The language of special education has evolved over the years to remove the stigma of labeling children according to their disability and economic status. In order to have clarity about the issues discussed in this series, a common, comprehensive definition and understanding of terms must be explained. Henderson (1993), writing for an international publication, was meticulous with his semantic nomenclature because of a possible misunderstanding of the terms he used in his discussions. Writing with the expectation that non-educators will be reading this paper, this reporter follows his example. First, the term special education needs is explained with a clarification of to whom the term applies. The meanings of integration and inclusion are then described and their differences explained.
Special Education Needs
Students with special education needs do not or cannot learn in the same way that students generally do. A difficulty in learning can occur when students have problems processing information. This problem can be anywhere on a continuum from mild learning difficulty to severe learning difficulty, and can be in one area of difficulty or a number of areas. For example, a student with a reading problem could be proficient in mathematics and other areas, or a student may have problems in mathematics and be proficient in reading and social sciences.
Some students may have severe difficulties in all areas because of an intellectual disability or because of serious emotional difficulties. The number and severity of the difficulty or disability determines the extent to which a student has special education needs. A student with a problem with numerical operations or mathematical reasoning may just need support in math classes, while a student with reading problems like word decoding or reading comprehension may need support in all classes. This support may be minimal or it may be major, requiring adult support. Students who have intellectual disabilities are usually the ones who have greater special education needs.
Careful, cooperative planning and joint implementing of programs by both content and special education teachers within the school curriculum can satisfy the learning needs of all students. The transition from separate schools for students with special education needs, to inclusion of all students, began with integration.
Part 3 of the series The Psychological and Social Effects of Special Education Inclusion defines inclusion and clarifies the differences between inclusion and integration.
Henderson, R. (1993). What is this ‘Least Restrictive Environment’ in the United States? In R. Slee (Ed.), Is there a desk with my name on it? (pp. 93-105) Washington DC: The Falmer Press.