What Makes Special Education Special?
The current promising future of children with disabilities and their families stands in sharp contrast to conditions before IDEA.
Special education features instruction and interventions designed to meet the individual needs of each child with a disability. Through special education, the United States has developed instructional curricula and programs for teaching core competencies to children with disabilities. Key examples are early reading (e.g., progress monitoring), behavior (e.g., multitiered, schoolwide interventions), assessment (e.g., accommodations, including students with disabilities in accountability systems), early childhood education (e.g., Individualized Family Service Plans), and universally designed instruction (e.g., captioning). Additionally, special education has developed a variety of rigorous evaluation methods (e.g., single-subject designs and qualitative ethnographic techniques) that can be used to carefully examine the impact of instruction on individual children with disabilities as well as all students in the school. Finally, IDEA has invested in a research to practice model that has helped the country support improvements in special and general education. This infrastructure, in turn, has contributed to improved results for children with disabilities and their families over the last quarter of the 20th century and through the first decade of the 21st century.