Special Education - National Approaches - North America

North America

In North America, special education is commonly abbreviated as special ed, SpecEd, SPED, or SpEd in a professional context.

Canada

Education in Canada is the responsibility of the individual provinces and territories. As such, rules vary somewhat from place to place. However, inclusion is the dominant model.

For major exams, Canadian schools commonly use accommodations, such as specially printed examinations for students with visual impairments, when assessing the achievements of students with special needs. In other instances, alternative assessments or modifications that simplify tests are permitted, or students with disabilities may be exempted from the tests entirely.

United States

All special-needs students receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that outlines how the school will meet the student’s individual needs. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that students with special needs be provided with a Free Appropriate Public Education in the Least Restrictive Environment that is appropriate to the student's needs. Government-run schools provide special education in varying degrees from the least restrictive settings, such as full inclusion, to the most restrictive settings, such as segregation in a special school. The education offered by the school must be appropriate to the student's individual needs. Schools are not required to maximize the student's potential or to provide the best possible services. Unlike most of the developed world, American schools are also required to provide many medical services, such as speech therapy, if the student needs these services.

According to the Department of Education, approximately 6 million children (roughly 10 percent of all school-aged children) currently receive some type of special education services. As with most countries in the world, students who are poor, ethnic minorities, or do not speak the dominant language fluently are disproportionately identified as needing special education services. Poor, black and Latino urban schools are more likely to have limited resources and to employ inexperienced teachers that do not cope well with student behavior problems, "thereby increasing the number of students they referred to special education."

During the 1960s, in some part due to the civil rights movement, some researchers began to study the disparity of education amongst people with disabilities. The landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which declared unconstitutional the "separate but equal" arrangements in public schools for students of different races, paved the way for PARC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Mills vs. Board of Education of District of Columbia, which challenged the segregation of students with special needs. Courts ruled that unnecessary and inappropriate segregation of students with disabilities was unconstitutional. Congress responded to these court rulings with the federal Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975 (since renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)). This law required schools to provide services to students previously denied access to an appropriate education.

In US government-run schools, the dominant model is inclusion. In the United States, three out of five students with academic learning challenges spend the overwhelming majority of their time in the regular classroom.

Read more about this topic:  Special Education, National Approaches

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