A special class is a class consisting of students with disabilities who have been grouped together because of similar individual needs so that they can receive specially designed instruction. In special classes, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction is adapted to ensure the student has access to the general curriculum and the opportunity to meet the educational standards that apply to all students. Special class services serve students with disabilities whose needs cannot be met within a general education class, even with the use of supplementary aids and services.
Before recommending special class services, it is important to consider the full range of supplementary aids and services that would allow the student to be educated with his or her peers to the maximum extent appropriate. Supplementary aids and services are defined as “aids, services and other supports that are provided in general education classrooms, other education-related settings, and extracurricular and nonacademic settings.” Some examples include a providing a note taker, instructional materials in other formats (e.g., Braille or large print), alternate ways for the student to demonstrate learning, special seating arrangements, books on tape, highlighted work, study guide outlines of key concepts, peer supports, paraprofessional support, a behavior management plan or other adjustments in the delivery of instruction, the physical environment or social and behavioral supports in the classroom.
Prior to the special education reform, placement in a special class was usually an all-or-nothing proposition. Now, schools are encouraged to program students on an individual subject basis according to their strengths, needs, preferences and interests and maximize time spent with their non-disabled peers. For a variety of reasons, some schools no longer offer special classes. While there may be more than one recommendation or combination of services that meets a student’s needs, IEP teams may not make a recommendation based on the availability or unavailability of a special education program in general or in a particular school. Schools must seek assistance from their Field Support Center if they are unable to implement the special education programs and services on a student’s IEP.
Special class and other special education supports are not restricted to ”core” subjects. Rather, the services a student needs to participate in the general education curriculum and achieve IEP goals must be individually determined on the basis of each student’s ability and needs for each subject or area of instruction. This includes cluster subjects, specials and other “non-core” courses.
While many special education teachers are no longer have full-time special class programs, special education teachers at all levels still have the right to express a preference for program designation (ICT, self-contained, SETSS, etc.) and age range. Similarly, special education teachers at the middle and high school levels who are programmed for an unreasonable number of different courses, each requiring preparation, or multiple rooms in which to teach may use the reorganization grievance process to challenge their assignments in appropriate circumstances.
The special education teacher is responsible for designing and delivering instruction in special classes. Paraprofessionals may also help provide support in the classroom. Students receiving special class services may also require additional supports such as related services, adapted physical education, accessible educational materials, assistive technology and travel training.