What is Special Education?

California Education Code 56031

“Special education” means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parent, to meet the unique needs of individuals with exceptional needs, whose educational needs cannot be met with modification of the regular instruction program, and related services, at no cost to the parent, that may be needed to assist these individuals to benefit from specially designed instruction.

Special education is an integral part of the total public education system and provides education in a manner that promotes maximum interaction between children or youth with disabilities and children or youth who are not disabled, in a manner that is appropriate to the needs of both.

Special education provides a full continuum of program options, including instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; and instruction in physical education, to meet the educational and service needs of individuals with exceptional needs in the least restrictive environment. Individuals with exceptional needs shall be grouped for instructional purposes according to their instructional needs.

A student may qualify for special education services as an individual with special needs in one of thirteen areas identified by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

These are:

  • Autism

  • Deaf

  • Deaf-Blind

  • Emotionally Disturbed

  • Hard of Hearing

  • Intellectual Disability

  • Multiple Handicapped

  • Orthopedically Impaired

  • Other Health Impaired

  • Specific Learning Disability

  • Speech-Language Impaired

  • Traumatic Brain Injury

  • Visually Impaired