Special Education Through Time
By: Suzie Dalien, M.Ed.
Children of all ages, regardless of race, creed, sex, national origin or disability deserve the best education possible. Teaching your child the basics – reading, writing and math – will set them on a course to unparalleled success in life, possibly even leading to higher education after secondary school has been completed. But all children do not learn at the same level as others; there might be unseen barriers that are preventing a child from grasping certain concepts. Learning disabilities come in all manner of forms ranging from physical to mental to emotional. It’s up to the parents and educators of these special children to find a way to work within the education system to break down the walls of communication and open up a new world of possibilities.
There are special education services both in and out of traditional schooling that focus on your child with special needs unique talents and restrictions, but let’s first take a look at what special education means in America.
The Origin of Special Education
The history of special education is filled with misunderstanding, misconceptions and unfair treatment of children with special needs. While a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) has been provided to children of all ages and walks of life for many decades, it’s not always been as progressive as it is today. Children with learning disabilities were often pushed to the side or told to stay at home, as educators simply didn’t understand what was making them different from the other children. It’s an antiquated idea, sure, but one that still holds a terrible stigma even today for children with special needs.
In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) was put in place that mandated a free and public education for kids aged 3 to 21 that met the specified requirements. A qualified team of professionals first needed to diagnosis the child in question with certain learning disabilities or other need; after that, it was up to the public school system to educate them in the ways they saw fit.
While this act officially recognized children with disabilities as needing individualized attention, it put in place the first unnoticeable cracks in America’s educational infrastructure; more about that later.
Data monitoring for special education services started in 1976 and has continued every year until our present time, although the act was eventually renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
For the 2011-2012 school year, statistics show that children with specific learning disabilities received more special education services than any other disability. This includes ADHD, dyslexia and any other disorder that impairs one or more psychological processes and creates resistance to learning in certain areas. But it might not be that more children qualify under IDEA than ever before; it might simply be that children are being misdiagnosed into this category unintentionally.
Special Education and (Mis)Diagnosis
With an overworked medical system and a crumbling public school infrastructure, it’s no wonder children with special needs are being misdiagnosed into a number of general categories that may or may not fit their symptoms. When several things appear at once as symptoms of an underlying cause, it’s more difficult to diagnose the problem without extensive testing. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible in our “hurry up and wait” kind of world.
Sometimes a learning disability that requires special education services is obvious to even the casual observer, like seeing words, numbers and letters backwards (dyslexia). Other disabilities take the time and patience of a skilled physician in order to make an accurate diagnosis, and even then, it could be wrong. Take ADHD, for example. Children with an inability to pay attention are often grouped into this category, sometimes without the underlying cause being discovered until later on in life. It’s important to understand that children are complex creatures incapable of diagnosing themselves, especially when it comes to special education. For this reason, extra care is needed on the part of educators to observe and identify any other symptoms that might make themselves present over the course of the classroom year.
Public School Infrastructure
As previously mentioned, when the EAHCA was enacted in 1975 the first invisible cracks in the educational system started, whether anyone saw it or not. Classes focusing on special education meant more teachers, more materials, more training and ultimately more funding.
With a “more, more, more” mentality – and as classrooms grew bigger over the years – the stress on the system started to show. Children were often put into special education classrooms without a proper diagnosis simply because the regular education teachers were overworked. While IDEA is, well, a good idea, it did not include a plan for expanded funding, nor did it take into account the amount of children with special needs that might fall into this category. Unfortunately, special education in most of today’s public schools is sorely lacking in resources, but there are other ways to get your child the attention and help they need to succeed.
Supplemental Education Outside of School
Some children learn better in a one-on-one environment, something they rarely get from traditional schooling. For this reason, Special Education Resources are available for parents and educators to take advantage of when necessary.
Online schooling has grown by leaps and bounds on pace with our technological revolution, and children can now take advantage of supplemental learning and special education tutoring at their own pace. That’s the real way everyone should learn, but America has yet to fully embrace the great qualities an individualized approach has for children at all ends of the learning spectrum.
Special Education Resource understands this need and strives to provide educational information for everyone, no matter what. There is a negative connotation attached to the phrase “special education” but that should no longer be the case as people are discovering the many benefits of supplementing their traditional education with personal attention. Many parents are taking their child’s education into their own hands by providing supplemental learning through special education tutoring. Our special education tutors mold the curriculum currently being taught in your child’s traditional classroom into a way the mirrors their specific learning needs. We all struggle with learning different concepts, but now there is a place to turn when you feel you need just a little bit more for your child. Help them be their very best and watch a whole new world of possibilities blossom.
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