History of Special Educaion

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Abstract

Special education is an ever changing process in our education system. The program has to evolve and change to fit the times and the growing need for better accommodations for the students. With these changes comes the need for clarity about what special education is and who benefits from the services. Growing up I did not know what special education was all about. I thought that it meant that students were just slow learners. Now being a teacher, I see that special education is a program that benefits and helps students with disabilities.

Special Education: An Ever Evolving Process

Special education is a very important issue that is often misunderstood in our education system. The process continually changes to keep up with the changes that face our education system every year. It also continues to change to keep up with the growing need for special education services and the questions from parents and teachers alike. Special education was once something that was seen as a stigma to our children, but now we now that it is a beneficial resource to students with learning disabilities.

Many say that the history of special education is closely related to that of the civil rights movement. The movement was especially strongly influenced by the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka landmark case. “The Brown decision began a period of intense questioning among parents of children with disabilities, who asked why the same principles of equal access to education should not apply to their children” (Heward, 2009). Students with mental, physical, or learning disabilities were not afforded the chance to receive a free education in the United States and were segregated from their peers because of their disabilities. In 1975 special education programs were made mandatory in the United States. Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), which was later renamed for the current Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The EHA or IDEA law was passed as a response to discriminatory treatment by the public school system against students with disabilities and was modified to strengthen protections to people with disabilities. IDEA requires states to provide special education consistent with federal standards as a condition of receiving federal funds. It also entitles every student to a “free and appropriate public education” in the “least restrictive environment” (Heward, 2009). The purposes of IDEA are: 1. (A) to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living; (B) to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected; and (C) to assist States, localities, educational service agencies, and Federal agencies to provide for the education of all children with disabilities; 2. to assist States in the implementation of a statewide, comprehensive, coordinated, multidisciplinary, interagency system of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families; 3. to ensure that educators and parents have the necessary tools to improve educational results for children with disabilities by supporting system improvement activities;19 coordinated research and personnel preparation; coordinated technical assistance, dissemination, and support; and technology development and media services; and 4. to assess, and ensure the effectiveness of, efforts to educate children with disabilities. (PL 108–466, Sec. 601 (d)).

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Majority of the rules and regulations of the IDEA fall under six principles that have remained unchanged since enacted in 1975. Zero reject
Students with disabilities are entitled to receive special...
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