through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Special education provides students with identified disabilities specialized instruction designed to meet their unique learning needs, giving them the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential. In the United States, special education is delivered, free of charge, through the public education system, thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Watch this short video regarding IDEA and Special Education:

There are six principles that come out of the IDEA Act:

Principle of IDEA Requirement
Zero Reject Locate, identify, & provide services to all eligible students with disabilities
Protection in Evaluation Conduct an assessment to determine if a student has an IDEA related disability and if he/she needs special education services
Free Appropriate Public Education Develop and deliver an individualized education program of Special Education Services that confer meaningful educational benefits
Least Restrictive Environment Educate students with disabilities with nondisabled students to the maximum extent appropriate
Procedural Safeguard Comply with procedural requirements of IDEA
Parental Participation Collaborate with parents in the development and delivery of their child's special education program

If you are interested in glancing at the one-hundred forty-page document, the link is attached below


Characteristics of Individuals with Disabilities

Learning disabilities are often identified once a child is in school. The school may use a process called “response to intervention” to help identify children with learning disabilities. Special tests are required to make a diagnosis.

What is Response to Intervention (RTI)

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a multi-tier approach to the early identification and support of students with learning and behavior needs. The process begins with high-quality instruction and universal screening of all children in the general education classroom. Struggling learners are provided with interventions at increasing levels of intensity to accelerate their rate of learning. Progress is closely monitored to assess both the learning rate and level of performance of individual students.

Struggling Learners Identified through RTI

Students who are struggling in school can also have individual evaluations. A full evaluation for a learning disability includes the following3:

  • A medical exam, including a neurological exam, to rule out other possible causes of the child’s difficulties. These might include emotional disorders, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and brain diseases.
  • Reviewing the child’s developmental, social, and school performance
  • A discussion of family history
  • Academic and psychological testing

The Thirteen Classified Disabilities

Please watch the following Prezi presentation on the 13 categories highlighted by IDEA. https://prezi.com/view/IwMbwcX26MO5flWEr9AO/

Breakdown of Special Education Categories in the United States (2014):

Martha-thurlow-disability-categories-01 0.png

Components of an IEP

An Individualized Education Program is developed by a team of school personnel and the child’s parents. This team meets at least once a year and more often, if necessary. Team members work together to create an education that will address the child’s individual needs and enable the child to participate in general education and school activities, learning alongside his or her nondisabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate. The IEP will guide the delivery of the child’s special education and related services.

The IEP has two general purposes:

(1) to establish measurable annual goals for the child; and

(2) to state the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services that the public agency will provide to, or on behalf of, the child

Take a look at this in-depth presentation of the IEP: Developing a Quality IEP

Review this sample IEP: IEP Sample Document

Test Your Knowledge

You have completed the first Unit of the Secondary Special Education Mini-Course. Test your knowledge by completing this Quizizz game.


Congratulations! You Have Completed Unit 1 and May Now Proceed to: UNIT 2