Gender Differences in Special Education Research Paper

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Behavior and Bias in Access

Two-thirds of all students receiving special education in the United States are boys and gender-based behavioral differences and gender bias are behind it (Rousso, 2003). Girls need to show more significant levels of disability than boys to receive service. When they do, they are assigned to more restrictive educational environments than boys. All available data show that women and girls with disabilities do not do as well as disabled men and boys and non-disabled women and girls. UNESCO studies found double discrimination towards women and girls with disabilities in all spheres, including employment, income level, health care, marriage and parenting. They are considered sick, helpless, immature, incompetent, dependent and asexual. This perception deprives them of valuable options and opportunities. A comprehensive study revealed that while students with disabilities had limited access to math and science courses, skills and knowledge, girls must content with steep obstacles (Wahl, 2001 as qtd in Rousso). Teachers harbor have no confidence in the capability of handicapped girls to succeed in the courses. These girls are placed in lower classes, given limited opportunities for informal math, science and technology and lack of access to role models (Rousso).

The New Gender Gap

Girls, in general, tend to use their left hemisphere in the early grades in speaking, reading and writing (Connell & Gunzelmann, 2004). Using this enables them to empathize and better understand the feelings of their teachers and peers. Boys, on the other hand, use their left hemisphere to recall facts and rules and to categorize them. They use their right hemisphere for visual-spatial and visual-motor skills. Its use allows boys to excel in geography, science and math. These are the general strengths and weaknesses of the genders (Connell & Gunzelmann).

Girls are comparatively more equipped emotionally in the classroom (Connell & Gunzelmann, 2004). Boys are generally less able to cope with their feelings, like sadness, frustration and anger and understand the feelings of others. Girls, on the other hand, are typically encouraged to understand and accept their emotions (Connell & Gunzelmann).

Equitable Educational Opportunities between the Genders

With girls surpassing the achievement of boys even in male-dominated subjects like math, recommendations are made to offer the genders equitable educational opportunities (Rennie Center, 2006). Schools should allow experimentation, such as single-sex education. Information about gender differences should be incorporated into teacher training. Future teachers must understand these differences so that incorporate them into their methods for teaching the genders equitably. And sub-group of boys should receive particular attention. These boys include students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds who stand at the lowest level of achievement (Rennie Center).

Single-Gender v Coeducational Secondary Education

Findings of a study on Latina students revealed that a single-gender education environment would be more comfortable and enhancing for them (Madigan, 2002).

There would be less distraction from boys, increased school attendance and improved attitudes towards school than in a co-educational setting. Latina students need a lot of support from teachers and personal connection with them in order achieve learning success. These students also need their parents' support in the effort and school attendance (Madigan).

No Innate Differences in Science and Math Careers

Stanford University Mathematics Associate Professor Jo Boaler does not see innate differences between boys and girls in high school math and science (Johnston, 2005). With a change in teaching approaches, she explained that "girls and women could get much higher achievement and participation" in these traditional domains of boys and men. These traditional differences had diminished to negligible levels in most standardized tests. Vast volumes of evidence go against the huge belief that boys are better in math than girls and yet it is nothing but negative stereotyping, as tests show. Boys' and men's greater brain weight does not have any effect on cognitive processing. The lack of female scientists and engineers in higher education is not because they get lower grades. Loss of interest, curriculum overload, and poor teaching accounted for the lack (Johnston).

Education for Girls with Special Needs in Norway

The practical situation calls for promoting equity between rural and urban areas, between social classes and the genders (Dalen, 2003). Legislation has made education the right of all and has included persons with disabilities in society and gender equity. But gender differences, the concept of disability and children's psychosocial development and conditions for learning will still have to be better understood along with changes of view in the role of society and family (Dalen).

More Available and Responsive Local Services

School districts should provide these in encouraging and supporting students' talents and abilities (Gubbins, 2002). They should determine the nature of these services and the district's philosophy behind it. An example focuses on programming specifics for elementary, middle and high school students. Teachers must respond to the "quiet crisis" on the real need for programs and services for gifted and talented students. A 1990 survey on the extent of teachers' modifying their instructional approaches showed that 61% of public and 54% of private school teachers had no training in gifted education. As it is, few universities and colleges offer courses to meet the needs of such students (Gubbins).

Gender and Learning for Black Boys

They are often moved out of mainstream education by disciplinary interventions or sent to special education (Varlas, 2005). The lack of accommodation for gender differences in learning styles accounts for this. Less than 1% of all elementary school teachers in the United States are African-American men and 83% are white women. Thus, white girls are least likely to be sent to special education. Of the black boys who are sent there, only 10% ever return to mainstream classroom and stay there. Thereafter, only 27% of these black boys ever graduate. Single-gender classrooms can respond to this problem. When this cannot be done, schools should be pressured by the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act. A school in Maryland used a pre-referral process in compliance to the Act. Teachers could not recommend a child for special education placement without conducting a six-week pre-intervention process of mainstream strategies. The school experienced a 68% drop in black boys' enrollment in special education (Varlas).

Achievement Differences among Truant Boys and Girls

Most of them have no Individual Education Plans, boys twice as many as girls at 75% against 43% (Finlay, 2005). This means that they are in special education. Both genders have low grades in math, English, science and social studies. Their scores were often D+. Comparatively, girls had higher grades in all four subjects, especially in social studies. Boys tend to get higher marks from course work. Girls also scored higher in English, Math and social sciences after different periods of intervention (Finlay).


This study uses the descriptive-normative research methods in recording, describing,

Interpreting, analyzing and comparing updated data gathered from scholarly and authoritative sources.

Findings and Conclusion

Boys and girls have different brain structures and sizes and prefer to use the left or right side by natural aptitude. Girls have recently surpassed boys in traditionally male domains of math and science. They too become vulnerable to gender stereotypes, which begin to be felt in the elementary level. Sexual biases extend to careers and other social aspects. Studies conducted with Latino girls and women, girl students in Maine and Norway concluded that race, ethnicity and socioeconomic factors influenced enrollment and participation more than gender differences. They expressed single-gender education and classrooms as the ideal learning environment. More available and responsive local services and appropriate programs are suggested to address a full range of individual differences, including those of black boys and truant youth in special education. Many authorities see no innate differences in the achievements in science and math and other academic subjects between boys and girls. Boys score higher in some areas while girls, in other areas.

In an ideal environment, boys and girls will excel alike and in comparative levels. Gender differences will make a difference only when stereotypes assert influence, whether in general or special education. Identifying and understanding these gender differences will help schools develop approaches and programs, which will address the differences and maximize students' learning and future career opportunities. #


CEC (2010). Gender differences impact learning and post-school success. Council for Exceptional Children: Retrieved on April 19, 2010 from

Connell, D and Gunzelmann, B. (2004). The new gender gap. Scholastic Instructor:

Teacher Scholastic. Retrieved on April 19, 2010 from

Dalen, M (2003). The relationship between disability, gender and education in the Norwegian context. Education for All Global Monitoring Report: United Nations

Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retrieved on April 19, 2010 from

Finlay, K.A. (2005). Gender differences among truant youth. Colorado Foundation for Families and Children: National Center for School Engagement. Retrieved on April 19, 2010 from

Gubbins, J. (2002). NRC/GT query: are programs and services for gifted and talented students responsive to beliefs? The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented: University…[continue]

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