The Truth About Learning Disabilities and Special Ed

This article debunks some common myths about special education.

The Truth About Learning Disabilities and Special Ed

Brought to FEN by The Council for Exceptional Children.

The major barriers to achievement by students with disabilities in our society continue to be attitudinal barriers, stereotypical thinking, and a lack of understanding of special education and its role in our schools. The truth is that many individuals with disabilities are capable of achieving a high degree of success academically and professionally. We need to banish our stereotypical images and view each student as an individual who brings his or her special abilities and talents to the classroom. Listed below are the kinds of assumptions that can be barriers to positive educational experiences for students with disabilities and the field of special education.

Myth: Students with disabilities can't learn.
Fact: When students with disabilities--even those with severe disabilities--receive appropriate instruction, they grow academically. As we learn more about how to best teach students with disabilities, their achievement and successes increase, as evidenced by the increasing number of students with special needs graduating from high school and going on to pursue postsecondary education. In 1992, 229,368 students with disabilities exited the educational system. The majority graduated with a standard high school diploma or a certificate of completion. Furthermore, the percentage of incoming college freshman with disabilities has more than tripled since 1975, the year legislation was passed mandating appropriate public education for students with disabilities.

Myth: Research focusing on students with disabilities affects only a small number of students.
Fact: Special education research has greatly impacted all education. Many of the advances in teaching strategies have resulted from research in special education. As a result, all students have profited from improved educational techniques that focus on individual learning styles and new methods to present materials to students of many different abilities and skills.

Myth: Children with disabilities grow up to be a burden on society.
Fact: By providing quality special education services, we greatly increase these individual's probability of competitive employment. Individuals with disabilities have enjoyed successful careers in virtually all lines of work, including education, public policy, administration, medicine, physics, automobile repair, electrical wiring, restaurant services, nursing, and more.

Myth: Students with disabilities cause most of violence that is in our schools.
Fact: Though some blame students with disabilities for the violence in our schools, the fact is that children with disabilities are more likely to be victims of violence rather than perpetrators. Violence in our schools is a threat to all students and must be confronted without stereotyping specific groups of students.

Myth: Students with disabilities learn better in separate classrooms or schools.
Fact: There is no ''right'' placement for students with disabilities. Many students with disabilities learn best in the general education classroom with support from the special education teacher. Others may learn best in a separate class for particular subjects or a specific aspect of a subject. Other students with disabilities may prefer a separate school that has special facilities or instructors to meet their needs.

Myth: Special educators teach watered-down versions of the general education curriculum.
Fact: Special educators are highly trained individuals who are masters of learning styles and teaching strategies. In the course of their work, special educators determine how each child best learns, and they present information in the way that meets each student's learning style. In addition, they often teach each student how to recognize his or her own learning style and help general education teachers expand their range of teaching strategies. As a result all students receive instruction that meets their learning needs.