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Special education grants are sources that offer financial support, especially to educational institutions that are trying to teach those with special needs. Generally, the term "special needs" refers to those who have mental or developmental disabilities, but it could also refer to some of those with physical disabilities as well. The goal of most special education grants is to find the most effective way to teach afflicted individuals so that the impact of their disability is minimized as much as possible.
Those who are interested in receiving a special education grant should understand there are two basic types of grants: formula grants and discretionary grants. A formula grant is one that is awarded to a group, local government, or organization on the basis of a predetermined formula. As long as the terms are met, the grant is awarded. A discretionary grant is typically awarded through a competitive process, with each case receiving an evaluation to determine what application or applications will be awarded funding.
In the United States, special education grants based on formulas are generally awarded to the individual states. For example, a state may get a certain amount of money for every student it has enrolled in a certified special education program. This funding is available to all states regardless of how many or few students they have in these programs. The states then distribute the money, based on certain standards and rules outlined by the federal government.
The ultimate goal of special education grants delivered on the basis of a formula is to improve the lives of students. Some may focus on ways to integrate special needs students into a general education setting, while others may work on independent living skills. Though independent living may not be realistic in all cases, these grants may help some special needs students achieve a level of independence that they would not otherwise have achieved.
Discretionary grants are special education grants that serve a slightly different purpose. These sources are generally considered research grants that seek to find more effective ways to educate special needs students. They may be given to universities or private organizations who have the goal of seeking ways to help special needs students. These organizations may deal with specific disabilities, or may be more general in their scope.
Some grants, especially discretionary grants, may not directly relate to education of the student, but will indirectly benefit the student's learning process. These types of special education grants may fund communication devices or other equipment or software that can help students better connect with others. Some of these grants may also fund parent education efforts so that they can better understand and deal with their own children.