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Special education refers to the education—including instructional methods, curricular materials, and teachers—provided to students who have disabilities. Special education does not happen only in certain places. Instead, it is a collection of services that can take place in classrooms, resource rooms, special classes, or even outside of schools. In the United States, special education is defined and regulated by an important federal law, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which was reauthorized in 1997. Another reauthorization of this act took effect in 2004 (the Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Act; P. L. 108–446).

Brief History of Special Education in the United States

In the 19th century, the federal government created special schools for children who were mentally ill, blind, or deaf. Little progress in special education occurred ...

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