5 Expected Trends in the Future of Special Education Systems

As the world keeps changing at an increasingly rapid pace, so does the face of education. The modern era has ushered in a host of new challenges for educators and learners. With those challenges, today’s educators are developing new approaches to serving students.

For children with disabilities and special needs, these changes have meant new and improved models of individualized support, disciplinary and preparatory approaches, and strategies for improving relationships among faculty, students and families. An advanced education degree focused on special education equips professionals with appropriate tools and strategies to serve special education learners today.

As educational professionals develop a deeper understanding of the cognitive and psychosocial needs of students with mild-to-moderate learning disabilities, graduates of Eastern Washington University’s online Master of Education (M.Ed.) – Special Education program will know how to implement individualized programs and advocate for the needs of their classes.

Courses like Current Issues in Education give them the knowledge to anticipate and face trends in the workforce. The following are five trends that special education teachers must anticipate for the future:

1. The Role of Technology

By leveraging technology, educators can enhance classroom instruction with individualized learning approaches. According to Resilient Educator, new technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence will be at the center of technological advances in all classrooms, including special education.

Technological advances greatly increase educators’ abilities to personalize learning. For example, artificial intelligence tools have proven valuable for early disability screening, and virtual reality applications are particularly useful for allowing children with autism to practice navigating real-world challenges.

2. The Necessity of Trauma-Informed and Culturally Responsive Support

Today’s students are coping with traumas that impact learning. Natural disasters, socio-economic shifts and the loss of loved ones can all impact how students perform in school. According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, educators must rely increasingly on trauma-screening resources to identify their students’ individual needs and intervene as soon as possible.

Providing trauma-informed support will also entail changes to how educators approach discipline in special education. One recent study found that exclusionary and punitive school discipline policies, such as suspensions and expulsions, increase the likelihood of student absences, repeated grades and school dropouts.

Historically, underserved student groups, such as students with disabilities, disproportionately experience these types of disciplinary actions compared to their peers. Disability Scoop notes that this population represents 29% of K-12 students who are suspended and 21% of those expelled.

Several states have begun to issue legislative measures to encourage educators to consider alternative types of discipline. Educators must be aware of alternative disciplinary approaches, such as increased counseling support, restorative practices, positive behavioral interventions and culturally responsive teaching techniques.

3. The Importance of Educator Preparation

With these ongoing changes to special education, teachers will need increased support. The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) suggests schools invest in training and professional development initiatives on disability identification, trauma-informed support and culturally responsive teaching. With the increasing use of technology in the special education classroom, teachers are also likely to need training in the available tools and techniques.

There is also a trend toward alternative teacher preparation pathways to encourage a more diverse range of expertise and skills in special education. According to the NCLD, by encouraging people from various backgrounds and experiences to enter education, schools can diversify their faculty and more effectively reflect the diversity of their students.

4. How to Use Data Collection and Reporting

To best understand the needs of students, it is imperative to have accurate, transparent information. Data collection is vital to understanding population makeup, community needs, income trends and other factors influencing students’ lives.

According to the NCLD, accurate and timely data reporting ensures educators and policymakers understand the scope and significance of disparities in their districts. When data is regularly collected and reported, students stand the best chance of having their needs met.

5. The Importance of Familial Support

The Individuals with Disabilities Act asserts that “almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by … strengthening the role and responsibility of parents and ensuring that families … have meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children at school and at home.”

With increasing evidence of the power of parental involvement in special education, many schools are finding new ways to connect with parents and work together as a team to support students. As a result, future initiatives will likely rely more on community mindsets that involve the family supporting student learning inside and outside the special education classroom.

As special education systems look to the future, technology will be a crucial component of learning, as will understanding how trauma, disciplinary measures and community diversity influence students’ lives. Careful reporting, preparation and relationship-building techniques will be critical to ensuring every student receives the support they need, regardless of ability or background. Given these shifts, special education professionals must possess the knowledge and skills to face the future.

Learn more about Eastern Washington University’s online Master of Education – Special Education program.

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