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What Is Special Needs? - Definition, Types & Law

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  • 0:03 Definition & Types of…
  • 1:24 Special Needs Laws
  • 3:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Janell Blanco
There are laws that protect individuals with special needs. This lesson will define special needs, identify the types of special needs, and the laws that protect the individuals.

Definition & Types of Special Needs

Imagine Brady is eating lunch with his friends when he observes a woman using sign language to converse with someone that looks like a nurse or caretaker. He then observes the caretaker slap the woman. Shocked, Brady knows the violence is wrong. But, what should he do? He knows the woman has special needs, and there are laws that protect individuals with special needs. Brady decides to call the police and reports the incident to law enforcement.

First of all, what exactly is meant by the term special needs? Special needs is defined as an individual with a mental, emotional, or physical disability. An individual with special needs may need help with:

  • Communication
  • Movement
  • Self-care
  • Decision-making

The woman in the example is hard of hearing, but may have other disabilities as well. However, since she needs help communicating, she would be considered a person with special needs. Other types of special needs include:

  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Epilepsy
  • Reading and learning disabilities
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Pervasive developmental disorder
  • Speech and language impairments
  • Spina bifida
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairments

Individuals with disabilities or special needs may require special care. To ensure their safety, several laws have been enacted into government.

Special Needs Laws

It is unlawful to abuse, neglect, or bully any individual, but individuals with special needs are more prone to be subjected to these. To further understand the terms of the laws, let's define some of these common terms:

  • Abuse is treating an individual in a harmful, injurious, or offensive way.
  • Bullying is unwanted or aggressive behavior among a group of individuals or intimidating someone into making them do what you want.
  • Harassment is the act of disturbing or pestering repeatedly.
  • Neglect is willfully depriving an individual of their needs or improperly caring for someone.

Now, let's take a look at some of the law's that help to avoid bullying, abuse or neglect. Johnathan's Law, which was passed in 2007, prohibits the abuse of children with special needs who are in a facility certified by the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), the Office of Mental Health (OMH), and the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS). The law also states that the parent, guardian, or legal caretaker must be notified within 24 hours if an accident or injury occurs.

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