Special education programs serve children who have learning or physical disabilities that affect them in school. They also serve children who need special accommodations or modifications to their curriculum for giftedness or learning disabilities, and children who require the use of assistive technology for any reason. Special education programs help teachers and parents work together to design a learning plan for a child that will best serve his needs and help him grow and learn in the most effective way possible.
Some school districts have early intervention special education programs. These programs serve children who have not yet entered school but have been identified as potential candidates to receive special education services. Preschool-aged children or younger who have been diagnosed with a physical, mental or learning disability may be eligible for these early intervention programs. The programs help these children so that when the time comes for them to enter kindergarten, they will be more adequately prepared.
Children with learning disabilities receive Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) from special education programs. An IEP is a guideline mapping out the educational needs of a specific student. One child's IEP might say that she needs to be given extra time on tests and quizzes, while another child's IEP might say that she needs time to work in small-group settings. Children with specific learning disabilities benefit from special education programs because these programs provide advocacy for students and training for teachers in order to meet the needs of all students.
Special education programs also serve children with emotional or behavioral disorders. These children might have Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Tourette's syndrome, or anger management issues. Special education programs serve these students by providing behavioral goals and instructing teachers how to manage behavioral problems and helping students work toward improving their behavior in school.
Students with physical disabilities receive benefits from special education programs and IEPs as well. The special education programs in their schools provide the assistance they need in order to be successful. The child's IEP might specify where he needs to sit in a classroom, or allow him to enter and leave class a few minutes before other students in order to navigate the hallways. The special education programs in schools also provide interpreters to students with hearing disabilities and one-on-one assistance to other students with disabilities.
Gifted students also receive special education services. They may receive an IEP stating that they can work ahead of the curriculum or they may have a compacted curriculum in which they skip over materials they already understand in favor of pursuing individual projects. They may have regular enrichment classes to attend with other gifted students and even receive other services like social skills or stress management therapy.
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