History of Special Education
The recent history of special education began in 1975 when Congress passed the Education for all Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA). The law was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education act (IDEA) in 1990. These laws made it mandatory for schools to meet the special needs of all students. Special education was around prior to 1975, but in most cases in a very different manner than it is today.
Special education in its earliest form usually happened in the parent’s home, in a one on one situation. The reason for this was people with disabilities usually did not venture far from their homes. In the early part of our country most schools were one or two room school houses with usually only one teacher. This teacher was not trained and did not have the time to meet the needs of an individual with a disability. Because of this, parents kept the disabled child at home, either with no teaching or with a private tutor. The best example of this would be Anne Sullivan with Helen Keller.
From keeping the disabled at home, the next step was institutions, although I am not sure you can classify this as special education since very little education was actually being done. The primary purpose of these institutions was to protect these individuals from society, and society from these individuals, very rarely did an individual ever leave an institution once they were placed in one. Everyone can remember watching horror films that centered around an insane asylum, these were the types of institutions that these were. Even the name insane asylum suggests that the patients were beyond intervention, although this was not always the case.
Eventually instead of putting individuals into institutions they were placed in psychiatric hospitals for the mentally handicapped, or specific places for the blind and deaf. These conditions were usually better than the institutions, and the individuals were actually worked with. This was the real start to patients being diagnosed with specific disabilities and to information being shared about symptoms and treatments.
For the immediate years prior to 1975, the students with milder disabilities were being taught right in the schools, or in schools specific to their needs. These students usually were not part of the regular classrooms, but had their own little class apart from the student population. The passage of EAHCA and IDEA changed the shaped of special education forever and are the laws which govern special education today. Why did congress enact these laws? Congress enacted these laws due to these findings:
‘‘(2) Before the date of enactment of the Education for
All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (Public Law 94–142),
the educational needs of millions of children with disabilities
were not being fully met because—
‘‘(A) the children did not receive appropriate educational
‘‘(B) the children were excluded entirely from the public
school system and from being...