Education Tips: Bridging the Gap between Special and General Education

education tips

Education Tips: Bridging the Gap between Special and General Education


About 15% of all K-12 public school students in the United States have some type of disability and receive special education services. However, there is a gap between special and general education in schools, resulting in educators feeling unprepared to teach students with disabilities. It is important to have a common understanding and language when it comes to teaching students with disabilities. In this article, we will explore education tips for bridging the gap between special and general education.

Importance of Bridging the Gap

Research has shown that educators often have a narrow understanding of disabilities, thinking only of students with significant physical or cognitive needs who are taught in self-contained classrooms. However, disabilities include a wide range of conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia, and speech disorders. To provide effective education for students with disabilities, general education teachers and special education teachers must work together, along with administrators and families. Preparing future teachers with the necessary skills for collaboration is crucial.

Skills Needed for Inclusive Education

Disability Etiquette

One of the main skills needed for inclusive education is disability etiquette. This involves treating people with disabilities with respect and considering their disabilities in interactions. When engaging with students with disabilities, it is important to see them as individuals beyond their disabilities and to speak to them in an age-appropriate manner. Asking permission before touching equipment like a wheelchair is also a part of disability etiquette.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Another important framework for inclusive education is the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL allows teachers to design lessons and instruction that are accessible to all students from the start. By presenting information in multiple formats and utilizing different modes of communication, teachers can provide different ways for students to engage with the lesson and demonstrate their understanding. This approach reduces barriers to learning and benefits all students, not just those with disabilities.

Intensifying Instruction for Support

Teachers should also be able to intensify their instruction for students who may need extra support, including those with disabilities. Intensifying instruction can involve reteaching concepts in small groups, being explicit in language and defining vocabulary words, and providing additional strategies or tools like graphic organizers, visual timers, or text-to-speech software. The content of the lesson does not necessarily need to change, but the way it is delivered and supported can be adjusted.

Classroom Management in an Inclusive Setting

Classroom management can be challenging, especially when there are students with disabilities who may present with significant behavioral challenges. Inclusive classrooms require proactive approaches to prevent challenging behaviors and address them effectively when they occur. Teachers can establish a positive classroom environment by implementing a four-to-one ratio of positive statements to error corrections. They should also view themselves as interpreters, seeking to understand the underlying causes of challenging behaviors and addressing them at their root.

Resources for Teachers

To further support teachers in working with students with disabilities, here are some recommended resources:

  • The IRIS Center: Supported by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education, the IRIS Center provides free, online training resources for teachers working with students with disabilities. It offers self-paced online training modules, tip sheets, and case studies on various topics such as classroom management and instructional strategies.


Bridging the gap between special and general education is crucial for providing inclusive education to students with disabilities. By equipping pre-service teachers with the necessary skills, such as disability etiquette, the Universal Design for Learning framework, and strategies for intensifying instruction, schools can create an environment where all students can thrive. Furthermore, proactive classroom management approaches and access to valuable resources can support teachers in effectively leading inclusive classrooms. With a collaborative effort, students with disabilities can receive the education they deserve.

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