Special Education Process

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Introduction to Teaching Students with Disabilities

Introduction to Teaching Students with Disabilities


For every child that is diagnosed with special needs there is a mandated plan of action known as an IEP, or individualized education program. This is a course of action that is designed specifically for each child that lays out the education plan that will meet that individual child's needs. This is due to legislation, a bill known as PL-94-142 or the Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (Gargiulo, 2006). It requires a free and appropriate public education for all disabled students ages three through twenty one. This bill covers a wide range of areas of special education and has six key components that are important to understand the impact this legislation has had on education throughout the years.

These key components are as follows: a free appropriate public education, the least restrictive environment, an individualized education plan, procedural due process, non-discriminatory assessment, and parental participation (Gargiulo, 2006). The first component, a free public education simply means that all children must be provided an education that meets their needs that is at no cost to the parent. The second, the least restrictive environment means that the child with the disability is to be educated with students with no disabilities as much as possible. The third component, an individualized education plan is a document that is specifically designed for each student with disabilities. This document lays out the educational goals that will meet the needs of the student. The next component is procedural due process. This gives the parent many rights with a few being confidentiality, written notification, and an impartial hearing when disagreements over the child's education happen. The fifth component is nondiscriminatory assessment. This ensures evaluation that is not biased based on race, culture, or language. The last component requires parental participation in the decision making process of their child's education.


Since this legislation was passed in 1975 there have been many additions and alterations made to it. One of the reauthorizations made was the PL 99-457 in 1986, which extended the benefits to include early intervention to infants and toddlers with disabilities ages birth to three years (Gargiulo, 2006). This was important to be able to detect children with potential problems earlier and provide intervention and support.

The next reauthorization was the PL 101-476. This covered a wide range of issues. The importance of preparing adolescents for life after school was recognized and each student was required to have an individualized transition plan as part of their IEP (Gargiulo, 2006). It also added social work and rehabilitation as additional services provided and recognized autism and brain injury as distinct disability categories. Parents were also given the ability to sue states that did not comply with the laws, whereas they were previously immune from lawsuits.

The next reauthorization made was the PL 105-17 in 1997. This was divided into four parts which covered revising definitions, restructuring key components ranging from funding, discipline, parental involvement, the role of teachers, and the ...
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