These days, special education doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. Thanks to our education system, children with disabilities have access to the same opportunities as other children. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always like this. Before the acknowledgment of the need for a separate program for children with disabilities, they were denied the basic right to learning.
Before the Law
The movement for special education didn’t start until the 1960s. Before that, there was no concept of education for these people. Whether a child had a physical or mental disability, public education was unavailable.
During this time, special children grew up with little to no knowledge or training for any skill. Therefore, they ended up either being dependent on their family for care, or lived a major chunk of their life in community homes. This inequality forced the parents and other members of society to stand up for their rights. And because of their courage, the whole movement for special education started.
The Movement for Special Education
In 1961, parents of disabled children initiated this movement. They contacted advocates and tried to spread the word as much as they could. Luckily, their voice didn’t go unheard, and the government was soon added to the conversation.
Together with their lawyers, families arranged meetings with politicians to raise awareness of the need for special education. After a long struggle, finally, in 1965, the officials agreed to design law for special education.
Education for All Handicapped Children Act
After ten years of untiring efforts, the government finally came to a consensus with the law for special education. According to this act, all children, regardless of their differences in ability and skill, deserve to gain free public education.
The schools that once only catered to ordinary students, started to include special children in the classrooms as well. This law was called Education for All Handicapped Children Act.
Flaws in Education for All Handicapped Children Act
Even though the Education for All Handicapped Children Act brought a revolutionary change in the field of academics, it still had some flaws. While it did provide the right of education to students with disabilities, it kept them separated from the other students. This created a wall between the two, thus making it harder for them to communicate with and learn about each other. Due to this, the problem of discrimination remained unsolved.
This act secured the basic right to education, but it failed to make a personalized plan for each child. Hence, the students had no choice but to adapt to the preprogrammed curriculum that raised many issues, especially for the students that were slower learners.
Despite its flaws, people still supported this program. Surely, it had its fair share of troubles, but it still proved to be a positive step towards an inclusive education system.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
In 2004, after many amendments to the previous special education law, it was renamed as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This law, unlike the first one, was made with attention to every child’s needs. Instead of forcing children to work under a specified program, a specific plan was structured for individual students, depending on their ability.
The basic concept of IDEA is to make education inclusive for all. For that purpose, this law encourages schools to maintain a classroom with students of all kinds. Even though some special ones are still taught in one to one sessions, it is still far better than what it once used to be.
Before IDEA, special students had to follow a single curriculum. And, there was no specified way to evaluate them. But, with this act, this problem was solved. It introduced evaluation programs that determined whether a child needed a tailored program or not. It also initiated individual plan settings that helped the students learn efficiently.
Another important aspect that IDEA solved was to include family in important decisions. Also, it erased the chances of bias from school and other parties by introducing an external team of evaluation.
Once a student qualifies for a special teaching program, he is evaluated after some time to check his progress and results. IDEA includes monitoring of both students and teachers to make sure that no party is lacking in their duty.
Until now, this law has worked for thousands, if not millions of special students. By working on the principle of IQ and ability, this law ensures that no one is left behind in the race towards a better future.
In a Nutshell
Education is a part of human rights, and no one can deprive another human being of it. Sadly, some of us who are differently-abled do not get enough chances to learn and provide their services for the betterment of society. But now, thanks to the law of special education, everyone is treated equally with no discrimination over disabilities.
It took a long time to come up with something that worked. But thanks to the untiring efforts and constant struggles, we now have a law that secures the right of education for all. And, although it still has some flaws that need to be looked at, we can hope that someday we will establish a foolproof system, in every way.