Your answer to this will, of course, depend in part on your own opinion, but I am happy to provide you with some ideas!
The phrase “special education” brings many thoughts to mind. Typically, it refers to education programs for students who require individualized instruction. There are many reasons why a student might require special education services, including physical, developmental, and behavioral needs. Officially, there are thirteen categories of disabilities that qualify students to receive an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), the plan that permits them to receive special education services.
A reflection on this term should consider the stereotypes associated with the phrase as well as what is involved in special education services. These services look different depending on each student's need. For example, a blind student whose only reason for being in special education is blindness will require different services than a student who can see but is enrolled in special education for behavioral reasons. However, all special education services typically include smaller class sizes than traditional education environments, more instructors, and different forms of assessment.
In terms of the emotional impact of the phrase, it is important to consider that there has historically been a negative stigma associated with the term. For instance, students receiving special education were once called demeaning terms and are often still viewed as not capable of learning the way that students who do not require special education services are. This makes many people (including myself) feel sad and frustrated, because students enrolled in special education services are no less capable of learning than students who are not. All people learn in different ways, and students who struggle with physical or mental handicaps simply require additional help learning so that they can reach their full potential.