Breaking specialized education boundaries | The Triangle

Breaking specialized education boundaries

Imagine being isolated and considered to be different because that’s what the educational system you are in says is the only way you’ll be able to learn.

I’ve been taught that way, and can assure you that learning can be just as successful if done by other methods. I believe that all students, no matter their perceived level of ability, should be given equal opportunity in educational settings.

It is said that students in America have a right to a free and public education, but that right comes with a lot of red tape.

There is no such thing as a perfect student. And while every individual deserves a chance to excel in school, what exactly does it mean to be labeled “special”? Personally, I thought of “special” as a positive word that puts someone above others. However, the definition for special education is the practice of educating students with special educational needs in a way that addresses their individual differences. Special, in this case, does not put someone above others, but instead it condenses those who don’t learn well in a traditional classroom into one general lump.

Examples that show the potential for special education can be found in television personalities: Whoopee Goldberg was actually called “dumb” while growing up in New York due to her dyslexia. Likewise, music icon Justin Timberlake, raised in Tennessee, lives with severe ADHD and OCD. Both of these individuals were considered special in school, but have grown up to be successful and lively characters in the modern entertainment world. What strikes me is that their individual learning differences aren’t at all the same, despite how our education system lumps together under the special education umbrella.

Personally, I see this generalized categorization as something that makes no sense. Students are being put into special education classes because they are different. That difference can come from something mental or physical or something totally different, but regardless of what the individual difference or need is, the public education system lumps it together as the same thing. It’s the downfall of the current regulations on special education.

Funding for special education in public schools is found under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which provides special education and related services to nearly six million K-12 schoolchildren per year. According to the act, these services are apparently individually designed to meet the cognitive, emotional, behavioral and/or physical needs of a student with a disability. But just how individual can this regulated education be? How can one teacher effectively handle a class so diverse and get results in which each student is getting the education that they are entitled to? It is not fair for a teacher to have to create and sustain lessons plans that can be effective for such a range of educational needs in one classroom setting.

This idea of a government regulated special education class could mean that one student in the class might be severely autistic while another student in the class might be a non-English speaking transfer from another country. Special education should, in a perfect world, provide the student with the resources, adapted instruction and specialized assistance to mitigate the effects of his or her disability.

From this, education should be a product that allows the student to successfully benefit from the school’s general curriculum. However, with special education so generalized that is an idea and a goal I fear is unreachable.

For a student to be denied education because of something that they cannot control or express appropriately is an all too common theme that is encouraged under our legal regulations for specialized education. For many students with disabilities, the benefits of participating in a specialized educational program may far outweigh these potential educational and psychological costs, but that is not always the case. It remains important to investigate how the characteristics of a student and his or her school relate to the student’s placement into special education and what makes them “special.”

The disproportional placement of some groups of students into special education may limit the provision of special education services to other groups of eligible students. Currently, children are being thrown into special education because it is easier than actually learning what the student individually needs.

Overall, specialized education has the potential to make a real impact on students on its track; but only if given the opportunity to break normal specialized educational boundaries. Education is something that can lead a superior future and everyone deserves a chance at that future — no matter who they are perceived to be.