In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the mistreatment and misunderstanding of children with disabilities were considered normal. For the proof of this unfortunate black eye in American history, read the auto-biography of Helen Keller titled “The Story of My Life.” In this book, the twenty-two-year-old Helen Keller has described the difficulties she had to face in her early life due in large part to the absence of special education teachers or provisions of special education during that time. Luckily Helen’s mother read an article by Charles Dickens on the Perkins Institute for Blind. Without this happenstance, the story of her life would have been as dismal and bleak as some of the other children with disabilities of her times.
The state of education for children with disabilities was very hopeless and inconceivably miserable in the United States during the early nineteenth century. A disabled child was usually considered a burden on the family. The regular schools did not open their doors to such children. Any education they received was usually at the hands of their mother or some other family member. Some of the fortunate children could also attend special institutes such as the Perkins Institute for Blind that became popular with pupils such as Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan and Laura Bridgman.
Advancement in science, technology and medicine along with the examples set by the likes of Helen Keller brought hope for the parents of children with disabilities. The first half of the twentieth century saw a series of protests and outcry for public awareness towards the need for some sort of special education to help children with disabilities have the same opportunity as other children. During the 1950s and 1960s, many of the special education advocate groups started public demonstrations asking for equal rights for children with disabilities. They had to go through various lawsuits after which the state governments were made directly responsible for special education programs made available to the children who need it. Finally in 1975, the Education for all Handicapped Children Act (EHA) established the right of all children despite their disability status to receive free appropriate public education (FAPE).
Before the EHA, the future of children with disabilities was very bleak. Many children with disabilities were denied access altogether from receiving education at the public schools. According to US government statistics, only one in five children received public education in the year 1970. In fact, there were laws in many states that prevented children with disabilities from being admitted to school.
Since the passing of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, children with special needs have been benefiting from special education programs designed specifically with different learning needs in mind. According the United States Education department, over 6.5 million children and 200,000 infants with disabilities benefit from the IDEA program each year. Through special education programs being run by the United States government, millions of children with disabilities have been assimilated into the mainstream education systems. Today, there are many options available to children with special needs. Some of these options include self-contained classrooms, inclusion classrooms, private schools, charter schools and special education tutoring.
Today, special education programs have expanded throughout every school district in the US. There’s much more that needs to be done to ensure all children with special needs receive the guidance and learning they need to reach their excellence. Until classroom sizes and district budgets get under control, supplemental learning through special education tutoring is a great step toward success. These special education tutors are able to mold the curriculum your child is currently learning in the traditional classroom setting to fit a more personalized adapted to fit their individual learning needs.