December 1st is National Special Education Day, and even with over 6 million Special Education students in the United States alone, there are still some common myths and misconceptions around Special Education. This year, we’d like to clear up some of those myths and help shine some light on this vital element of the education system.
Myth #1: Special Education is a big part of individual school budgets
In fact, most Special Education funding comes from federal grants and are distributed on a district-by-district basis. Since schools are largely funded by their states, special education barely receives funding from individual school budgets, unlike art, music and sports programs for the general student population.
Myth #2: Special Education can only be taught in a specific classroom
Special Education laws and regulations require giving every student their education in the least restrictive environment possible. Some special education students may need a special day class to get the best education, but many students can join most of their peers in general education classrooms.
Myth #3: Special Education is only for students who have severe physical or intellectual disabilities
Most special education students fall under a category of “specific learning disability”, which means students who have trouble reading due to conditions like dyslexia or have trouble with writing or math because of their dysgraphia and dyscalculia. Other students may have Autism spectrum disorders that cover a wide range of symptoms and skills. Any student with a condition covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) qualifies for special education services.
Myth #4: Students with severe disabilities must be placed in a specific center or private school.
Like Myth #2, this one is flat out not true, due to every student’s right to Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), which includes an education in the least restrictive environment possible. Just because a student has a severe disability doesn’t mean they have to attend a specific school or center. In fact, students with severe disabilities still have to be educated with general students to the maximum extent appropriate to the specific student’s needs.
Myth #5: Special education students can’t go to college.
Many people assume that once a special education student graduates high school, their academic career ends. But there are hundreds of thousands of special education students that do attend college and go on through higher education to earn degrees. The IDEA requires that schools prepare special education students for independent living and adult education whenever possible.
These myths are surprisingly common in parent and teacher circles, but hopefully, we can stop the spread of misinformation by debunking them. A great resource for both special education teachers and parents is Edmodo’s Special Education Topic, which is an ongoing conversation and community of educators involved with special education.
Have you run into any special education myths at your school? Or have you had your assumptions challenged by other special education parents or teachers? Share your stories in the comments below.