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Special education

Special education (Also known as Special ed or SPED) refers to the teaching of students with a learning disability, a physical disability or a behavioral problem. Services (such as speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, etc) are provided within the mainstream class (ie. inclusion)or in a separate clasroom if this is decided to be the least restrictive environment. Students receive individualized services to meet their goals, and these services are outlined in each child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Additionally, in the state of California, students who reach the age of 16 will also have an Individual Transition Plan (ITP). The ITP focuses on the learners goals for the future, addressing living and employment.

Several journalists and commentators have argued that special education programs drain resources from mainstream classes, and that the teachers of those classes will have to do more with less resources. They feel that these teachers are unable to provide as much assistance as they would like to the "less-capable" members of the class. They argue that, in turn, such students' academic performance may suffer and they may be tracked into special ed programs as well.

The standard counterargument is that the resources for special education do not take away from the resources for the mainstream classroom, but rather will add resources (such as additional staff and material support) for the class in which a child with a disability is included. In addition, the educational experience and lifetime lesson of including a student with disabilities is invaluable to all of the children in the class.

Naturally, many students' challenges require them to be placed in classes which are specific to a particular disability. However, the goal is for all students to be placed in a learning environment that is the least restrictive for each individual learner.

The standard rebuttal is that while some disabled students are able to operate in a "normal" environment with appropriate support and care, some learning disabled students are not (and never will be capable of being truly "normal"), and become only a noisy distraction to their calmer, smarter or more mature classmates, instead of providing the hoped-for mutually enriching experience. In turn, this may be one of the reasons why many students are exiting public schools and fleeing into private schools at the first opportunity.

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