“Special Needs doesn’t mean special treatment.”
So says a Cudahy elementary school teacher, if right-wing extremist blogger Randy Hollenbeck is to be believed.
If that quote is in fact accurate, I hope that teacher never comes near my son while he’s a student in Cudahy’s school system. A “one size fits all” approach to special needs students – which seems to be what the teacher in question is advocating – isn’t fair to the students, each of whom face different and unique challenges given the nature of their situations.
Mainstreaming may be the answer for some special needs students, but others may need more one-on-one attention and….gasp….some special treatment.
While I’m certainly a supporter of gifted and talented programs, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that we’re setting special needs students up for failure if we don’t treat them as individuals instead of lumping them all together.
What’s more, the Cudahy teacher who said “special needs doesn’t mean special treatment” is clearly ignorant of the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act when it comes to the kind of educations schools must provide to each disabled student.
Some of the criteria specified in various sections of the IDEA statute includes requirements that schools provide each disabled student an education that:
- Is designed to meet the unique needs of that one student
- Provides “ …access to the general curriculum to meet the challenging expectations established for all children” (that is, it meets the approximate grade-level standards of the state educational agency)
- Is provided in accordance with the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as defined in 1414(d)(3).
- Results in educational benefit to the child.
So according to IDEA, each special needs student is entitled to receive an education designed to meet the unique needs of that student, which means that yes, each special needs student does deserve special treatment.
Just as “normal” students deserve an education that provides them the best opportunities to succeed, so too do special needs students.