In fact, the success of their special education programs is an important part of a school system’s accountability. A school’s report card, its ability to maintain status and even accreditation is greatly effected by how well it meets the needs of special populations of students.

Public education has come a long way from the days when students with learning disabilities were fully excluded from the regular classrooms, self-contained in their own isolated school environment. Although the criteria and strategies for how schools meet the needs of learning disabled students vary somewhat from state to state they all must follow the federal FAPE (free appropriate public education) mandate that state that SLD students, those with specific learning disabilities, most be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This means that, where ever possible, SLD students must be schooled beside their non-disabled peers. This, of course, implies very rigorous identification, evaluation and classification of all students who may have disabilities.

Among some of the possible classifications which would qualify a child for special education services are pervasive developmental disabilities such as autism or mental retardation. Also speech impairment such as simple articulation problems or receptive language issues which relate to brain function are qualifying conditions. Other special education classifications are blindness or visual impairment and what are known as OHI or other health impairments which include attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity. Probably the majority of special education students fall within the category of LD or learning disabled. LD covers many of the other conditions which effect a child’s ability to function at an acceptable level of achievement in a school.

Due to the desire to meet the needs of every student, coupled with limited resources, schools find it important to identify students who are in need of special services. Initial identification of students for special education services is usually based on a student’s noticeably inadequate learning achievement. This identification and referral can be made by anyone involved with the child’s education such as parents or guardians or school personnel. Referral is most often based upon the child’s school performance including grades over time and test scores. Once a student is referred it is then the responsibility of the school’s special education department to carefully evaluate the child’s needs and to develop an education plan which will best help the student learn and to grow to the very best of their individual abilities.

Special education programs for children with learning disabilities are now geared to inclusion of these students into the least restrictive environment where they can receive the help that they need among their non-disabled peers.