We have reached an age in our society when we realize how important education is, and how much our future as a species depends on it. Yet that doesn’t seem to be of much help since in certain countries people still send their children to work from an early age due to poverty, or forbid girls from getting higher education because they have to stay home to become wives and mothers. If we are not able to send all our children to school, then what about children with special needs, who require constant attention and a different approach?
One of the few improvements that modern society brought was special education, meaning a system of education especially created for children with developmental problems or other learning disabilities. Special education, also called special needs education, is meant to provide students with customized strategies for learning, meeting their needs and differences and thus facilitating the learning process. Truth be told, this is a major improvement since just a few hundred years ago, when special needs children were disposed of swiftly by being sent to sanatoriums or other hospices that would treat them the same as insane, handicapped or psychologically troubled people.
Slowly we learned to understand that not everyone must be treated the same, and that different people have different potential; in many instances, it is even possible, with the right care, to integrate these people in society, to find them a place and a role, thus allowing them to live their own lives. The process of special education ideally includes teaching procedures which must be individually arranged and planned, the use of special learning material and adapted equipment, and a number of other concessions for the safety and well-being of the students and children.
For those who aren’t clear on what kind of people fall into this category and require special education, the characteristics are usually these: challenges with learning, emotional or behavioral disorders, communication challenges, physical disabilities or developmental disorders. Although intellectual giftedness sometimes occurs hand in hand with special needs, special education generally refers to those children who suffer from the challenges mentioned above.
Children like these require a different environment for learning, because sometimes they are not able to study in groups or classrooms; the teachers have to adapt their methods for each child, seeing what he or she responds to better. Thus, children with special needs often benefit from additional equipment and technology to facilitate their learning, as opposed to general education where standard teaching methods are applied. As for special schools, they differ from country to country and from culture to culture; in some developed countries, special education takes place in the normal school environment, with special classes and teachers for those who need it. There are also private schools, but they are quite expensive sometimes, so not everyone can afford them.
Some children can easily be diagnosed as having learning disabilities, but for others it is difficult to do so because they might have the same level of intelligence as their colleagues; in these cases, the teacher and parents usually have to notice that the child’s performances aren’t as expected. If the matter is discovered soon, the child can be approached differently and helped to reach the level of other children. However, if the problem is not discovered in the first years of education, then the special needs children probably have to be taught with special approaches on learning, possibly together with other children like them.