The study aimed to identify and analyze the concept of disability and the theoretical grounds that support the public policies for Special Education in Brazil (1973-2016) for elementary school students. We analyzed the Special Education policies normative and guiding documents, identifying how the target audience is defined in policies as well as the technical, theoretical and political justifications for this definition. The research was developed through document analysis of national and international sources and is supported by the theoretical and methodological assumptions of the historical and dialectical materialism, explaining the conflicts that represent social forces in dispute in a movement of dialectical contradiction. From this analysis, we can deduce that the concept of disability, from the 1970s to present days, is maintained within a technical and functional perspective. Nevertheless, this technicality has been reconfigured with other discourses along the analyzed periods. The study revealed that there is no rupture with an approach based on the dichotomy between normal and pathological, and there is no change of the hegemonic rationality of the conception of disability, but there are variations in the strategies to justify them. The principle of normal and pathological, which was present in the modern rationality, was redefined in a postmodern perspective. Thus, today, we have the normal and pathological defined in terms of difference and diversity or cultural diversity as something that enriches human beings.
Special Education; Educational Policies; Students with Disability; Basic Education; Work and Education