History of Special Education

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 20 October 2016

History of Special Education

The history of Special Education just as any history; is a long battle that has been fought by many who cared in order to bring us to where we are today. Its Journey has and will be never ending; since society is forever evolving. We will be fighting for equal rights in education and in life for many years to come since the definition of Special Education is not a precise one. In this paper you will learn the basics of what injustices we have risen above, to the current state we are in, and even what possibilities the future may hold for the Special Education Teacher and the system you will come to either love or despise.

Written documentation of the treatment and education of people with Special needs dates back to the beginning of time; although most were killed before the 17th century and looked at as an abomination. It was not until the 17th Century that these children and adults were alive in institutions where people like Phillipe Pinel, “one of the founding fathers of modern psychiatry and distinguished teacher of internal medicine, began treatment of persons with mental illness using kindness, respect, and the expectation of appropriate behavior” (Curtis, 1993 as cited in GCU, (n.d. ), para. 10).

Pinel set the stage for more courageous individuals to rise above the norm of society and treat people with Special needs as human beings; deserving of kindness and respects as others have been treated for years. Many more doctors, psychologists, and later teachers stood up to take the role as advocate for a person or group of people who were considered Special needs. It was not until the 1800’s when we as a society took notice to this lifetime of injustice that these people with Special needs had endured.

In the 1820’s a teacher and later doctor; Samuel Gridley Howe taught a woman named Laura Bridgman, who was both deaf and blind, the alphabet in a Massachusetts school (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2012). It was not until these remarkable acts that people started to believe that those with special needs were not worthless and were capable of being taught the life skills society requires of us. Society took notice but by no means were individuals with Special needs considered equal and deserving of the same education as those of the Caucasian race in the United States at this time.

Those with Special needs were still segregated in institutions and schools for people with the same needs; just as people were segregated by the color of their skin. It was not until 1954, and the help of the Supreme Court case Brown v. the Board of Education, Topeka, KS. That it became the responsibility of the United States Government and their Public Education System to teach every child even those with Special needs.

This case made it so that NO CHILD could be discriminated against in the education system because of differences. In 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was enacted to mandate the educational system and provide guidelines for the type of education students should receive; but loop holes were found and people were left out. It was in 1972, that ALL children in the United States were mandated to have a free, appropriate education; and yes it was because of more court cases!

This new law’s services were still legally provided in separate classrooms, but at least those classrooms were now mandated to follow the same educational goals as the General Education classrooms were providing their students; just at the level deemed appropriate by the teacher (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2012). After that in 1973, the government passed the Rehabilitation Act, which was the first Civil Rights Educational reform which declared Segregation as an injustice in any case of race, creed, or difference besides age; and therefore illegal.

Section 504 of this act requires the documentation and a description of any and all services needed for each student to receive an appropriate education (GCU, 2008). In 1975, Congress enacted the first piece of Legislation that fully described and labeled what was the United States Special Education System and what it consisted of. It was called the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (GCU, 2008). The Final piece of Legislation was the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

This act is the second piece of Civil Rights legislation in the history of the United States; it mandates that any physically or mentally handicapped person receive equal opportunity in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2012). The Education for All Handicapped Children Act legislation, although it has undergone many amendments’ is still used today.

The newest amendment of the act is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); the name was changed in 1990 and has under gone two re-authorizations since. This Law is there to balance other educational laws such as NCLB 2001 (the amendment to the ESEA for all students in the United States) and the two Civil Right Acts in order to ensure that any student with a disability receives a free and appropriate education. Since NCLB and IDEA provide federal funding to the state and public schools they are extremely detailed and regulated to insure that they are followed.

These details’ include, but are not limited to; all disabled students must receive a free and appropriate education as any non disabled student in the in the least restive environment (LRE), nondiscriminatory identification (disability labeling), individualized education program (IEP), zero reject, due process safeguards, and parent and student rights rules and regulations (GCU, (n. d. ), para. 14). There are MANY things I would like to purpose as changes for the upcoming re-authorization of IDEA, but these are the most important ones!

The first Thing I would do is have a specific set of criteria that would determine and define Special Education because there is not one definition of what our government considers Special Education. It needs to not be a blanket that can be interpreted in so many ways; this is why we have so many legal cases. Second if the government would like “Highly Qualified Teachers” then why is it that General Education teachers only have to take 2 classes about the Special Education System yet every classroom in the U. S. is guaranteed to have at least one student with an IEP!

Heward cited that “more than 6 million children and youth with disabilities, ages 3-21, received Special Education Services during the 2005-2006 school year” and that number has only continued to increase in grades 1st -7th due to early detection (U. S. Department of Education, as cited in Heward, 2009, p. 10-11). Last, we consider Children with Behavior problems to be Special Education students, but they have to go through a huge system before we can get them help. Referral, FBA, BIP, BSP, IEP, and then they may be considered a Special Education Student.

The law has it mandated that only a Behavior Specialist can do the evaluations; but by law they only require 1 Behavioral Specialist PER DISTRICT (Wheeler, J. , Richey, D. , 2010). It is up to the district to afford or higher more at their discursion. The problem is that running these evaluations and filling out this paper work are not the only responsibilities in their job descriptions. So half (if not more in some districts) of the cases referred are not being diagnosed each year because there are not enough people on the job and hours in a school day (Wheeler, J. , Richey, D. , 2010).

The only way any teacher can truly help all of the students they teach; is by knowing the histories and laws of the Education System and the Special Education Services that are available to help them. These services and instructional methods are useful to any student who does not understand a topic at hand; not just the ones labeled Special Education. We need to not wait for a diagnosis to help our students; but start interventions immediately at the first sign of struggle. If the intervention does not help then refer the student for a Special Education Evaluation; but never wait for a child to completely fail in order to seek help.

In this paper you learned the basics of what injustices we have raised above throughout history, the current state which we are in, and what possibilities the future may hold for the Special Education Teacher and the system you have come to either love or despise. The future is in your hands; so go out and change the world one student at a time. References Curtis, R. H. (1993). Great lives: medicine. New York: Maxwell Macmillan International. Encyclopedia Britannica. (2012). Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved on April 2, 2012, from www. britannica. com Grand Canyon University.

(2008). Resource 2: Special Education Supplment. Retrieved on March 30, 2012, from Angel’s Canyon Connect, Additional Readings at www. my. gcu. edu Grand Canyon University. (n. d. ). SPE 526 Module 1 Readings. Retrieved on March 30, 2012, from Angel’s Canyon Connect, Module 1 Readings at www. my. gcu. edu Heward, William L. (2009). Exceptional Children: An Introduction to Special Education (9th ed. ). Columbus, OH: Published by Merrill. Wheeler, J. , Richey, D. (2010). Behavior Management: Principles and Practices of Positive Behavior Supports (2nd ed. ). Columbus, OH: Merrill.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 20 October 2016

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