Special�education�is intended for students who are exceptional-significantly different from the average. The difference may be either desirable or undesirable. Just how different from average and in what ways a student must be different to merit special�education�are perpetual controversies. Furthermore, a difference alone does not entitle a student to special�education�under current law: the difference must interfere to a significant extent with his or her�education. Just what constitutes significant interference with�educationis a matter of judgment and therefore another perpetual issue. In spite of controversies, special�educationis now an integral part of public�education�about which every teacher should know (Kauffman & Hallahan, 2005; Huefner, 2006).
Most students receiving special�education�have disabilities. They are far below average in one or more of the following abilities, with related special�education�categories included in italics: thinking (cognition;mental retardation),�academic learning (learning not consistent with intellectual ability;�specific learning disability),�recognizing and controlling emotions or behavior�(emotional disturbance),�using speech in communication�(communication disorder),�hearing�(deafness�or�impaired hearing),�seeing�(blindness�orimpaired vision),�moving or maintaining physical well-being�(physical disability�or�other health impairment).Special�education�categories also include�autism�(or�autism spectrum disorders), traumatic brain injury,and�severe�or�multiple disabilities (e.g., deaf-blindness).�These students have been or can be predicted to be unsuccessful in the general�education�curriculum with instruction by a regular classroom teacher (Kauffman & Hallahan, 2005).
Special�education�is also appropriate for students whose abilities are significantly above average-those with special gifts or talents. Gifted�education�receives comparatively little attention and has not been mandated by federal law as of 2007. It has been left to state and local�education�authorities (Hallahan, Kauffman, & Pullen, 2009).
A variety of words may be used to describe exceptionality, including�emotional or behavioral disorder(rather than�emotional disturbance), autism�or�Asperger syndrome�(instead of�autism spectrum disorder), challenge�(rather than�disorder�or�disability),�or a more general term, such as�developmental disability.�The variety and change in labels makes special�education�difficult to study, but the key points are that students with disabilities have problems that significantly impede their school progress and gifted/ talented students learn extraordinarily fast.
Special�education�was offered in mid-19th-century institutions for blind, deaf, and mentally retarded persons. By about the mid-20th century, special�education�for blind, deaf, physically disabled, mentally retarded, emotionally disturbed, communication-impaired, and gifted...