Institute of HeartMath Education Applications

Education Applications: Special Needs

Special Education

The term "special education" covers such a wide range of student needs that it can be confusing and misunderstood. Special education in the United States serves about 6.8 million students with disabilities that fall into the 13 categories shown in the Facts at a Glance box below. Special education is federally funded and supported by IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, enacted in 2004.

IDEA assists school boards in ensuring that all students with special learning needs have access to fair and appropriate education programs. Educators meet this challenge in various ways, largely depending on resources available and also based on the degree to which special education students interact with the general school population.

Regular education classes combined with special education services is a flexible model often referred to as "inclusion." In this model, children with special needs are educated with peers for at least half the school day. In a "full inclusion" model, specialized services are provided in the regular classroom by sending a qualified service provider in to work with one or more children in the regular classroom setting. In a "partial inclusion" model, a child may attend regular or general education classes and then receive specialized services, such as in a resource room or speech or language therapy center.

IHM’s educational services and products are providing much-needed support to special educators who work with a range of students that qualify for special education.

Facts at a Glance:

13 Disabilities that Qualify for Special Education

  • Auditory impairment
  • Autism
  • Deaf/blind
  • Developmental disabilities (mental retardation)
  • Emotional/behavior disorder
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Multisensory impairment
  • Orthopedic impairment (physical)
  • Serious health impairments
  • Specific learning disabilities
  • Speech and language impairment
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairment

Who Needs HeartMath Research-Based Programs?

  • Educators who serve students with special needs
  • Health professionals who serve students with special needs
  • Parents of students with special needs
  • Special needs students who, despite their disabilities, are able to work with IHM products or programs – as delivered by educators, health professionals, parents and others.

How HeartMath Can Facilitate Special Education

Heart-based learning models, which form the foundation of IHM’s products and service for students and educators, have the potential of improving the lives and learning experiences of all children and adults.

Many students with special needs are able to connect with their heart intelligence and wisdom in managing their emotions more easily than they can perform within the traditional brain-mind educational models. Some areas in which special educators have found success when integrating HeartMath learning models into their programs include.

  • Attitudes and behaviors
  • Self-regulation skills
  • Classroom focus and participation
  • Reading skills
  • Test scores
  • Social relations


HeartMath Tools Improve Reading Proficiency in Elementary School Special Education Students, an independent investigation conducted by Edie Fritz, EdD. Key Findings: Fourteen days of instruction in the HeartMath techniques allowed a special education class of fifth and sixth graders to significantly improve their reading proficiency.

Products and Programs that Support Special Education

  • The Resilient Educator® Program: Skills for Success in Today’s Schools: Educators who serve the special education population have unique challenges and need a high level of commitment and resilience to remain balanced. This scientifically based program is specifically designed to help educators meet student needs and interact with administrators, parents and other special education service providers, by teaching them the essential skills of managing stress, understanding emotions and communicating clearly, from the heart. Go to: The Resilient Educator.
  • Qualified Instructor Program®: Heart-Based Education: Administrators and trainers who provide in-service courses to teachers must support diverse teacher needs. Finding relevant programs for special education teachers is especially difficult because of the many needs these teachers must address each day. This train-the-trainer program provides educators with the knowledge and skills for using heart-based education models with their students in a practical and cost-effective. Go to: Qualified Instructor Program.
  • HeartSmarts®: Despite the notation, Grades 3-5, in the name of the program, HeartSmarts has a much broader range of uses in many special education settings. The materials are visual, simple, and easy to communicate to students in ways that are engaging, heartwarming and supportive. Students love HeartSmarts because it helps them get in touch with what truly matters to them and to understand what really makes them tick. Go to: HeartSmarts.
  • emWave® Desktop for Mac and PC: Well-suited to many special education settings, this computer-based learning program is interactive and easy to use. Students learn how their emotions affect their heart rhythms and how they feel when they bring them in sync with their thoughts and emotions. The simple, practical skills students learn while using the emWave Desktop for Mac and PC are empowering, calming and beneficial for learning and behavioral challenges. Go to: emWave Desktop for Mac and PC.
  • The HeartMath Transforming Series of books: Parents of special needs students can feel enormous pressure and loneliness as they care for and cope with their children, teachers and school administrative staff. Even the most dedicated can become depressed, anxious, angry or stressed out. These four books, Transforming Stress, Transforming Anxiety, Transforming Anger and Transforming Depression, give straightforward, scientifically researched tools and techniques for dealing with the different emotions that drain energy and rob life of its quality. Go to: Transforming Series.

Testimonials from Educators

"HeartMath programs and techniques are essential for giving special needs students the tools they need to go into the regular classroom. This was our motivation for implementing the programs throughout our school. HeartMath appealed to me because kids have to feel safe or else learning is not going to happen. And the programs can easily be integrated into any curriculum."

– Jill Farrell, Special Education, Sells, Ariz.

"Since using the (emWave® Desktop for Mac and PC) with all my special education students, the time I spend on behavioral problems has decreased by over 90%. The (emWave Desktop for Mac and PC Stress Relief System) has really become the cornerstone of my behavioral-management plans. It has been very rewarding to see my students show more focus and enthusiasm for meeting their academic goals."

– Diana Govan, Carmel High School, Carmel, Calif.

"When techniques are presented that children are able to internalize and use to reduce stress, reduce the emotional pain of perceived failure, they are able to access what they have already learned."

– Dr. Edie Fritz, Psychologist, Creighton Elementary School, Phoenix, Ariz.

Funding Tips for Educators:

  • School and school district personnel interested in purchasing Institute of HeartMath® programs and products will find a variety of useful information about HeartMath, funding and grant applications through the following link: click here.
  • Learn how to apply to become a recipient of the IHM Heart-Based Education Sponsorship Fund on the following page: Heart Based Education Sponsorship Fund.