Special education serves children with emotional, behavioral, or cognitive impairments or with intellectual, hearing, vision, speech, or learning disabilities; gifted children with advanced academic abilities; and children with orthopedic or neurological impairments.
Some scholars of education may categorize gifted education under the umbrella of “special education,” but this pedagogical approach is different from special education because of the students’ capabilities. Intellectual giftedness is a difference in learning and can also benefit from specialized teaching techniques or different educational programs, but the term “special education” is generally used to specifically indicate instruction of disabled students.
Whereas special education is designed specifically for students with learning disabilities, remedial education can be designed for any students, with or without special needs; the defining trait is simply that they have reached a point of unpreparedness, regardless of why. For example, if a person’s education was disrupted, for example, by internal displacement during civil disorder or a war.
Identifying students or learners with special needs
Some children are easily identified as candidates for special needs due to their medical history. For example, they may have been diagnosed with a genetic condition that is associated with intellectual disability, may have various forms of brain damage, may have a developmental disorder, may have visual or hearing disabilities, or other disabilities.
On the other hand, for students with less obvious disabilities, such as those who have borderline intellectual disability or specific learning difficulties (dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc.), two primary methods have been used for identifying them: the discrepancy model and the response to intervention model. The discrepancy model depends on the teacher noticing that the students’ achievements are noticeably below what is expected, at which point the teacher may make the decision for the student to receive support from a special education specialist. Before doing so, the teacher must show documentation of low academic achievement. The response to intervention model advocates earlier intervention.