The History Of Special Education
By: Suzie Dalien, M.Ed.
Teaching those with learning disabilities, especially children, can be time-consuming, heartbreaking and try your patience unlike anything else. If you’re doing all of this within the educational system we have in the United States, you also know what it’s like to experience frustration, constant budget cuts and increasing class sizes.
Even though special education programs and classes are part of the educational system’s natural lexicon, this wasn’t always the case. It has taken a lot of hard work, sweat and plenty of tears to even get to the fragile state of special education we have today, but the stress on an already-collapsing school system might just be what sends the whole thing over the edge.
Let’s take a look at how special education got its humble start in America, and where it might be going from here.
Brown V. Board of Education
Before this landmark case went to trial in 1954, segregation was the way of the world with separate schools, restaurants and buses for colored people. Even though slavery had been abolished less than a century before, the stigma for people of color was that they were of lesser intelligence than white folk and therefore needed to be separated. It was a sad time in the world, and the end of segregation wouldn’t have come as quickly if it weren’t for Brown v. Board of Education.
In this trial, it was ruled that Kansas state laws which separated schools by color were unconstitutional and that all children had the right to learn equally without prejudice. This ruling swiftly and effectively ended public school segregation, but it was still several more years before the ruling was accepted throughout the United States as part and parcel of our educational system.
Because this ruling helped people who were seen as “different” gain an edge in life, it paved a whole new path for those that wanted equality in other aspects of life, too, like children with special needs and the need for special education programs within America’s schools. It wasn’t long until the first laws were passed that allowed special education programs to be instituted within the school system that would help those with learning disabilities.
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act
Parents had been forming specialized support groups for children with special needs as early as 1933, and after Brown v. Board of Education was ruled as being in favor of minorities, the first glimmer of hope started to awaken for those with learning disabilities and special needs.
In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) law was passed that recognized the need for special education services for those who were diagnosed with learning disabilities. Even though widespread rules and regulations for public schooling had been imposed in America since 1918, children with learning disabilities and the need for special education were wholeheartedly excluded from being able to take part in a free education. Their choices? Stay home and be taught or be sent away to an institution that might have been better equipped to handle the special needs of these children. Neither one of those options was suitable for a growing child’s mind, and after the Civil Rights Movement took segregation within the school systems public, the voice for equality for all children started to rise and gain momentum.
Originally known as Public Law 94-142, EAHCA called for a widespread reform of the educational system that would now include the means to teach those with a wide range of learning disabilities like physical disabilities, speech, mental issues, behavioral problems and more, giving them a “free appropriate public education (FAPE).” The law also required schools to provide such education in the least restrictive environment possible for these children, which meant special education classrooms, teachers, tutoring and training for a new way of life.
The law was reauthorized in 1990 and again in 1997 and eventually changed to the more suitably named Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). With the invention of the law, millions of children that were previously denied access to quality education were now folded into the fray and welcomed to learn despite their learning disabilities or other special needs. What started with small, individualized classes for the challenged eventually morphed into children with special needs spending more and more time in a regular classroom setting (Inclusion Classroom). IDEA opened up a whole world of possibilities and allowed even the most disabled of children the chance to get an education on par with their peers.
Special Education in America Today
With the population expanding rapidly in some areas of the country, classroom sizes are becoming an overpopulation issue that needs to be addressed. Constant budget cuts, teacher strikes and the stress of teaching growing classrooms is putting unnecessary strain on a system that might not be able to handle much more.
While special education is a definite must-have for children with special needs, the state of technology in our country affords a broader range of educational opportunities than ever before. Online education has exploded in popularity, and children with special needs can greatly benefit from a one-on-one customized lesson plan that works with their individual challenges instead of grouping them with a generalized school curriculum.
Special Education Resource recognizes this niche market for special education and wants to provide both students and educators with the best learning experience possible. Gone are the days of struggling to connect with industry professionals that can properly educate your child and feeling alone while doing so. Supplemental learning through special education tutoring can now be done from the comfort of your own home and in an environment that helps your child with special needs feel loved and cherished as they continue down an educational path to success.
An increased number of parents across the US have begun to take advantage of the programs and resources available with special education tutoring. Special education tutors take the curriculum your child with special needs is currently receiving in their traditional classroom and molds it to fit their unique learning style. Special Education Resource is here to help you every step of the way, from kindergarten to graduation and everything in between.
A label doesn’t have to define a child; it simply proves that all children learn differently.
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