The traditional classroom setting is not always a good fit for a child with special needs. If your child has learning disabilities (i.e. reading and writing difficulties), he or she may have trouble keeping up with peers in a regular classroom setting. Similarly, if your child has a behavioral disorder, such as Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), then your child may need certain interventions that a regular classroom teacher is not trained in. And if your child is gifted in a particular way, then he or she may find the general curriculum insufficiently stimulating.
To help your child get the most in his or her learning situation, you may want to consider placing him or her in a special education classroom.
What is a Special Education Classroom?
As the term implies, a special education classroom refers to a learning environment that differs from the standard education offered in traditional public and private schools.
A special education classroom offers alternative teaching and classroom management styles, from instructors trained in special education. Materials are also adapted to the special needs of the learners; for instance children who are visually impaired may be given textbooks in brail or large font. The curriculum may also be atypical; a special education class for children with mental retardation and autism can teach self-management and social skills instead of math or science.
What’s Great about Special Education Classrooms?
In a special education classroom, students are encouraged to learn at their own pace, and thus the class need not follow the school curriculum prescribed by the government. Learning is very individualized; usually instructors tailor fit their lesson plan to the profile of the class, making each special education class unique.
Typically, teacher-learner ratio is very small, at times even 1:1. Parents, caregivers and learning specialists may also accompany students while taking their classes, unlike in the traditional classroom environment where classroom parental supervision is discouraged after the first day of class.
Should Your Child be Enrolled in a Special Education Class?
If you have a child with special needs, a special education classroom may be appropriate. However, it’s important to keep in mind both the advantages and disadvantages of special placement.
One of the main disadvantages of special education classrooms is that they tend to take kids away from what is perceived as a “normal” learning experience. Children miss opportunities to socialize and learn with the other “normal” (not identified as “special!”) kids their age. They may also feel like they are being ostracized for their disability or special needs, that their exclusion from mainstream classroom is a sign that they are inferior in some way.
Some educators argue that special education classrooms do not adequately prepare a child for the real world, as most social and working environments will require mainstreaming. Special education classrooms are largely dependent too on the skill of the instructor or administrator; with the term “special needs” having such a huge scope, that it’s quite possible for a special education class to fail to respond adequately to each child.
Below are some things you may consider as a parent:
Can My Child’s Learning Needs be Responded to Adequately in a Traditional Classroom?
Note that special needs differ in nature and degree, and your child may not require a special education classroom after all. A child with mild ADHD, for example, can successfully mainstream if his or her condition is adequately managed by therapy and medication. A child with hearing problems may be assisted by technology or a caregiver who provides sign language interpretation. If reasonable accommodations can be made, it might be best to limit the changes to a child’s life because of a disability or condition.
Will My Child Do Better in a Special Education Classroom?
On the flipside, all parents want their children to be the best that they can be. We all have to concede that general education is precisely that — general. Even if your child can perform adequately in a traditional classroom, if the individualized teaching methods and specialized equipment can assist them to achieve and break expectations, then by all means enroll your child in a special education classroom.
Can You Augment Special Education Classrooms with Other Supportive Activities?
What you sacrifice when you enroll your child in a special education class, you can recover by increasing their participation in other programs designed to increase their socialization and self-sufficiency. Programs geared towards developing talents, summer camps and the like can all augment what is lost in special education. In fact, there is nothing to say that special education classrooms can’t be taken alongside traditional classroom learning — perhaps your child can get the best of both worlds.
Can You Afford Special Education Classrooms?
Luckily, with the government’s growing recognition of the rights and needs of persons with disabilities, special education is offered for free in many states. There are also many non-governmental organizations and advocacy groups who offer special education for a low cost. But most private special education classrooms still require hefty tuition, understandably because one-on-one care is costly. Personal finances are a realistic consideration.