Concern about special education's future is widespread. Now there are calls for special education's abandonment or its nonexistence in any environment other than general education…
Concern about special education's future is widespread. Now there are calls for special education's abandonment or its nonexistence in any environment other than general education (i.e., for full inclusion or some form of general education only). Some advocates for reform consider special education obsolete, to be rejected in favor of newer ideas known as inclusionary education, and they advocate abandoning special education.
Now may be the time for a second revolution in thinking about what special education is and does so that it evolves into a service that more consistently realizes its promise. Special education is likely to become extinct if its devolution continues. Its collapse would hasten the abandonment of public education. Alternatively, it could evolve to become a viable part of public education, a distinct entity, a clearly identifiable and viable part of educating all children appropriately in public schools.
Among the many causes of special education's devolution, some stand out prominently: (1) confusing must and may; (2) accepting illogic and imprecision of language; (3) responding to all diversities in the same way; (4) spurning science; (5) confusing attribute and person; (6) putting the worst possible face on special education; and (7) misconstruing least restrictive environment.
Better thinking and clearer communication are required to achieve special education's revitalization. These include calling things what they are and relying on new, younger leaders. Clear and wide understanding – consensus – about what special education is and does and acceptance of the idea that we must have it as a separate and distinct part of universal public education would be revolutionary.
Special education in the USA is, in most respects, a 20th century phenomenon and is now governed primarily by federal legislation first enacted in 1975. The federal law in its…
Special education in the USA is, in most respects, a 20th century phenomenon and is now governed primarily by federal legislation first enacted in 1975. The federal law in its most recent reauthorization (2004) continues to require a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for all students with disabilities, a full continuum of alternative placements (CAP) ranging from residential or hospital care to inclusion in general education, an individual education plan or program (IEP) for each student identified as needing special education, and placement in the least restrictive environment (LRE) that is thought best for implementing the IEP. Parents must be involved in the special education process. Approximately 14 percent of public school students were identified for special education in 2004–2005, but the number and percentage of students identified in most high-incidence categories as needing special education have declined in recent years (the total for all categories was about 8.5 percent of public school students in 2010). A variety of evidence-based interventions can be used to address the wide range of instructional and behavioral needs of students with disabilities and their families, including transition to further education or work, family services, and teacher education. Special education in the USA may find new sources of support and thrive or may become less common or be abandoned entirely due to criticism and withdrawal of support for social welfare programs of government.
This chapter addresses emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) in the larger context of special education. The author suggests that EBD, like special education more generally…
This chapter addresses emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) in the larger context of special education. The author suggests that EBD, like special education more generally, has been distracted by issues such as labeling, disproportionality, and inclusion rather than keeping a clear focus on instruction. Revisionist history has led to misunderstanding of what special education is and does. A more promising future for the field depends on focusing on instruction, embracing scientific research, developing checklists and manuals to guide practice that are based on scientific evidence whenever possible, working for sustained student success, and using language more carefully and precisely.
Multitiered systems of support (MTSS) is widely advocated as an approach to improving education for all students, including students with disabilities. A hope for MTSS is that it…
Multitiered systems of support (MTSS) is widely advocated as an approach to improving education for all students, including students with disabilities. A hope for MTSS is that it can solve or mitigate many problems associated with providing special education to students with disabilities. While MTSS shows some promise for better addressing these problems, enthusiasm for MTSS and unsound thinking about what MTSS can do, cannot do, and has not done can veil lack of progress toward improving special education, as well as obscure what improving special education requires. We suggest that for both MTSS and special education to make more progress toward achieving their promises, several reality checks are urgently needed.
Change is not synonymous with improvement. Improvement of special education requires better instruction of individuals with disabilities. Although LRE and inclusion are important…
Change is not synonymous with improvement. Improvement of special education requires better instruction of individuals with disabilities. Although LRE and inclusion are important issues, they are not the primary legal or practical issues in improving special education. Federal law (IDEA) requires a continuum of alternative placements, not placement in general education in all cases. To make actual progress in education of students with disabilities, a single and strict principle of equality or/and antidiscriminatory legal instruments, such as the CRPD, is not enough. Social justice as a multifaceted principle can serve the education of the whole spectrum of special educational needs in national and international contexts. Responsible inclusion demands attention to the individual instructional needs of individuals with disabilities and consideration of the practical realities involved in teaching. If inclusive education is to move forward, it must involve placing students with disabilities in general education only if that is the environment in which they seem most likely to learn the skills that will be most important for their futures.
Malice – knowingly doing harm – has been attributed to special education, threatening its continued existence. Malicious education may include inferior education, exclusion from…
Malice – knowingly doing harm – has been attributed to special education, threatening its continued existence. Malicious education may include inferior education, exclusion from opportunities, miseducation, unnecessary stigmatization, or failure to meet individual needs. Malice may be overt or covert, unselective or selective, or be directed toward those included or those excluded. Attributions of malice may be evaluated by a series of questions comprising a decision model, and this decision model may be applied to attributions of malice to special education. Suggestions that special education is malicious are not confirmed by application of the decision model. False accusations that special education is malicious are derived from inappropriate comparisons, unreasonable expectations, and assertions that are not grounded in realities.
The authors speculate only about relatively short-term advances in special education for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Speculation is confined to the…
The authors speculate only about relatively short-term advances in special education for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Speculation is confined to the overlapping areas of core values, technologies, neuroscience, and law/policy. In core values, the authors hope to see a resurgence of commitment to special, effective instruction and to practice aligned with scientific evidence. It is hoped that technologies will advance practices in instruction, improve the uses of artificial intelligence in teacher training and teaching, and encourage the appropriate use of artificial reproduction to avoid disorders. Neuroscience, it is hoped, will yield more reliable and helpful classification of disorders, better and more useful imaging, and more effective treatment of a variety of emotional, behavioral, and academic problems. In law and policy, the authors hope the Supreme Court's Endrew case will result in greater focus on challenging, appropriate education. Law and policy should also encourage trauma sensitivity in education, make whole-school approaches to trauma sensitivity the priority, and avoid universal trauma screening. Students' and families' legitimate interests in confidentiality and data privacy should be protected in newly constructed information-sharing infrastructures.
A confluence of events has created an opportunity to rethink special education, including the lingering effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic, advances in technology, and…
A confluence of events has created an opportunity to rethink special education, including the lingering effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic, advances in technology, and changes in how special education is conceptualized and delivered. In this chapter, I discuss each of these in turn and then describe three possible futures for special education: maintain the status quo, revolutionize and revitalize special education, or abandon special education completely. The possibilities and implication of these alterative futures for students with disabilities are then considered.
Science and logic offer the greatest promise of progress in increasing the odds that students, especially those who struggle academically or behaviorally, will experience positive…
Science and logic offer the greatest promise of progress in increasing the odds that students, especially those who struggle academically or behaviorally, will experience positive outcomes. That said, science and scientific thinking have been under attack in recent decades, including in special education. There are a number of reasons science may not be valued; I posit that these include the ideas that (1) science is incremental, (2) science is slow, (3) science and the theories developed from it evolve, and (4) science does not answer our most vexing problems. If science is understood for its strengths, which include identifying variables that increase the probability of positive outcomes, scientific and logical thinking would be far more accepted as the most promising foundation for progress in special education.