Based on the book of Teresita G. Inciong, Yolanda S. Quijano, Yolanda T. Capulong, Julieta A. Gregorio, and Adelaida C. Jines entitled Introduction To Special Education, it was during the year of 1902 and under the American regime that the Filipino children with disabilities were given the chance to be educated. Mr. Fred Atkinson, General Superintendent of Education, proposed to the Secretary of Public Instruction that the children whom he found deaf and blind should be enrolled in school like any other ordinary children. However, the country’s special education program formally started on 1907. Mr. David Barrows, Director of Public Education, and Miss Delight Rice, an American educator, worked hard for this program to be possible. Mr. Barrows worked for the establishment of the Insular School for the Deaf and Blind in Manila and Miss Rice was the administrator and at the same time the teacher of that school. Today, the school for the Deaf is located at Harrison Street, Pasay City and the Philippine National School for the Blind is adjacent to it on Polo Road.
During the year 1926, the Philippine Association for the Deaf (PAD) was composed of hearing impaired members and special education specialists. The following year (1927), the Welfareville Children’s Village in Mandaluyong, Rizal was established. In 1936, Mrs. Maria Villa Francisco was appointed as the first Filipino principal of the School for the Deaf and the Blind (SDB). In 1945, the National Orthopedic Hospital opened its School for Crippled Children (NOHSCC) for young patients who had to be hospitalized for long periods of time. In 1949, the Quezon City Science High School for gifted students was inaugurated and the Philippine Foundation for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled was organized. In 1950, PAD opened a school for children with hearing impairment. In 1953, the Elsie Gaches Village (EGV) was established in Alabang Muntinlupa, Rizal to take care of abandoned and orphaned children and youth eith physical and mental handicaps. In 1954, the first week of August was declared as Sight Saving Week.
In 1955, members of Lodge No.761 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks organized the Elks Cerebral Palsy Project Incorporated and the First Parent Teacher Work Conference in Special Education was held at the SDB. In 1956, the First Summer Institute on Teaching the Deaf was held at the School for the Deaf and the Blind in Pasay City. In 1957, the Bureau of Public Schools (BPS) of the Department of Education and Culture (DEC) created the Special Education Section of the Special Subjects and Services Division. The components of the special program included legislation, teacher training, census of exceptional children with disabilities in regular classes, rehabilitation of residential and special schools and materials production. Baguio Vacation Normal School ran courses on teaching children with handicaps and the Baguio City Special Education was also organized in the same year.
In 1958, the regional office of the American Foundation for Overseas Blind (AFOB) was opened at Manila. This foundation helped the DEC by providing consultancy services in the teacher training program that focused on the integration of blind children in regular classes and materials production at the Philippine Printing House for the Blind. In 1960, some colleges and universities started to offer special education courses in their graduate school curriculum. In 1962, the Manila Youth and Rehabilitation Center (MYRC) was opened. This center extended services to children and youth who were emotionally disturbed and socially maladjusted. In the same year, DEC issued Circular No.11 s 1962 that specified the “Qualifications of Special Education Teachers”. In 1963, the training of DEC teacher scholars for blind children started at Philippine Normal College. In 1964, the Quezon City Schools Division followed suit with the establishment of the Quezon City Science High School for gifted students.
In the year 1965, the training program for school administrators on the organizations, administration and supervision of special education classes was started. In 1967, BPS organized the National Committee on Special Education. In 1968, the teacher training program for teachers of exceptional children was held at the Philippine Normal College for the next ten years and in the same year the First Asian Conference on Work for the blind was held in Manila. In 1969, classes for socially maladjusted children were organized at the Manila Youth Reception Center, the school for the Deaf and the Blind established in 1907 was reorganized into separate residential schools, and the Paaralan ng Pag-ibig at Pag-asa was established in San Pablo City. In 1970, the training of teachers for children with behavior problems started at the University if the Philippines.
In 1971, DEC issued a memorandum on Duties of the Special Education Teacher for the blind. In 1973, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Manila established the Tahanan Special School for socially maladjusted children and youth. In 1974, the First National Conference on the Rehabilitation of the Disabled was held at the Social Security Building in Quezon City. In 1975, the Special Subjects and Services Division was abolished. In 1976, Proclamation 1605 declared 1977 to 91987 as the Decade of the Filipino Child. In 1977, MEC issued Dept. Order No.10 that designated regional and division supervisors of special education programs. In 1978, the National Commission Concerning Disabled Persons, later renamed National Council for the Welfare of Disabled Persons through Presidential Decree 1509. In 1979, the Bureau of Elementary Education Special Education Unit conducted a two-year nationwide survey of unidentified exceptional children who were in school.
In 1980, the School for Crippled Children at the Southern Island Hospital in Cebu was organized. In 1981, the United Nations Assembly proclaimed the observance of the International Year of Disabled Persons. In 1982, the Cebu State College Special High School for the Deaf, the Siaton Special Education Center in the Division of Negros Oriental and the St. John Maria de Vianney Special Education Learning Center in Quezon City were opened. In 1983, Batas Pambansa Bilang 344 enacted the Accessibility Law, “An Act to Enhance the Mobility of Disabled Persons b y Requiring Cars, Buildings, Institutions, Establishments and Public Utilities to install Facilities and Other Devices.” In 1984, the Labangon Special Education Center Division of Cebu City and the Northern Luzon Association’s Heinz Wolke School for the Blind at the Marcos Highway in Baguio City were inaugurated. in 1990, the Philippine Institute for the Deaf (PID) an oral school for children with hearing impairment was established.
In 1991, the First National Congress on Street Children was held at La Salle Greenhills in San Juan Metro Manila. In 1992, the Summer Training for Teachers of the Visually Impaired started at the PNU. In 1993, DECS issued Order No.14 that directed regional offices to organize the Regional Special Education Council (RSEC). In 1995, the First National Congress on Mental Retardation at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, the First National Convention in Deaf Education in Cebu City, and the First National Sports Summit for the Disabled and the Elderly were held. In 1996, the third week of January was declared as Autism Consciousness Week.
In 1997, DECS Order No.1 was issued which directed the organization of a Regional Special Education Unit and the Designation of a Regional Special Education Unit and the Designation of a Regional Supervisor for Special Education. DECS Order No. 26 on the Institutionalization of Special Education Programs in All Schools was promulgated. The First Philippine Wheelathon-a-race for Wheelchair Users was the main event of the 19th National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week. In 1998, DECS Order No. 5 “Reclassification of Regular Teacher and Principal Items to Special Education Teacher and Special Schools Principal Item” was issued.
The La Union Special Education Center was opened in the Division of La Union. In 1999, the following events took place: the Philspada National Sports Competition for the Disabled in Cebu City; issuance of the following DECS Orders No. 104 “Exemption of the Physically Handicapped from Taking the National Elementary Achievement Test and the National Secondary Aptitude Test”; No.108 “Strengthening of Special Education Programs for the Gifted in the Public School System”; No.448 “Search for the 1999 Most Outstanding Special Education Teacher for the Gifted”; and the Memorandum No.457 “National Photo Contest on Disability.” The following DECS Orders were issued: No.11 “Recognized Special Education Centers in the Philippines’; No.33 “Implementation of Administrative Order No.101 directing the DPWH, the DECS and the CHED to provide architectural facilities for disabled persons in all state colleges, universities and other public buildings”; Memorandum No.24 “Fourth International Noise Awareness Day”; and No.477 “National Week for the Gifted and the Talented.”