Special education (known as special-needs education, aided education, exceptional education, special ed., SEN or SPED) is the practice of educating students in a way that provides accommodations that address their individual differences, disabilities, and special needs. Ideally, this process involves the individually planned and systematically monitored arrangement of teaching procedures, adapted equipment and materials, and accessible settings. These interventions are designed to help individuals with special needs achieve a higher level of personal self-sufficiency and success in school and in their community which may not be available if the student were only given access to a typical classroom education. Special Education is separate from a 504 plan, as a 504 plan allows students with disabilities to participate in the general education classroom and special education services involve a special classroom (or a resource room) that has a class of students only with disabilities that receive special education services. Some students with an IEP go into a special classroom, and some students with an IEP can participate in general education classes with accommodations and/or modifications.
Special education aims to provide accommodated education for students with disabilities such as learning disabilities (such as dyslexia), communication disorders, emotional and behavioral disorders (such as ADHD), physical disabilities (such as osteogenesis imperfecta, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, and Friedreich's ataxia), and developmental disabilities (such as autistic spectrum disorders including autism and Asperger syndrome and intellectual disability) and many other disabilities. Students with these kinds of disabilities are likely to benefit from additional educational services such as different approaches to teaching, the use of technology, a specifically adapted teaching area, a resource room, or a separate classroom.
While some scholars of education may categorize gifted education under the umbrella of "special education," this pedagogical approach is much different based on students' capabilities. Intellectual giftedness is a difference in learning and can also benefit from specialized teaching techniques or different educational programs, but the term "special education" is generally used to specifically indicate instruction of disabled students.
Whereas special education is designed specifically for students with learning disabilities, remedial education can be designed for any students, with or without special needs; the defining trait is simply that they have reached a point of unpreparedness, regardless of why. For example, even people of high intelligence can be under-prepared if their education was disrupted, for example, by internal displacement during civil disorder or a war.
In most developed countries, educators modify teaching methods and environments so that the maximum number of students are served in general education environments. Therefore, special education in developed countries is often regarded as a service rather than a place. Integration can reduce social stigmas and improve academic achievement for many students.
The opposite of special education is general education. General education is the standard curriculum presented without special teaching methods or supports. Students receiving special education services can sometimes enroll in a General education setting to learn along with students without disabilities.