In 1990, statistics showed that there were well over 43 million Americans with one or more physical or mental disabilities (Dixon, Kruse, & van Horn, 2003).
Historically, society has isolated and segregated these individuals. After the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and despite numerous laws and civil rights acts, discrimination against individuals with disabilities continues to be a serious social problem.
This lecture briefly discusses the history of the laws and civil rights acts pertaining to Americans with disabilities i. e., how the laws and civil rights acts are being applied to learning in the educational system. Historical Factors That Shaped Special Education Today In 1975, Congress passed the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, now codified as the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004.
When the Education of All Handicapped Children Act went into effect October of 1977 (after the regulations were finalized), it guaranteed a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment for all special education children and youth between the ages of 3 and 21.
The numerous amendments to Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990 expanded incentives for early intervention, preschool special education programs, and transition programs. Currently, IDEA (2004) supports efforts through several programs to provide coordinated service delivery systems for children with disabilities from birth through age 5. The two major programs serving this population are the Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers With Disabilities and the Preschool Grants Program (ages 3 through 5).
The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 1997) additionally established the Handicapped Infants and Toddlers Program for children from birth to their 3rd birthday. In the 1990s, Congress passed two important public laws. The first was the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, and the other was IDEA of 1990. The premise of these laws was to guarantee civil rights for all persons with disabilities. The aim of ADA was to prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment, public services, and accommodations (Henderson, 2000).
Today this law includes persons of any age having a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more of life’s major functions. These impairments include communicable diseases; health conditions such as diabetes and arthritis; severe asthma or allergies; mental health and behavioral needs; attention deficit disorder; and other physical disabilities. IDEA (1990) not only changed the name of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act to Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, it also changed the word handicapped to disabled.
The amendments to IDEA of 1990 guaranteed all children with disabilities available and accessible free appropriate public education designed to meet the needs of students with special needs. The definition of special education was also expanded to include instruction carried out in the classroom, at home, in hospitals and institutions, and other settings. Related services are provided based on the needs of the special education student to benefit from instruction. In 1997, IDEA was amended once again.
The amendment strengthened the academic expectations and accountability of children with disabilities. It also bridged the gap between the curricula delivered to children in regular classrooms and the curricula delivered to children in special day classes, with greater emphasis placed on the inclusion of the disabled child in the regular classroom (Hawking, 2004). Organization The category of learning disabilities is a large one, incorporating many diverse types of disabilities.
IDEA (2004) defines specific learning disability as: A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in a deficient ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. This term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.
This term does not include children who have learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; intellectual disability; or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage (Knoblauch & Sorenson, 1998). Least Restrictive Environment Students with disabilities are entitled to a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment (LRE). LRE focuses on the degree of integration with nondisabled peers.
Least restrictive includes students from a full-time regular education classroom with a consultant services specialist, to students who are home- or hospital-bound, based on their severity of needs. Most students with LD are serviced in the teacher consultant model, push-in model, co-teaching model, pull-out model, learning center, or special day class. Planning Planning for special education begins with the individualized education plan (IEP) team.
The IEP team is composed of parents, school nurse, school psychologist, regular education teacher, special education, and others invited by the school and/or parents to participate. The goal of the IEP, according to the National Information Center for Children and Youth With Disabilities (NICHCY, 1996), is to have a variety of individuals who are knowledgeable about the students and their evaluation and placement options. Conclusion.
Many laws and litigations have shaped special education, as we know it today. The process of identification and placement has changed over the years and will continue to evolve as parents advocate for the rights of their children. Most students with LD are serviced in the regular classroom with some degree of support, whether it is consultation or pull-out. The IEP team decides the best services for each child on an individual basis.