History of Special Education and Laws of I.D.E.A
Special education refers to the kind of education given to students having cognitive, physical, learning, sensory, communication and emotional abilities that deviates from those of the general population. This training is tailored specifically to cater for the individual needs and differences of the disabled students. Special education involves individually planned and systematic monitoring of arranged teaching methods; adapted materials and resources that are designed to assist students with special needs to achieve higher levels of academic achievement. Students with special needs gain a lot from these supplementary educational services being offered to them.
Parents whose children were marginalized due to their disabilities formed the first group of people to advocate for quality special education. They formed associations which began making an impact in the 1950s. Their continued lobbying received a substancial boost when laws providing for training of teachers to handle students with hearing difficulties and the mentally retarded were passed (Winzer, 2008). Multiple laws passed in the 1960s authorized the funding of special education programs and the students involved in the program.
The entire special education landscape was changed by the many landmark decisions made by the courts in the early 1970s. The government was made responsible for providing all the resources needed in the special education programs as well as offering training opportunity to students who needed special education (Turnbull, 2005). These decisions were a major milestone in special education history since up to now the state and local institutions contribute 91percent of the funds used in special education while federal governments provide the remaining 9 percent. The 1970s decade had a significant importance to students with special abilities. First and foremost, the Rehabilitation Act passed in 1973 guaranteed civil rights to all individuals with disabilities and it stated that all schools should arrange accommodation facilities for disabled students (Winzer, 2008). Secondly, the Education for the Handicapped Children Act (EHA) also known as the Public Law 94-142 passed in 1975 guaranteed education rights for all children with special abilities. The Public Law 94-142 gave mandate to special education services and programs for children aged between three and twenty one. However, the 1986 law amendments (PL 99-457) changed the Public Law to Education for the Handicapped Children Act (EHA) which mandated the provision of special education services and programs by all states right from birth.
The Public Law 94-142 articulation intended to create awareness on the necessity of improving education accessibility for children with disabilities. It was created as a response to the Congressional concern for the millions of disabled children denied the opportunity to receive knowledge and the few disabled children who had limited access to quality education and therefore lacked the opportunity to obtain appropriate education. The lawsuit brought changes in the mode of understanding and educating learners with disabilities, the process of evaluating the success of special education and provision of security rights for children and their families (Winzer, 2008). It also authorized financial incentives directed towards special education to enable localities and states comply with its implementation. Efforts to help realize the national goals of creating access to education for disabled children compelled the state to make vital amendments.
EHA was subjected to many substantial changes and revisions with its reauthorization in 1990 and 1997. Its name changed to Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It spawned the delivery of educational services to students with difficulties who had previously been denied access to quality education. Students with abilities got chance to be in schools where they were assigned specially trained teachers who understood their individual needs. IDEA made a provision that all schools offering special education had additional services such as computer assisted technologies for the visually impaired students and interpreters for those with hearing difficulties (Turnbull, 2005). Its main emphasis was the use of Individualized Education Plans (IEP) for students undertaking special education. IEP consisted of all the transition procedures used in identifying employment opportunities as well as after school adult living objectives. They aimed at providing the student with links to available community resources and placing them in jobs. The IEP clearly identified those responsible for carrying out the transition activities.
IDEA supported many Severely Handicapped Institutes during the early 1980s. It played a major role in helping the institutes come up with effective ways that could be used to help the disabled students integrate with their non-disabled friends, classmates and family members. This initiative gave children with disabilities a chance to attend their neighborhood schools where they learnt life skills needed for full and active participation in the society (Turnbull, 2005). IDEA has also laid down vital principles that have helped in guiding families and professionals on how to work together in enhancing educational opportunities for the children with special abilities. It has emphasized on the importance of the parents participation in their children’s learning process. This is evident with the inclusion of parents in developing their children’s Individualized Educational Program (IEP). The IDEA coined in 1997 mandated all schools to report to the parents the educational progress of their children the same way they sent frequent reports of non-disabled children to their parents. This was meant to maintain respectful partnerships between families and schools.
For a long time, IDEA has supported the federal government in the provision of qualified teachers to handle students with disabilities. They have assisted in the training of many professionals specializing in special and early childhood education. These professionals comprises psychologists, therapists, program administrators, classroom teachers and the early intervention staffs who work to help children with special abilities acquire education and better their lives (Turnbull, 2005). In supporting the states and the localities to meet the challenges and pitfalls that they face in implementing the special education programs, they offered finances and all the resources that the various schools lacked.
IDEA played a critical role in preparing students with difficulties to have successful lives when they become adults. This is made possible by the Individualized Transition Plans (ITP). The ITPs provides guidelines on how the students are supposed to adapt to their environments basing on the nature of their disabilities (Winzer, 2008). The survival skills they learn from special schools enable them to try lead normal lives with their friends, families and workmates.
The laws on Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) contributed to the most effective and best-researched strategies and pedagogies for special education teaching. This is because disabled students were not only guaranteed quality education, they were also provided with special attention that met their individual needs.
Winzer, M. A. (2008). History of Special Education from Isolation to Integration.
Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
Turnbull, Ron (2005). Exceptional Lives: Special Education in Today’s Schools: Merrill
Prentice Hall. New Jersey.