The world of special education is one of those places where all manner of myths and misconceptions seem to form themselves. Perhaps it is a general unwillingness to discuss special education in a frank and open way that leads to this air of misinformation around the subject.
With that in mind, today we are going to look at – and hopefully dispel – ten of the most pervasive myths associated with special education.
Myth #1: Special education students are required to attend special classes
Let’s start with a common one. As you’ll see, many of these myths spring from out-dated teaching methods from the previous century that have long since fallen by the wayside. Most of them are perpetuated by our own half-formed memories of our own school days, and the common media representation of “special ed” classes. These days, most students with special education needs spend the majority of their school time in the same classroom – and doing the same subjects – as the rest of their academic year group.
Myth #2: Special education is reserved for students with have severe disabilities and/or learning difficulties
By far the most common recipients of special education resources are those students who have what is referred to as a “specific learning disability.” This catch-all term includes such things as dyscalculia and dyslexia, which can impact on a child’s performance in math and English respectively.
Myth #3: Students involved in a special education programme are unable or incapable of leading an independent life
Special education acts as a support network for children with all kinds of learning issues, and with all different levels of severity. It helps many students to develop coping mechanisms to overcome these concerns, tools, and techniques that they can apply to everyday life as much as to the classroom environment. Many special education students go on to college or a job, enjoying an independent and productive life.
Myth #4: Autism is a severely debilitating condition
Autism is one of the more common – yet, ironically, least understood – behavioral conditions diagnosed among children, and one often found among special education students. The common portrayal of people with autism in movies and literature is of socially-inept individuals who require constant care. This simply is not the case. Autism exists on a scale, with low- and high-functioning examples in all walks of life. Indeed, there is an argument that many people we interact with in our day-to-day lives have some variant of the condition, whether diagnosed or not.
Myth #5: Getting special education services for your child is a constant, uphill struggle
If you’re the parent of a special education student, you’ve likely heard all the horror stories online of parents in your situation having to fight to get the necessary services for their child. Here’s the thing: yes, there are schools that do not prioritize special education, and yes, there are probably school boards and even districts who begrudge spending funds on special education programmes. However – and this is important – we hear about them because of their rarity. If it were a commonplace thing, endemic across the education system, nobody would be talking about these individual cases. With almost 6 million American children receiving special education services across the country, take these horror stories for what they are – statistical anomalies.
Myth #6: Special education students are required to take ADHD medication to qualify for support
The image of a classroom full of “special ed” students all doped to the gills like a therapy session in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a popular one, particularly in pulp media. The fact is, no school can require a child to take certain medication before they are allowed to be enrolled in any educational programme. Whether you choose to treat your child’s ADHD with medication is a decision only you can make, following appropriate discussion and advice with your health professional.
Myth #7: special education students are expected to take a separate bus
Certain education authorities do have dedicated transportation for those children who need it, and it is often funded by the special education budget. However, this is primarily for children with physical disabilities that hamper them from using the regular school bus or public transit. Most special education students ride the usual school bus with the rest of their peers.
Myth #8: Special education students are not allowed to take part in the same activities as other children
Stemming from the same origins as the classroom myth detailed above, there is the idea that special education students are segregated from other activities both in and outside of school. Not only would such behavior be against the law, but there is also a basis for this myth in real life. Many children who struggle academically find their outlet in another vocation, be it sport, music, belonging to a youth organization, or whatever else.
Myth #9: special education rarely equates to a good education
This is a big concern for parents of special education students, which is why we are delighted to confirm that it is also a big lie. The special education system has evolved considerably over these last decades, changing from a separate educational platform to an integrated support system to help all children attain their very best. It is more personalized towards the individual and promotes a holistic approach, involving the child, their peers, their parents, and more, all with the goal of students making the most of themselves and their future.
Myth #10: A child in special education needs expensive, specialist equipment to be able to study
As with so many of these misconceptions, this is based on worst-case scenarios, involving children with severe physical or mental disabilities. The fact is, most students currently benefiting from special education need only slight and reasonable adjustments to be able to flourish. Sometimes this involves specialist equipment, sometimes an application, and sometimes a gadget. Take the ScanMarker, for instance. With its ability to read printed text directly from the page, it has been beneficial for students dealing with everything from dyslexia, through visual impairment, to ADHD and numerous other conditions that fall into the remit of special education. As a versatile text conversion tool, it is also useful for students with physical difficulties that make it hard to manually transfer text to a computer. These devices are small and unobtrusive, easily fitting in any child’s school bag.
For more information on the ScanMarker and the ScanMarker Air, visit our homepage.