Physical or mental disabilities, physical illnesses and emotional disorders are common forms of special needs, according to KidsHealth. People with special needs may rely on essential supplies, equipment or transportation, such as wheelchairs and hearing aids, to learn and function productively. Kids with serious illnesses may need medication administered at school, and children with emotional or behavioral issues may have regular meetings with a therapist.
Federal laws aim to promote free and equal education by requiring public schools to accommodate students with special needs and restrict their learning experience as little as possible, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act includes eight major special needs categories: vision and hearing impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, learning disabilities, serious emotional disturbance, mental retardation, physical disability and any other unspecified impairments. Children with special needs that don't satisfy IDEA criteria are still entitled to "reasonable accommodations," such as untimed testing, under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act fosters equal employment opportunity by protecting special needs adults from discrimination at work. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission encourages employers to show fair consideration to physically or mentally impaired applicants who have appropriate qualifications if they can adequately perform the job with reasonable accommodations. Employers aren't required to provide accommodation if doing so is logistically or financially difficult.