Challenges and importance of special education in schools

Inclusion has been a recurring issue in our society. In this context, special education is inserted, which aims to serve students with special needs. Given the right of everyone to have access to education in an integrative way, this discussion is more than important: it is fundamental.

Inclusive special education encompasses pedagogical, social, cultural and political aspects. The specifics of this topic and the sensitivity with which it should be treated serve as a background for our conversation. Therefore, in this complete content, you will know:

  • the details of the history of special education in Brazil;
  • how legislation related to special education has been drafted over time;
  • what are the challenges faced to adapt to it and offer quality education to students with special needs;
  • the responsibilities of private schools;
  • among other relevant matters.

Good reading!

What you will find in this article:



What characterizes a person with a disability or giftedness?

Before going through the history of special education in Brazil, as well as the challenges faced in this sphere, it is important to highlight the characteristics of disability and giftedness, according to the National Policy on Special Education from the perspective of Inclusive Education, which we will talk about next. We also include the concept of global developmental disorder.


The person inserted in this context has difficulties and specific needs, permanent or long term. They can be of different natures, for example, physical and mental. Due to these difficulties, the person may face problems, such as restrictions on the right to participate fully in school life and also in society.

High skills / giftedness

The gifted person has high skills in the following fields – they can be in only one of them or combined: academic, artistic, intellectual, leadership and psychomotricity. In addition, the person usually has a great deal of creativity.

Global developmental disorders

The person with global developmental disorders has difficulties in social relationships, in the acts of interacting and communicating. Usually, she has limited and repetitive interests. Students with autism and childhood psychosis are included in the group.

How has the history of special education been?

The 19th century, marked by relevant scientific discoveries, was significant in the study of the behavior of people with special needs and the ways of dealing with them.

The beginning of the history of special education, in a way, dialogues with the scientific advances of that time. There has been a considerable development in several areas of knowledge, such as biology, medicine and philosophy.

Thus, the investigation of ways of ensuring fairer access and study to students who were unable to follow the classes in the same way as other colleagues, whether due to a disability or giftedness, gained prominence.

Questions such as why this happened and ways to create methods to educate these children began to appear in the spheres of special needs related to the mental, the visual, the auditory and the physical. The rooms and special schools were a reflection of this. Some important examples of institutions with this approach are:

  • Imperial Instituto dos Meninos Cegos, now Instituto Benjamin Constant (IBC) – 1854;
  • Instituto dos Deaf Mute, current National Institute of Deaf Education (INES) – 1857;
  • Pestalozzi Society – 1932;
  • Association of Parents and Friends of Exceptional People (APAE) – 1954.

In the middle of the 20th century, the discussion on certain democratic principles gained strength, such as integration and normalization. They preached that practices that segregate should be replaced by those that integrate.

Thus, the thought was that the division between the concepts of normality and abnormality in education and the separation into special classes and schools could, instead of contributing to the development of students, be limiting.

With this, the idea of ​​including students with special needs in the same school environment as students without this type of need took shape and practices in this direction started to be adopted.

Countries like Denmark and Canada have included in their legislation the concept of standardization, which has expanded to Europe, North America and other regions of the world, such as Brazil.

The special education and school inclusion course in Brazil is marked by significant changes in legislation. Therefore, if the aim is to better understand this trajectory, it is necessary to know some of the landmarks in the country’s laws, in addition to statements and other important facts around the world that helped to write this history. That is the subject of our next section.

What are the main regulatory frameworks and policies that involve special education?

In the sequence, we will list not only the main laws, but also declarations and other important texts related to special education, both directly and indirectly.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – 1948

By establishing a broader relationship, we can retrieve documents from many decades ago that could encompass special education, such as UDHR, proclaimed in 1948. She mentions, in her article 26, that “everyone has the right to education” and that “everyone human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights ”.

Federal Constitution – 1988

The 1988 Constitution, like the UDHR, provides that education is a right for everyone. In its article 205, it establishes “equal conditions for access and permanence in school” and “specialized educational assistance for the disabled”.

Child and Adolescent Statute (ECA) – 1990

The ECA states that “children and adolescents with disabilities will be cared for, without discrimination or segregation, in their general health needs and specific qualifications and rehabilitation”. In a similar way to the Federal Constitution, it establishes that people with disabilities will have specialized care provided in schools.

Declaration of Salamanca – 1994

The Salamanca Declaration maintains that inclusive special education represents one of the most effective ways of combating discrimination. Therefore, students with disabilities and high skills should have access to regular education. The document highlights the importance of integrating the individual characteristics of students into the school environment.

Education Guidelines and Bases Act (LDB) – 1996

This law, in addition to imposing mandatory attendance for people with special needs at school, provides specialized support services in regular schools in order to adapt to the particularities of each student.

Thus, there should be “free specialized educational assistance to students with disabilities, global developmental disorders and high skills or giftedness, across all levels, stages and modalities, preferably in the regular school system”.

The education systems, according to the LDB, should ensure students in these conditions:

“I – specific curricula, methods, techniques, educational resources and organization, to meet your needs;

II – specific terminality for those who cannot reach the level required for the completion of basic education, due to their deficiencies, and acceleration to complete the school program for the gifted in less time;

III – teachers with adequate specialization at secondary or higher level, for specialized assistance, as well as teachers of regular education trained for the integration of these students in common classes;

IV – special education for work, aiming at their effective integration into life in society, including adequate conditions for those who do not reveal their ability to enter competitive work, through articulation with similar official bodies, as well as for those who have a superior skill in the artistic, intellectual or psychomotor areas;

V – equal access to the benefits of supplementary social programs available for the respective level of regular education. ”

Therefore, no school or daycare center can refuse, without a just cause, the access of a person with special needs.

National Special Education Policy from the perspective of Inclusive Education – 2008

This policy is a milestone in the history of inclusive special education in Brazil, since it specifies several points, previously inaccurate. Through it, this model of education becomes integrative and involves all levels and all types of teaching.

Thus, instead of a parallel system of education, as in the past, it clearly instituted a transversal system of education, as explained below:

“Transversality of special education from early childhood education to higher education; Specialized educational assistance;

continuity of schooling at the highest levels of education;

training teachers for specialized educational assistance and other education professionals for school inclusion;

family and community participation;

urban and architectural accessibility in furniture and equipment, transport, communication and information;

intersectoral articulation in the implementation of public policies. ”

Brazilian Law for Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities – 2015

Like other laws we have seen, this law seeks to ensure an inclusive education system throughout the life of the person with a disability, aiming at promoting the development of physical, intellectual and social skills, in accordance with the specificities of each individual “for by offering accessibility services and resources that eliminate barriers and promote full inclusion ”. This also occurs through the creation of a pedagogical project in line with this reality.

The law also establishes the provision of bilingual education, with Libras as the first language, and Portuguese, in written form, as a second language, for deaf students. It also encourages the conduct of research to improve both teaching techniques and teaching materials and other assistive technology resources.

The Brazilian Law for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities encourages initial and continuing training for the development of educators at school, in addition to offering support professionals. It is important to highlight that the family of the child assisted by a support professional should not bear extra costs in education, “under penalty of civil and criminal liability of the school”. The penalty can be two to five years, in addition to a fine.

Other important points covered by this law are related to the registration and application of tests, of the most diverse nature:

“II – availability of an exam registration form with specific fields for the candidate with a disability to inform the accessibility and assistive technology resources necessary for their participation;

III – availability of tests in accessible formats to meet the specific needs of the candidate with a disability;

IV – availability of accessibility resources and appropriate assistive technology, previously requested and chosen by the candidate with a disability;

V – extension of time, according to the demand presented by the candidate with disabilities, both in the performance of the exam for selection and in academic activities, upon prior request and proof of need;

VI – adoption of evaluation criteria for written, discursive or essay tests that consider the linguistic uniqueness of the person with disabilities, in the domain of the written modality of the Portuguese language;

VII – complete translation of the notice and its rectifications in Libras. ”

Common National Curricular Base (BNCC) – 2017

The BNCC also includes precepts related to special education in its text. The document states that it is necessary to develop attitudes within the school environment that respect and welcome individual differences, relating to ethnic and cultural aspects, as well as inclusion in special education.

The Base mentions the Brazilian Law for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, which establishes a commitment to students with special needs, based on the adoption of inclusive practices and curricular differentiation, when necessary.

We have used the terms special and inclusive education a lot. In the sequence, we will go through them in their particularities.

What is the relationship between special education and inclusive education?

To achieve the expected teaching model, we can say, briefly, that special and inclusive education must dialogue, act together. It is as if one is inserted in the other. We will talk about Special Education individually and then establish its relationship with Inclusive Education.

Special education

Special Education is linked to teaching supported by Specialized Educational Service (AEE). She is responsible for:

  • perform specialized educational assistance;
  • guide the teaching and learning process of students with special needs;
  • identify, elaborate and organize the pedagogical resources aimed at teaching students with special needs;
  • make curricular enrichment programs available;
  • teach specific communication languages ​​and codes;
  • provide tools for monitoring and evaluating education.

There are some indicators used by the School Census that seek to monitor how Special Education has been worked. Some of them are:

  • the admission of students with special needs to common classes;
  • the level of accessibility in schools;
  • teacher training aimed at meeting the specific needs of students.

Inclusive education

In this perspective of inclusion, the precepts listed above referring to special education must integrate those of the regular school, acting in an articulated manner. That is, although the individuality of each student is respected, inclusion encompasses these specificities, so that everyone can demonstrate both their difficulties and their skills in a unique, integrated environment.

The very name of the National Policy on Special Education from the perspective of Inclusive Education already shows the union of these concepts. Today, efforts are aimed at promoting education that is not only special, but also inclusive.

What is the importance of inclusive special education and what are the main challenges faced in this field?

For all that we have shown up to this point in the article, we believe that you have already understood the essential character of inclusive special education, but shall we recap and add some items?

There is a universal, wide relevance of human formation and human rights. For example, when an educational institution seeks to effectively promote integration, it provides opportunities for the development of skills and competences not only for students with special needs, but also for those who do not have those needs. One of the most important is the ability to relate well to differences and to have an empathic perspective when dealing with others.

Now, let us turn our attention to more specific aspects, in order to see other benefits provided by special inclusive education. A study carried out by Instituto Alana in partnership with ABT Associates lists several of them. Realize that the data pointed out by the study are not only related to students with special needs, but also to others. See some of them:

  • people with no special needs who attend inclusive schools tend to have less prejudiced opinions and easier to deal with differences;
  • the socio-emotional development of students, regardless of whether they have a disability or not, is enhanced through inclusive coexistence;
  • students with disabilities in schools with an inclusive approach – depending, of course, on the conditions that characterize their needs – are more likely to make friends, take a college degree, find a job and live independently;
  • students with special needs have the most notable improvement in reading and math skills and are less likely to have behavioral problems.

If, on the one hand, the doors were opened and several advantages have already been proven; on the other hand, certain conditions, such as lack of preparation, can make access to education difficult for people with special needs.

Below, we list some of the main challenges of special education that schools should be guided to improve both their inclusion actions and school communication in general:

  • contextualization and personalization of teaching methodologies and evaluation methods, when necessary;
  • multidisciplinary awareness of the integrative character of special and inclusive education;
  • lack of assistive technology resources;
  • inadequacy of the school space;
  • lack of qualification of teachers.

In this context, we highlight the importance of multifunctional resource rooms, environments “equipped with equipment, furniture and didactic and pedagogical materials for the provision of specialized educational assistance”. This indication is contained in Decree No. 7,611, which also makes up the legislation aimed at special education. An example of a tool in a resource room is the Braille board.

What about the role of private schools in special education?

Basically, the role of private schools in special education is the same as that of public schools. The legislation aims to assist people with special needs in all areas of their lives.

Private schools are organizations that are part of the national education system and are subject to the rules that govern public education. Therefore, as indicated in the Statute of the Person with Disabilities, it is prohibited to charge additional fees for enrollment, tuition and any other activities in the case of students with special needs. There is even a Technical Note from the MEC that determines the following:

“Therefore, the insertion of any contractual clause that exempts private educational institutions, of any level, stage or modality, from the expenses with the provision of AEE and other resources and support services for special education is not covered by the legislation. It is deliberate disregard for the rights of students to fail to meet their specific educational needs and, in this case, non-compliance with legislation should be referred to the Public Ministry, as well as to the Education Council, which, as the body responsible for operating authorization these schools, must instruct the reorientation process or disqualify them. ”

Discussions on this topic are in evidence, as there is a growing concern to effect inclusion and make it something that has relevance both in classrooms and school yards throughout Brazil and in the laws and in so many other documents published on the topic .

As we have seen, the challenges faced are many, and only a collaborative and integrative posture will be able to promote profound changes, albeit at a slightly slower pace. The positive effects of this, as we have seen, are observed throughout the education chain, not only by students with special needs. More humanization and inclusion result in more development in 21st century education.

Throughout this content, we also went through several subjects, for example, the concepts of disability and giftedness, the history of special education in Brazil and its importance, as well as the main challenges in this field and the role of private schools. We hope that, after reading, you reinforced your ideas about the relevance of inclusive special education.

All that we present goes through a well-planned school planning so that the actions are, in fact, effective. Taking this hook of school planning in inclusive special education, we would like to indicate a very productive reading, which is our e-book on political pedagogical project, in which we bring a complete manual for your school planning. Be sure to download the e-book and guide yourself well in order to fulfill this fundamental step for the success of the entire school year. Count on us!

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