Council for Exceptional Children

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The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is a professional association dedicated to improving the educational success of children with disabilities and/or gifts and talents. Its members include special education teachers and administrators, professors, related service providers, paraprofessionals, and parents.


CEC focuses on improving the quality of special and general education. To achieve this goal, the council works with state and local education districts, the federal government, and other education organizations to find ways to better identify, teach, and care for children with exceptionalities.

In addition to encouraging the professional growth of its members and other special educators, CEC aids in recruiting personnel and promoting high professional standards. It encourages research in the education of children with exceptionalities and assists in the dissemination of research findings. And it engages in lobbying efforts at all levels of government to promote legislation that supports the education of children with special needs.

Disseminating information about the education of children with exceptionalities is one of CEC's major activities. CEC provides information to members and others who work with children with disabilities and/or gifts and talents through conventions, conferences, the CEC website, and publications. The council publishes two journals, Teaching Exceptional Children, a professional, practical-based journal, and Exceptional Children, a research journal. CEC also publishes CEC Today, the organization's newsletter, which covers current trends in special education and CEC activities. In addition, CEC publishes books and videos on special education and instructional strategies, research monographs, reviews of research, and special bulletins.

Another significant aspect of the council's activities is developing standards for the field. To date, CEC has developed standards for what special education teachers, diagnosticians, administrators, and paraeducators must know to provide effective instruction and service. An important aspect of CEC's standards activities is providing recognition for outstanding special educators, which it accomplishes through its professional awards program.

CEC also engages in extensive advocacy activities. The council cooperates with other education organizations to promote legislation that supports education in general, and special and gifted education in particular. CEC focuses its legislative efforts on ensuring that gifted children and children with disabilities receive a high quality education and that special and gifted education programs are adequately funded. The council further works to inform legislators at all levels, as well as the general public, of the benefits society receives when children with exceptionalities reach their educational potential.

In addition, CEC operates four national information centers. The centers provide information on the education of children with disabilities and gifts and talents, the special education profession, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Organizational Structure

CEC consists of state and provincial federations, which are made up of local chapters, branches, and affiliates, and the Student Council for Exceptional Children. Federations address statewide or provincial issues, hold conferences, publish newsletters, and coordinate the activities of the local chapters. The local chapters hold meetings, engage in projects to advance the education of children with exceptionalities, and publish newsletters. Students in full-time attendance at an accredited college or university are eligible for membership in the Student Council for Exceptional Children.

CEC has seventeen divisions, each of which specializes in a particular area of special education (such as learning disabilities, mental retardation, gifted education). Each division holds conferences on its particular area of special education and produces a journal, website, and newsletter. The divisions also provide networking opportunities and support for their members.

CEC's board of directors, the association's primary governing body, makes internal and external policy for the organization. A representative assembly serves as an advisory body to the board of directors. As such, it identifies, discusses, and makes recommendations to the board of directors on positions CEC should take on issues involving special education; advises CEC on public policy issues and initiatives; and oversees CEC internal governance policies and procedures.

Membership and Financial Support

CEC's approximately 50,000 members are special education teachers, administrators, college professors, related service providers, paraprofessionals, and parents. Although CEC has an international membership, the majority of its members reside in the United States.

Financial support comes primarily from membership dues. Various special projects receive funds from the federal government and foundation grants.

History and Development

CEC was organized in 1922 by a small group of administrators and faculty members at Teachers College, Columbia University. In 1941 it merged with the special education department of the National Education Association (NEA) and became a department of NEA. In 1977 CEC withdrew its affiliation with NEA and became its own association. During its history, CEC has grown substantially in membership, and it has become a leading national voice for special education. CEC's national headquarters are located in Arlington, Virginia.

See also: Special Education.

internet resource

Council for Exceptional Children. 2002. <>.

Lynda Van Kuren

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Council for Exceptional Children