History of Special Education
History of Special Education — The Grassroots Advocacy
The history of special education in the U.S. began after World War II, when a number of parent-organized advocacy groups surfaced. One of the first organizations was the American Association on Mental Deficiency, which held its first convention in 1947. By the early 1950s, fueled by the Civil Rights Movement, a number of other parent organizations were formed, including the United Cerebral Palsy Association, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and John F. Kennedy’s Panel on Mental Retardation. During the 1960’s, an increasing level of school access was established for children with disabilities at the state and local levels.
History of Special Education — The Resulting Legislation
This groundswell of grassroots advocacy led to the more recent history of special education in America, which commenced with Congressional approval of the “Education for All Handicapped Children Act” (Public Law 94-142) on November 29, 1975. This law was intended to support states and localities in “protecting the rights of, meeting the individual needs of, and improving the results for infants, toddlers, children and youths with disabilities and their families.” After the adoption of enabling regulations, PL 94-142 went effective in October 1977, becoming the legislative foundation for federal funding of special education.
PL 94-142 proved to be the cornerstone of special education, requiring public schools to provide “free appropriate public education” to students with a wide range of disabilities, including “physical handicaps, mental retardation, speech, vision and language problems, emotional and behavioral problems, and other learning disorders.” It also mandated that school districts provide such schooling in the “least restrictive environment” possible.
In 1983, the law was extended to include parent training and information centers at the state level. In 1986, early intervention programs for infants and education services for preschoolers were added. In 1990, services and eligibility were again expanded and the law was renamed the “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” (IDEA). The IDEA has been reauthorized and expanded ever since.
History of Special Education — The Ultimate Impact
Before the IDEA, the history of special education in America was pretty bleak. In fact, many children with disabilities were denied access to public education altogether. For example, in 1970, U.S. schools educated only one in five children with disabilities, and many states had laws that excluded children with major disabilities such as deafness, blindness, and mental retardation. Today, the IDEA is considered responsible for providing special education opportunities to more than 6.5 million children and 200,000 infants, toddlers, and families each year.
There is no doubt that special education programs have helped a number of students assimilate into the public education system. However, access and funding aren’t everything. Special education programs, after-school tutoring, summer school assistance, and other instruction-based approaches may unintentionally overlook or accommodate underlying cognitive weaknesses in these children. It’s now an established fact that the root cause of most learning and reading difficulties aren’t the major learning disabilities such as deafness, blindness, and mental retardation. Rather, over 80% of students in special education are there because of weak underlying cognitive skills. Therefore, identifying and retraining these cognitive skills is essential for overcoming learning struggles on a permanent basis.
At LearningRx, we don’t rely on special education eligibility or special education programs. We target specific cognitive skills and work with each child to transform weak areas into reliable, automatic responses that enhance every new learning task, regardless of the special education opportunities otherwise available at their school. When your student is ready for something new, powerful, and results-oriented, contact a LearningRx Training Center near you.