Special Education Specializations: 5 Distinct Focuses

  • Gifted and Talented Student Education
  • Early Intervention
  • Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Visual Impairments
  • Audio Impairments

Special education makes up a wide swathe of the greater educational system in the United States today. Far from being a one-size-fits-all solution, the United States special education system is itself made of several distinct sub-specialty areas. For those interested in a career in special education, here are five, important branches of practice within this very system.

1. Gifted and Talented Student Education

While most don’t necessarily think of gifted and talented students as a part of the special education system’s responsibilities, this group of learners is, in fact, a special education population. In gifted and talented classes, students are accommodated at a more advanced level of learning that is not supported by the typical classes at their school. Teachers here are often specialized just to work with this kind of student, while others are trained to work with these and many other types of students as well.

2. Early Intervention

Early intervention is a nationwide special education program that focuses on especially young children and helping them to reach important developmental milestones they may otherwise fail to reach without help. A variety of approaches can be seen put to work here, including several others on this list, in the effort to normalize these young learners’ growth. Early intervention services are most typically offered for children below the age of three.

3. Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied behavior analysis is defined very well by the popular psychology journal. Psychology Now as a therapy that focuses on “improving specific behaviors, such as social skills, communication, reading, and academics as well as adaptive learning skills, such as fine motor dexterity, hygiene, grooming, domestic capabilities, punctuality, and job competence.” Typically, this therapy technique is specifically utilized in those with autism, but this is not strictly the case. Applied behavior analysis is also highly proven in its ability to have success in those it treats.

4. Visual Impairments

Visual impairments are a unique area of learning need in which vision can make learning in traditional ways difficult or inaccessible altogether. Learning to read and write using braille is one approach in more severe cases of visual impairment. Per the American Foundation for The Blind, “braille is a system of raised dots that can be read with the fingers by people who are blind or who have low vision.” In less severe cases of visual impairment, special education teachers can use more practice-intensive methods of learning rather than the employment of a whole new language system like braille.

5. Audio Impairments

Finally, audio impairment issues are yet another, critical area of need served by the special education community. As with other handicaps and their associated approaches in education, the approach to resolving learning issues in students with audio impairments is based largely on the severity of the impairment at hand. Special education teachers working with these kinds of students may be found using wireless headphones, neosonic hearing amplifiers, verbal communication training approaches, and more in the effort to overcome any hearing-based impairments to learning that are present.

Related Resource: Top 15 Most Affordable Accelerated Master’s in Special Education Online

Without the wide special education system, as it stands today, there would be countless learners left to fall between the academic cracks. This system itself is composed of many areas of sub-specialty to handle the diversity of needs in this large and growing population of students. These five, above-mentioned special education specialties are among some of the most important in the industry right now.