Special education programs exist in many public school systems for children who have special needs. In many cases, this involves some sort of learning disability, while in others, a physical disability, cognitive disability, or development disorder might apply.
In 1975, the United States Congress passed the Education for all Handicapped Children Act, followed later by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These laws force states to provide special education services in order to qualify for federal financial aid (although most special education funding comes from the states and localities). Regardless of which entity pays, special education programs tend to be expensive.
Various learning disabilities account for about half of all special education programs.Today, depending on the school district, programs are also available for students with disabilities in a number of categories, including autism, emotional and behavioral disabilities, speech problems, intellectual disability (formerly called “mental retardation”), and visual and hearing impairment.
Special education students receive special training, and sometimes attend special schools, as in the case of schools dedicated to the education of the blind or the deaf. In some cases, special education students live their scholastic lives separated from other students, while in others they are “mainstreamed,” spending most of their time in the general academic environment.
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