Special Education 101

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  • 20
  • 22
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  • 208
    have taken this course
  • 11
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  • 1.1

Course Description

Special Education 101 explains why people with disabilities deserve respect rather than pity in their quest for full engagement in school and post school life, why special education is mandated by policy and law to meet the education needs of students with disabilities, how its goals are affected by the nation's commitment to equalize educational opportunities for this group of learners, the revolutionary basis of these equal opportunity goals, why an equalized educational experience should empower students with disabilities to be self-determined at school and beyond, and how current practice falls far short of these equal rights expectations.

Formal special education in the United States is quite a young field of education, with its beginning in the second half of the 20th century. It is an intriguing field; no two students with disabilities are exactly alike and no school day in special education is the same as the one before. According to Douglas and Lynn Fuchs (1994), reputable researchers in the field of special education:

Special education is special because of its unique resources, its impact on student performance, and the effective teaching practices that mediate between resources and performance. Special education emphasizes individualized instruction, smaller classes, and more highly trained teachers and is supported by large amounts of research and development.

This course is divided into three sections. The first five lessons are an Introduction to Disability. In those lessons, you will investigate the history of disability, beginning in ancient times through the present day. You will also learn about the 13 categories of disability and which are the most and least frequently occurring. You will also learn about students that are gifted and talented.

The second five lessons are related to Setting Up Special Education Services. Those five lessons address federal special education law and the special education programming and services that are mandated by the law. A life-span approach is taken, as you will learn about early intervention for babies and toddlers with disabilities all the way through the transition from high school into adulthood.

The final ten lessons are related to Teaching Practice in Special Education. You will learn about teaching reading and mathematics, addressing challenging behavior, using assistive technology with students with disabilities, and the concept of accommodations and modifications, among other topics.
This self-paced online class is ideal for teachers wanting to update their professional skills, classroom assistants seeking more knowledge about the field and parents trying to understand how best to argue for equal opportunities. Be informed and inspired without the hassle of commuting or matching a pre-determined schedule.  If you are a well-disciplined and motivated learner, you will thrive in our instructor-led environment.


1. In the lessons in this course, you will see the term "the student" referred to frequently. Rather than saying "he or she" each time, some lessons will say "he" and some will say "she."

2. You will also see the term "students with disabilities" used, although many educators in school settings use the term "special education students".  Language is important and it is more respectful to recognize a person before the disability – talking about what a person HAS (a disability) rather than what a person IS (special education student). When you use the phrase "student with…" (autism, cognitive impairment, learning disability, etc.), you are using person-first language, which is considered a best practice in the field of disability.

  • Completely Online
  • Self-Paced
  • Printable Lessons
  • Full HD Video  
  • 6 Months to Complete
  • 24/7 Availability
  • Start Anytime
  • PC & Mac Compatible
  • Android & iOS Friendly
  • Accredited CEUs
Universal Class is an IACET Accredited Provider

Course Lessons

Average Lesson Rating:
4.5 / 5 Stars (Average Rating)
"Extraordinarily Helpful"
(2,078 votes)

Lesson 1: An Early History of Disability

In this lesson, you will learn how disability was viewed in ancient times and how that view evolved through the mid-20th century. 12 Total Points
  • Lesson 1 Video
  • Review Article: Disability History: Early and Shifting Attitudes of Treatment
  • Review Video: Willowbrook Documentary
  • Take Survey: Reasons for Taking this Course
  • Complete Assignment: Why I'm Interested in Special Education
  • Complete: Lesson 1 Exam

Lesson 2: Special Education Evolves (1975-present day)

In this lesson, you will learn about the legislation and court cases that have formed special education in its current state in the U.S. 0 Total Points
  • Lesson 2 Video
  • Review 3 Articles: A Brief History of the Disability Rights Movement; Disability Rights in the 1960s and 70s; Timeline of disability rights in the United States
  • Review Video: Willowbrook 25 Years Later

Lesson 3: High-Incidence Disabilities

Students with high-incidence disabilities comprise between 80% and 90% of all students with disabilities. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 3 Video
  • Review 4 Articles: Low and High Incidence Disability; Autism Spectrum Disorders; Speech and Language Impairments; Types of Learning Disabilities
  • Complete: Lesson 3 Exam

Lesson 4: Low-Incidence Disabilities

In this lesson, you will learn about low-incidence disabilities, those that affect a far smaller number of students. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 4 Video
  • Review 5 Articles: Intellectual Disability; Emotional Disturbance; Multiple Disabilities; Hearing Impairments; Orthopedic Impairments
  • Complete: Lesson 4 Exam

Lesson 5: Gifted and Talented

In this lesson, you are going to learn about a different type of exceptionality than what has been discussed in prior lessons. Previously, you learned about students that have disabilities that adversely impact their educational progress. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 5 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Who Are The 'Gifted And Talented' And What Do They Need?; What Does Being Gifted Really Mean?
  • Complete: Lesson 5 Exam

Lesson 6: Individualized Education Programs

When a student is determined to be eligible for special education services, it is assumed that the student will have instruction that is specific to their needs. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 6 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Individualized Education Programs; The IEP Process Explained
  • Complete: Lesson 6 Exam

Lesson 7: Inclusion and the Continuum of Services

In this lesson, you will learn about the potential range of placements that is also required by IDEA, which is the continuum of services. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 7 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: The Continuum of Special Education Services; Understanding Diversity and Inclusion
  • Complete: Lesson 7 Exam

Lesson 8: Early Intervention

In this lesson, you will learn about early intervention services that are designed for children with developmental delays and disabilities. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 8 Video
  • Review Article: Top 5 Benefits of Early Intervention
  • Complete: Lesson 8 Exam

Lesson 9: Transition

In this lesson, you will learn about the concept of transition. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 9 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: 5 Ways to Support Youth with Disabilities in Transition Planning; Middle and High School Transition Planning
  • Complete: Lesson 9 Exam

Lesson 10: Community-Based Instruction and Services

In this lesson, you are going to learn about community-based instruction and how it can be implemented effectively with students with disabilities. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 10 Video
  • Review Article: The Importance of Community-Based Instruction for Individuals with Autism Across the Lifespan
  • Complete: Lesson 10 Exam

Lesson 11: Working with Parents and Families

In this lesson, you will learn about the requirements for parental involvement in special education, the roles that parents play in special education, and strategies for involving parents in school. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 11 Video
  • Review Article: Working With Parents of Students With Disabilities
  • Complete: Lesson 11 Exam

Lesson 12: Culturally Responsive Practice

In this lesson, you will learn what culturally responsive practice looks like, a rationale for using culturally responsive practice, and the main competencies that teachers must have to be considered a culturally responsive educator. 11 Total Points
  • Lesson 12 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Culturally responsive instruction for students with multiple or severe physical impairments; 5 Ways Culturally Responsive Teaching Benefits Learners
  • Complete: Lesson 12 Exam

Lesson 13: Making Accommodations and Modifications

In this lesson, you are going to learn about how these adjustments that teachers make to the learning environment, instruction, and assessments to help "level the playing field" for students with disabilities. 0 Total Points
  • Lesson 13 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Supports, Modifications, and Accommodations for Students; The Difference Between Accommodations and Modifications

Lesson 14: Using Technology with Students with Disabilities

In this lesson, you will learn the benefits of using technology to support student learning, along with the role of assistive technology. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 14 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: The Use Of Technology In Special Education; 15 Assistive Technology Tools and Resources For Students With Disabilities
  • Complete: Lesson 14 Exam

Lesson 15: Assessment in Special Education

In this lesson, you will learn about the various forms of assessments, their purposes, and examples of each. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 15 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: NASET Assessment in Special Education Series; The Importance of the Assessment Process
  • Complete: Lesson 15 Exam

Lesson 16: Teaching Reading, Language Arts, and Writing

Students with disabilities are often at risk for these consequences, as reading challenges are commonplace with this population. Therefore, effective reading instruction that is supported by research is a critical part of special education. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 16 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: English Language Arts Strategies for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities; Teaching Students with Reading Difficulties and Disabilities
  • Complete: Lesson 16 Exam

Lesson 17: Teaching Mathematics

In this lesson, you will learn about what math learning encompasses in PreK-12 schools. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 17 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Strategies and Interventions to Support Students with Mathematics Disabilities; Adapting Mathematics Core Curricula to Meet the Needs of Students with Disabilities
  • Complete: Lesson 17 Exam

Lesson 18: Addressing Challenging Behavior

In this lesson, you will learn the basic tenets of behavior, why students act out in the first place, types of behavior challenges that occur in classrooms, IEP requirements for students with behavior disorders, and ways to positively address challenging behavior. 0 Total Points
  • Lesson 18 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Addressing Challenging Behavior ? Introduction; Strategies to address challenging behavior in young children with Down syndrome

Lesson 19: Teaching Students with Severe and Low-Incidence Disabilities

In this lesson, you will learn about typical school experiences and settings that are most common for students with severe disabilities, instructional strategies that are supported by empirical research, and knowledge and skills that students with severe disabilities need to learn. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 19 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: The Persistence of Highly Restrictive Special Education Placements for Students With Low-Incidence Disabilities; Curriculum Access for Students with LowIncidence Disabilities: The Promise of Universal Design for Learning
  • Complete: Lesson 19 Exam

Lesson 20: Becoming a Special Education Teacher

This lesson includes information that prospective special educators should know about teaching in this field, skills that exemplary special educators should have, the requirements that individuals must meet in order to become a special education teacher, and tips for new teachers. 80 Total Points
  • Lesson 20 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: How to Become a Special Education Teacher; Why I Became a Special Education Teacher
  • Take Poll: End of Course Poll
  • Take Survey: Course Comments
  • Complete: Lesson 20 Exam
  • Complete: The Final Exam
Total Course Points

Learning Outcomes

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  • Describe the equal opportunity foundation.
  • Describe the emergence of equal opportunity ethics.
  • Describe legitimizing the equal opportunity ethic.
  • Describe equal opportunity for people with disabilities.
  • Summarize the three self-determination revolutions.
  • Describe equalizing educational opportunities for black students.
  • Describe applying the equal opportunity principle for students with disabilities.
  • Explain how equal opportunity affects self-determination.
  • Explain how special education affects students with disabilities, and
  • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.

Additional Course Information

Online CEU Certificate
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Document Your CEUs on Your Resume
Course Title: Special Education 101
Course Number: 9770591
Course Requirements: View Course Requirements
Lessons Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars (2,078 votes)
Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
Course Type: Professional Development (Self-Paced, Online Class)
CEU Value: 1.1 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
Instructor: Dr. Dennis Mithaug
Syllabus: View Syllabus
Duration: Continuous: Enroll anytime!
Course Fee: $65.00 (no CEU Certification) || with Online CEU Certification: $90.00

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Student Testimonials

  • "The lessons and texts provided were very comprehensive and informative....The course contianed a wealth of information on issues affecting special education. There was prompt feedback regarding questions that I had, as well as prompt reporting of test results. I felt that the instructor was very attentive to my progress in the course." -- Therese B.

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