Early Childhood Special Education Roots

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Early childhood special education that is practiced today has a varied and sometimes hard won history. Its roots are entangled in cultural, economic, and idealistic influences; each facet tinged by the colored lens of the times and adding a little glint to modern day practices. The conglomeration of historical theories and practices, political actions and enacted laws has paved the way to modern early childhood special education practices and programming. Just like a child learns and builds on his knowledge and understanding of his environment, so too does the practice of early childhood special education. In its infancy ECSE was not labeled as such, and in fact was simply teaching. Throughout history, many educators have had differing perspectives and opinions on how best to educate children. Many of those ideas and practices have popularly endured, and some have become very small portions of our current systems, or faded into obscurity altogether. One of the earliest models on early childhood education was the Montessori model. The Montessori methods and tools are prevalent in classrooms today, from individualized and sensory programming to didactic learning materials. Other early educators realized that even very young children benefit from instruction. Jean Piaget identified stages of development from birth to adolescence that still assist educators in identifying appropriate modes of teaching. Others like Robert Owen, John Locke and Lev Semenovich Vygotsky theorized that a child’s environment had a profound influence on his/her development and education, giving a foundation for current early intervention strategies in impoverished, urban areas. Vygotsky also gifted to forward generations the theories of the Zone of Proximal Development, scaffolding and ideas about special needs students working in least restrictive environments. All the way from these LRE’s, are the ideas of institutions. The residential school model however is still useful in...
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