Special needs is a term used to describe individuals with mental, emotional, or physical disabilities. They may need to be treated differently than their peers due to medical, behavioral, developmental, learning, and/or mental health issues. "The designation is useful for getting needed services, setting appropriate goals, and gaining understanding for a child and stressed family."
The number of children in the United States identified as having special needs is rapidly increasing. A main reason for the increase is that the public schools in the United States must identify and accommodate special needs. It is possible that the same portion of students in the past had special needs, but the needs were not properly diagnosed and reflected in statistics. It is also possible that the number of students having special needs never actually increased, and that many students diagnosed as having special needs are wrongly diagnosed, as seen in the controversy surrounding Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder.