Debating Special Education

Debating Special Education

Debating Special Education

Debating Special Education


Debating Special Education is a provocative yet timely book examining a range of criticisms made of special education in recent years. Michael Farrell analyses several key debates in special education giving balanced critical responses to inform policy and practice for the future of special education.

The book identifies possible limitations to the current special education knowledge base and provision. Michael Farrell examines the value of labelling and classification, and asks if intelligence testing may have detrimental effects; and addresses a number of complex issues such as:

  • how practitioners work within special education; and if, sometimes, professionals may be self-serving
  • whether there is distinctive provision for different types of disabilities and disorders
  • inclusion as mainstreaming offered as an alternative to special education, and the challenges this presents.

The author's conclusion is that in responding to these challenges, special education demonstrates its continuing relevance and strength. Presenting a range of international, cross-disciplinary perspectives and debates - which are vital to an understanding of special education today, and written in Farrell's typically accessible style - this book will be relevant for teachers of special children in ordinary and special schools; those on teacher training courses and anyone whose work relates to special education.


Debating Special Education is intended for policy makers, academics, teachers doing
higher level courses, professionals connected with special education, and local and
government administrators. It should be relevant for many others who contribute
to, and have, an interest in special education. Given the proposed wide range of
readers of the book, and possible different understandings of special education, it
is important to be clear what is meant by special education at the outset.

Consequently, this chapter begins with a very short definition of special educa
tion, then proceeds to elaborate its elements. To this end, the chapter defines gen
eral education. It then discusses the range of different types of disability and
disorder such as ‘mild cognitive impairment’ and ‘developmental coordination dis
order’. The chapter proposes a broad definition of provision to include not only
pedagogy, but also other aspects such as the curriculum and therapy. The aim of
encouraging the academic progress and personal and social development of spe
cial children is explained. Finally, the content of subsequent chapters is outlined.

Special education: a short definition

As a starting point, the following brief definition of special education is proposed.

The elements of this definition require elaboration in terms of general education, types
of disability and disorder, provision for special children and academic progress and
psychosocial development.

Special education concerns provision for pupils with disabilities and disorders comprising: curriculum and assessment, pedagogy, school and classroom organization, resources, and therapy. It aims to encourage the academic progress and personal and social development of special children.

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