The term "special needs" includes children who have:
All public school districts in the US are required to offer special services for children with these conditions.
Most states also provide special services for gifted and talented students. This is not required by law. School districts provide services for children ages 3 through 21, or until they graduate from high school, whichever comes first.
There are many types of services that schools offer through special education. These include:
Services can be provided in several ways. Common methods are:
Schools keep children in a regular classroom whenever possible.
The Special Education Department within each school district usually follows certain steps to evaluate a child with special needs. These steps may include:
There are several laws that apply to schools:
IDEA and ADA are federal laws. They define the disabilities that are eligible for special services. It also outlines the process to identify children in need. There may also be state laws that apply. Many states offer more services than what is required by IDEA.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the ADA, state that no agency that gets federal money can discriminate against disabled people. In schools this means that special-needs children must receive equal services to children without special needs.
The Vocational Education Act, often called the Carl Perkins Act, provides for job training skills to older children.
The No Child Left Behind federal law requires each state to test every public school student's progress in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and at least once during grades 10 through 12. If children with special needs have trouble taking tests due to their disabilities, they may not be required to take the national tests. Parents of children in underachieving schools are given the option of sending children to a different school. They also may qualify for services such as private tutoring for their children.