Since the beginning of time, people with disabilities were shunned, killed, considered an embarrassment, lock away, hidden away, and sometimes even worse. This attitude slowly started changing in the past 60 years. With these changes, came groups and acts to help inform the public and support the disabled and their families.
The writer is going to describe how perception has changed, how legislation and litigation have influenced the education of special needs students, a prediction of what changes may occur in special education in the future, the writer’s initial response to an individual with disability, and how the writer’s response is different now. Perception Changes Over Time With only the basic understanding of human biology, historically people with disabilities and their families were generally treated horribly.
People with disabilities in the western world were considered to inferior or weak. However, some of this perception was also dependent on the type of disability. There was a time when Autism was thought to be the fault of the Mom, often referred to as refrigerator Moms. These Moms were believed to be cold and unloving to their children, causing the children to become reserved and introspective. Although the reason for Autism is not fully known at this moment, it is known that it is not due to “refrigerator Moms.
As society has grown, it has gained a better understanding of human biology, and with the help of advocates, the thinking and perception towards in the disabled the western world, is changing. These changes were also occurring in the education of students with disabilities as well, starting with schools for solely the blind and deaf, moving to special education becoming a privilege and not a right, and where only separate buildings or areas of a school were dedicated to students with disabilities, now inclusion is becoming a standard for all students with disabilities (Hardman, Drew, & Egan, 2011).
Legislation and Litigation’s Influence Legislation and litigation took a back seat for special education, for a long while. In the early and mid 1800’s, some grants for the schooling of the blind and deaf were created. After this grant the Federal government did not get involved again until 1958. With the signing of the National Defense Education Act of 1958, the Federal government had an opening to get involved in education. In 1966, the Bureau for the Education of the Handicapped (BEH) was enacted, creating grants for the education of students with disabilities.
The Federal government created an act led the way for special education becoming accepted. States then started to train teachers in special education and researched education programs. Brown v. Board of Education led the way for special education advocates to create changes for students with disabilities, such as the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Mills v. Board of Education. Mills v. Board of Education.
When students with disabilities were turned away from schools, the response led to the Rehabilitation Act 1973 and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975, later called the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA is the basis of the entire educational system for students with disabilities today and its biggest influence today. It ensures that all students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment and that it gives all students an individual education plan (Martin, Martin, &Terman, 1996).
The Writer’s Prediction With what the writer currently knows about special education, as both a special needs mom and as a special needs para-professional, the writer predicts and hopes, in some cases, that first and foremost more funding become available for assistive technologies, programs, and training, because right now the writer sees a shortage of assistive technologies in the classroom. The writer has personally witnessed teachers purchasing necessary items for their students, and considering how little teachers’ incomes are, this is a sacrifice that teachers should not have to make.
Education in general is increasing expectations from teachers, so the writer predicts that there will be more programs and training offered to support those expectations. This also means that the evaluation for teachers and other staff is going to be more strenuous as well as. The expectations on students’ standardized assessments are going to count more towards the teachers. The writer is aware that there is a movement towards standardizing special education standards.
The writer feels that this will occur, some of the positive things will be that any state a family moves to, will know what to expect and what special needs assessment will be standardized, which is truly needed at this point. The writer hopes assessments get standardized to a portfolio. While it is not easy to standardize or grade assessements, it works really well for moderately to severely disable students, who cannot take sit down assessments. The writer feels that although there is a movement to emphasize inclusion, this emphasis is going to become greater in the future, eliminating nearly all need for special needs classrooms.
This also will make important, that most general education teachers have a background in special needs, to a certain extent. Initial Response The writer grew up in a family with an aunt who was deaf and had intellectual disabilities and two uncles with intellectual disabilities, so disabilities were really nothing new. However, when the writer got a job as a one-on-one para-professional with a student who had moderate disabilities and moderate behavior issues, the writer did have some concerns about the ability to have the patience, caring, strength, and creativity required to do that job.
When the writer met the student and the other students that were in the classroom, the writer knew pretty quick that the writer would be able to meet the needs of the students and the classroom. The writer had similar trepidation when moving to a severely disabled classroom and when starting to work with elementary students. The writer feels that the response it always going to be the same, knowing what the writer knows. The response is always trepidation in the writer’s ability to meet the students needs, not the student themselves, and it usually goes away quickly.
Conclusion By looking at how societal thinking and perception has changed, the ways legislation and litigation have influence special needs education, the writers predictions, the writer’s initial responses and current responses, it can be seen how in many ways that attitude, litigation, and legislation have changed toward students with disabilities. With the help of advocates and education acts for students with disabilities, positive progress has come a long way. With continued help, it will go much farther. While these changes will not eliminate the past, it will make a better and more enlighten future for all children.
Courtney from Study Moose
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