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What does a Special Education Major Study?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A special education major who is enrolled in a degree program at a college or university will study the techniques and research behind special education. Students with special needs must, by law in most countries, be afforded a high quality education like all other students. Someone pursuing this major will study the techniques that will allow him or her to deliver such an education to students in need of special services. A special education major will afford a student the opportunity to get real classroom experience with special needs students, and it will provide the skills necessary to know, understand, and recognize different disabilities in children and how to work with those disabled students.

One of the primary components that a special education major will provide a student is in-classroom experience. Most degree programs require a student-teaching component in which the special education major will job shadow a current special education teacher in a live classroom setting. The special ed major will get to work one on one with special needs students and put into practice the techniques and knowledge they have learned during the degree program to help students with special needs learn effectively. They will get useful experience in teaching techniques as well as behavioral management techniques; some special education majors may even get experience writing lesson plans and delivering lessons in the classroom.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

One of the most important things a special education major will study in a degree program is compliance with the various laws that dictate special education practices in a certain country. The United States, for example, has several laws focusing on special education, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, that outline the practices and regulations a school district must follow concerning individuals with disabilities. Some special education teachers will be responsible for mainstreaming students, or getting them ready to take part in regular classroom environments instead of special education environments.

A special education major will also learn how to write an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, for each special education student. These plans are designed to alter instruction according to a particular student's needs. A student with Asperger's Syndrome, for example, will need certain kinds of attention throughout the school day. That student may need altered instruction delivery methods, and he or she may need one on one attention as well as reduced assignment loads. A special education major will learn how to recognize certain disabilities and make accommodations for students accordingly.

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