What exactly is Special Education?

As the Executive Director of Nancy's Place, I am passionate about ensuring that individuals with intellectual and mental disabilities receive the services and support they need to thrive in their communities. One crucial aspect of this support is special education services. These services are essential in ensuring that children with disabilities receive the education and assistance they need to progress in their academic, social, and emotional development.

In Iowa, special education services are free to parents of children with disabilities, thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA is a federal law that governs this service and ensures that it meets the changing needs of children with disabilities. IDEA requires that states provide Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to children eligible for special education services, regardless of their health conditions or disabilities.

Iowa has a unique non-categorical eligibility system for special education services. This system does not require a disability diagnosis. Instead, children go through various performance domains, such as academics, behavior, physical health, hearing/vision, adaptive behavior, and communication. If a child is determined to have a disability based on deficits in these skill areas, they may be eligible for special education services.

The IDEA law requires that special education services meet the student's unique needs. It should include instruction in core academic subjects like reading, math, science, and social studies. Some children may also require related services, such as speech-language pathology, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, and school nurse services. Accommodations and modifications are also essential to help students access the general education curriculum and complete the same assignments as their peers.

Special education is a program of specially designed instruction that assists a child in a general education classroom or some other appropriate setting if the child's needs make that necessary. The IEP team considers providing services to a student in their Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), meaning alongside their non-disabled peers, to the extent that it is appropriate. Additionally, parental rights are an essential part of the IDEA law. Parents are always included in decision-making related to their child's IEP, and their Procedural Safeguard rights are reviewed with them at least annually.

As an organization that supports individuals with intellectual and mental disabilities, Nancy's Place recognizes the importance of special education services. We are dedicated to providing comprehensive educational materials to empower families, friends, and social workers to acquire necessary services for individuals with disabilities. Our mission is to ensure all individuals have access to the tools and services needed to lead productive and fulfilling lives within their communities.


By Hunter Cook

Hunter Cook's picture