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Course Description

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.


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.

Course Requirements

This course will not require you to have previous experience in any particular area but you should have a high school reading level. No books will be required

Course Topics

Introduction to Disability

Lesson 1:         An Early History of Disability

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

Lesson 3:         High-Incidence Disabilities

Lesson 4:         Low-Incidence Disabilities

Lesson 5:         Gifted and Talented


Setting Up Special Education Services

Lesson 6:         IEPs

Lesson 7:         Inclusion and the Continuum of Services

Lesson 8:         Early Intervention Programs  

Lesson 9:         Transition

Lesson 10:       Community-based instruction and services


Teaching Practice in Special Education

Lesson 11:       Working with Parents and Families

Lesson 12:       Culturally Responsive Practices

Lesson 13:       Making Accommodations and Modifications

Lesson 14:       Using Technology Effectively

Lesson 15:       Using Assessment in Special Education       

Lesson 16:       Teaching Reading and Writing

Lesson 17:       Teaching Mathematics

Lesson 18:       Addressing Challenging Behavior

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

Lesson 20:       Becoming a Special Education Teacher

Course Materials

All course material will be provided in the lessons and netlinks. There are no required materials to purchase before taking the class.

Grading Policy

Each lesson will include a lesson review quiz. Students will successfully complete this course by mastering all learning outcomes with 70% or higher overall grade.

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.
  • Know 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.

Assessment Guide

Assessment Points
Why I'm Interested in Special Education1
Lesson 1 Exam11
Lesson 2 Exam10
Lesson 3 Exam10
Lesson 4 Exam10
Lesson 5 Exam10
Lesson 6 Exam10
Lesson 7 Exam10
Lesson 8 Exam10
Lesson 9 Exam10
Lesson 10 Exam10
Lesson 11 Exam10
Lesson 12 Exam11
Lesson 13 Exam9
Lesson 14 Exam10
Lesson 15 Exam10
Lesson 16 Exam10
Lesson 17 Exam10
Lesson 18 Exam9
Lesson 19 Exam10
Lesson 20 Exam10
The Final Exam70
Total Points:271

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