Special Education

Special Education – Characteristics of Disabilities
Every child brings unique abilities and possibilities into the school setting. Uniqueness and diversity are
the capstones that make special education classrooms so dynamic. Your presence is needed in the
special education classroom to accomplish great work with great people.
Special Education requires special skills to make the day go smoothly, particularly:
Having an attitude of respect – do not use demeaning words or phrases and keep information
Working well with paraprofessionals – do not expect the paraprofessional to do your job and
respect them to do their job
Instructional consistency – follow the schedule and keep the structure
Adapting lessons and activities – be patient and accept the diversity of the students
Knowing students and meeting their individual needs – praise students and keep them focused
Being familiar with special education terms and laws – you will need a basic understanding of
the key terms:
 Assistive Technology: The use of devices that increase the ability of students to get along in
society or that improve their quality of life (wheelchairs, computers, hearing aids, etc).
 Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP): A plan written by the IEP team for an individual student
that specifically outlines what procedures and practices will be used to reinforce positive
behaviors and decrease undesirable behaviors.
 Curriculum-Based Assessment (CBA): The practice of obtaining direct and frequent
measures of student performance based on a series of objectives from a classroom
 Individualized Education Plan (IEP): An individualized, written program that is developed
and carried out by the members of the IEP team.
 IEP Team: A group of educational and related services personnel, who develop, carry out
and evaluate the individual education plan, or IEP.
 Inclusion: Involving students with disabilities as active participants in general education
classrooms activities. Five effective benefits of inclusion are 1) the non-disabled students
learn to be more responsive to others; 2) new and valued relationships develop; 3) nondisabled students learn something about their own lives and situations; 4) students learn
about values and principles; and 5) students gain an appreciation of diversity in general.
 Least Restrictive Environment: A location in which students have a maximum opportunity
to interact with students who do not have disabilities.
Section 504
This section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against people based on their
disability. Students may not be left out of a public school because of a disability. The definition of
“disability” is broader under Section 504 as it also covers students with AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis,
allergies, asthma, diabetes, heart disease and many others that may not be covered by IDEA.
Public Law 94-142 (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)
Federal legislation has identified specific disability categories that are covered under the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Several types of disabilities are listed.
Blindness or Low Vision
Deaf or Hearing Impaired
Emotional Disorders
Learning Disabilities
Mental Retardation
Multiple Disabilities
Orthopedic Impairments; Cerebral palsy, Spinal Bifida, Muscular Dystrophy
Other health impairments; Speech or language impairments, Traumatic brain injury
Special Education teachers find their jobs very enjoyable and rewarding. As you spend time working with
students with special needs, you will find satisfaction at the end of the day that enhances your
substitute teaching experience.