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Does Your Child Need Special Education? (What Special Ed Can—and Can’t—Do) 
 
by Joanne M. Friedman June 22, 2005

What’s special about special ed?

Special education professionals are trained in a different way from other teachers.  They are taught methods of presenting information based on the preferred learning styles of the student.  They learn ways to modify tests and homework so that the student is exposed to the academic material he needs in order to fulfill his potential without having to undergo serious emotional trauma.  Special educators are trained to recognize the various types of learning problems that exist, identify them, refer the child for testing, find appropriate materials, and apply their knowledge and skill to maximizing the student’s learning experience.  Special Education is an academic “fix” for academic problems caused by an identifiable disability.

If your child is having reading difficulties, he may have a reading disability. If that is the case, then a special ed teacher trained in reading techniques may be just the ticket for bringing the student up to speed.  There are several learning disabilities that impair math conceptual learning, reading comprehension, word decoding, memory, and organization.  For all of these, there are adjustments that can be made to the educational environment that will allow the student to progress at his maximum pace to his maximum level of achievement.

Usually a true learning disability will show up when the student is in the second grade.  That is when reading and writing become important in the curriculum, which tends to flush out students with difficulties in those areas.  Other problems might surface earlier or later.  Mental retardation, for instance, is usually obvious in infancy, while some students manage to adapt and cover up minor learning problems until they reach the upper elementary grades and even high school.  Dyslexia becomes apparent in toddlers.  “Specific Learning Disabilities” can be covered up for a long time, until someone realizes that the student is suffering serious stress and can no longer hide the problem.

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