Currently, there are more than 1 billion people with disability in the world, and 240 million of them are children affected with some form of disability. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a disabled person as anyone with “a problem in body function or structure, an activity limitation, has difficulty in executing a task or action; with a participation restriction.”
As per the statistics, the number of students with disabilities has grown from 6.4 million in 2010-11 to almost 7.2 million in 2020-21. I.e., 14.5%. The number of children with disabilities is increasing dramatically, making it essential for schools to provide special education services.
However, many mistaken notions about special education and its offerings leave people misinformed about this essential branch of education. Furthermore, at worst, it can lead to exceptional learners being left behind by parents and educators with well-intentioned but erroneous intentions.
This article will briefly discuss special education and its myths, hindering educators in their mission to give students equal access to education.
By debunking these myths, we hope to help educators create inclusive learning environments where students with disabilities are not only welcomed but also included wholly.
What is Special Education?
In practical terms, special education is largely defined by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or the IDEA, which guarantees a "free, appropriate public education" to children with disabilities and mandates that, to the "maximum extent appropriate," they be educated with their nondisabled peers in the "least restrictive environment."
What are the categories of Special Education?
Debunking the myths
Myth: Kids who get special education services must be in a separate classroom.
Fact: The IDEA, the U.S special education, follows the concept known as the least restrictive environment, or LRE.The concept is that children with disabilities who require special education should be in the same classes as other children to the extent possible. There is no need for them to sit in a separate classroom. It is found that most kids with disabilities, i.e., special education students—66% of children 6 to 21 years old and 5 years old in kindergarten—spend 80% or more of their time in regular education classes.
Myth: Special education is limited to children with severe physical and intellectual impairments.
Fact: Most children participating in special education services do not have a significant disability. These students of different abilities have specific learning disabilities, including children with reading problems like dyslexia, math problems like dyscalculia, ADHD, and more.
Myth: Special education kids get labelled forever.
Fact: It is natural to be concerned with the stigma of a "label." Special education, however, concentrates on services and supports based on a child's needs, not a label. Working with teachers helps them understand your child's identity beyond the tests and assessments. Your feedback assists the school in providing the best services. Furthermore, remember that getting the best help does not mean children will have special educational services forever.
Myth: Kids who get special education have to take ADHD medications.
Fact: For kids with ADHD, taking medication is an individual decision; the school has nothing to do with it. IDEA clearly states that schools cannot require a child to take medication to get services. Their parents may disagree with "medically necessary" services, particularly if the recommendation conflicts with provisions of a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
Myth: Special education services are expensive, and kids may lose out on activities.
Fact: Schools providing special education get federal funding. That funding helps to ensure that only a small part of the local school budget goes to special education. It does not pay for almost everything. Schools follow the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). If a kid needs special education services, they ensure to provide them.
Myth: Children with disabilities who require special education are only entitled to the services, accommodation, and special education readily available to their school district.
Fact: Special education learners are entitled to services, facilities, and instruction designed to meet their full educational needs. Therefore, if an academy does not have a specific, easily accessible service or program, it should still provide it if necessary to meet the student's educational needs.
Myth: Special education students can be deprived of their right to a FAPE until mental health clearance is obtained.
Fact: No child who needs special education can be denied the right to a FAPE, even if their mental health needs have been exacerbated. In addition, the school is responsible for providing the support and services required to meet the student's mental health needs.
Myth: Parents of special education students whom the school district has granted an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) must choose from a list of evaluators.
Fact: Parents of special education students are entitled to choose the evaluator when the school district agrees to fund an IEE, so long as the evaluator meets the criteria for independent evaluators.
Myth: Special education students must opt for more restrictive placements, such as full-time emotional support and partial hospitalization receive social, emotional, or behavioural services such as counselling, psychological services, psychiatric services, and social skills training.
Fact: Special education students must be placed in the least restrictive environment possible to meet their comprehensive learning needs, and all special education services, including counselling, psychological services, psychiatric services, and teaching social skills; should be provided if it is the needs of the pupil, in the regular school environment.
Myth: Instruction in Home and Homebound Instruction are the same.
Fact: Homebound Instruction is an appropriate medical service only under short-term medical circumstances that impact a student's ability to attend school. Instruction in Home, however, is a special educational service that provides a complete Individual Education Program (IEP) for the student to be delivered at Home is appropriate in circumstances where a pupil's special educational needs are so important that the pupil must be taught at Home.
Myth: Special education students may not be allowed to attend field trips in class.
Fact: Special education students may never be refused excursions. If services or accommodations are needed for the student to attend, the education district shall provide whatever is necessary.
Myth: Parents of special education students must sign a Notice of Recommended Educational Placement (NOREP) in ten days, regardless of the circumstances.
Fact: If the NOREP is for initial service delivery (this is the first IEP) and the parents do not consent, the parents may not pursue compensatory education at a later date. Parents may consent to the initial delivery of special education services but disagree with which parts of the IEP are available or not.
If parents of special education pupils do not respond to a NOREP, the school district can automatically implement the IEP after ten days. Parents can show disagreement with a NOREP after ten days as well. If NOREP provides a placement that parents disagree with and want the child to remain in the current learning station, it is very important for the parents to not only disagree with the NOREP but also to indicate their request for due process.
Myth: Parents of special education students should conform with the district's recommendations to move their child to an alternative educational placement if the student presents behavioural problems.
Fact: The only time a school district can unilaterally place a student in special education in an alternate educational placement is whether the student brought a weapon to school, brought drugs or drug paraphernalia to school, or seriously injured another person.
Moreover, the alternative placement under these conditions is limited to 45 days, and the school district must still provide a FAPE to the learners.
Myth: Students with developmental disabilities, like other students with disabilities, must undergo a reassessment every three years.
Fact: Students with Intellectual Disabilities must be reevaluated every two years, and parents cannot waive this in Pennsylvania.
Myth: Special education procedures and meetings cannot occur over the summer because the special education staff does not work.
Fact: Special education procedures and IEP meetings may be held during the summer. Since special education administrators work throughout the summer, students must have a suitable IEP at the beginning of each school year.
Have you come across another myth? If yes, let us know in the comments.