Monday, November 18, 2013

Intervention, Remediation, Special Education....What is the Difference?

Special Education

How are these terms different?

My official title is "Intervention Specialist," but most of friends and family refer to me as a special ed teacher. I correct them on this, of course: "I don't teach special ed." But, still they always go back to it. To those outside of education, and even to many in education, these terms are synonymous.
When I remind people I don't teach special ed, I hear:
  • Don't you teach kids with learning disabilities? Some, yes.
  • Don't most of your kids have ADHD? Yes.
  • Isn't ADHD a disability? Sometimes. It can be.
  • Don't many of your kids have dyslexia? Yes.
  • So how is this not special ed?
To understand the difference between all of these, let's compare this topic to a racetrack.

File:Running Track, Par - - 143484.jpg

Let's start with Remediation.

File:08913-Perspective Run.jpg

First of all, remediation and reteaching are synonyms, and so I will use these two words interchangeably. The purpose of remediation is to review recently taught skills. This is for students who did not understand a specific topic. This is most beneficial for students who are on grade-level but are struggling with just a few things.

On a racetrack, this is the average runner - some are fast, some are slow, some do not keep a steady pace, some may be gifted athletes, while others are unnatural but exceptionally hard-working. Like any runner, they sometimes need help to stay on track. This help comes in the form of tying a shoe or getting water.

Special Education

Special education is for students with disabilities that significantly impair their ability to access the general curriculum. Resource and inclusion are different concepts that both fall under the heading of special ed. The purpose of special ed is to provide supports for students so that they can receive the same education as their peers. They need accommodations and modifications to make this possible.

Back to our track, these runners could not complete the race without support. These are runners with artificial legs. It would be impossible for them to run without them. The key to understanding special education is accepting that disabilities are life-long, do not go away, and are not the result of laziness. These students will almost always require support.


Intervention is not reteaching or special education. It is the intentional instruction of targeted skills. This is for the student who is multiple grade-levels below. Reteaching grade-level topics will not help without filling in the missing pieces of math education. In contrast to special education, the need for intervention can go away. With proper intervention, students can replace their missing skills and stay on grade level without further support.

These are runners who are expected to keep up with far, far faster athletes. It is the equivalent of an 8th grade non-athlete stepping into a varsity track meet. These students need foundational training on targeted skills - proper form, breathing techniques, conditioning, pacing, etc.

While these concepts all seem quite similar, understanding the distinctions among them allows us to provide proper support.


Remediation vs. Intervention (In Practical Terms) In a previous post, I discussed how remediation and intervention are different. The difference between these two concepts is so great and so important that I feel it necessary to explain why this difference matters.

Learning Gaps One of the most common frustrations heard from secondary math teachers: HE SHOULD ALREADY KNOW THIS! HOW CAN I TEACH HIM MATH IF HE DOESN'T KNOW HIS BASIC SKILLS?!?!

Why Do So Many Students Have Math Learning Gaps? The blame for these gaps tends to get placed in two ways: 1. Elementary teachers are incompetent in math, and, because of this, they have not adequately prepared their students for higher math.

Easing Parent Anxiety Last year, as our state test approached, my parents' level of anxiety increased tremendously. The closer the date came, the more emails and phone calls I received.


  1. Thanks for the best was very useful for me.keep sharing such ideas in the future as well.this was actually what i was looking for,and i am glad to came here!
    magento development company in bangalore