.. f All Handicapped Students Act (EHA). This act authorized state grants to help give all handicapped children a free and appropriate education, and also tried to combat the misclassification and exclusion of school age children between the ages of six and eighteen. As EHA was being executed, and schools became more and more accessible and appropriate for those students with disabilities, Congress was willing to include more children under EHA’s protection. In 1983 and 1986, Congress amended the law to provide early childhood special education for children ages three to five. It was also believed that children with disabilities could also use assistance in the transition from childhood to adulthood.
Congress amended the law again to ensure that students age sixteen and older would have an education, specifically geared towards helping them to become independent, productive, and included in the mainstream of American life. (Turnbull et al, p20) The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Programs administers the programs mandated by EHA. Each state education agency must develop their own regulations and guidelines that conform to the federal regulations before the state can receive federal funding for the programs. EHA established how federal money is to be given and spent in the program. When the EHA was first implemented in the 1977-78 school year and until around the mid-1980’s, the term that describes the education of students with disabilities alongside those who did not have disabilities is mainstreaming.
Mainstreaming was defined as “the educational arrangement of placing handicapped students in regular classes with their non-handicapped peers to the maximum extent appropriate.” (Turnbull & Schulz, p52) Mainstreaming was generally applied within the non-academic areas of curriculum, such as art, music, and physical education. Most of these students were still enrolled in self-contained special education classes – they ‘visited’ general education classes for a small part of the day. For many educators and parents, the concept of mainstreaming provided too little and came much too late to help the students. Their impatience led to another movement: the Regular Education Initiative. In 1986, the Regular Education Initiative (REI) debate began.
Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services for the U.S. Department of Education, Madeleine Will, spoke out against special education services. She stated that the services excluded many students who needed special education services (exclusion, once again), or withheld special programs until the student fails; rather than supplying the special education prior to failure. (Will, p411-415) Will also claimed that school was isolating students placed in special education from their peers and general school activities. (Will, p411-415) Madeleine Will approached the REI with her mentally disabled son, Jon, in mind.
She had a vision that adult independence and a network of friends could, and in fact, should be the outcome of special education. Her tireless efforts caused many significant changes in the entire approach to special education. New concepts of inclusion and collaboration evolved from the REI. (Turnbull et al, p85) The Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 was amended by Congress in 1990, and renamed Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The new IDEA required schools to integrate special needs students into regular classrooms.
Under IDEA, special needs students are entitled to free special services, such as laptop computers, tape recorders, and tailored homework assignments. They can also be given extra time on standardized tests, or be given the tests orally, if the need so demands. Schools found to be non-compliant with the legislation were mandated to justify why they were not in compliance. ( i.e. why a special needs student is not participating with regular students in academic, non-academic, and extracurricular activities.) (IDEA, 1999) IDEA is such an extensive law that it is divided into several parts, the main parts being parts A, B, and C. Part A tells on what grounds Congress justifies IDEA; it also describes the purposes and policies that Congress intends to implement by enacting IDEA.
Part B declares the rights of students between the ages of three and twenty-one. Part C benefits infants and toddlers. (Turnbull et al., p20) IDEA defines special education as specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of a student with a disability. There is a two part standard for eligibility for special education. First, there must be a categorical element, (the student must have a disability) and second, there must be a functional element (the disability must cause the student to need specially designed instruction) (Turnbull et al., p20). Under IDEA, the specially designed instruction is free, provided in a variety of settings and includes related services.
While keeping in mind that Part B of IDEA concerns student’s ages three to twenty-one, these students must have a disability that affects their ability to learn as stated above. The following elements are justifiable in IDEA’s perception of a need for special services: specific learning disability, emotional disturbance, mental retardation, autism, physical disabilities, traumatic brain injury, speech or language impairments, hearing impairments (including deafness), and visual impairments (including blindness) (IDEA) early childhood special education, while in the same category, may include children who are experiencing delays in physical, cognitive, communication, social and/or emotional developments. Those developmental delays could require special education and its services (IDEA) Part C of IDEA concerns infants and toddlers, as already mentioned. These children either need early intervention services, (most likely due to developmental delays) or have already been diagnosed with a physical or mental disability that has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay. Early intervention services must be provided by qualified personnel and in the same environment (if possible) that the child would be in, had they not had the disability. (IDEA) It is not enough for IDEA to simply identify the students who are entitled to benefit from the legislation.
It is also necessary for IDEA to specify exactly what benefits (or rights) are given to the students. IDEA does that very plainly, setting up six principles to govern the education of students with disabilities. The principles are as follows (IDEA): 1. Zero Rejection 2. Non-discrimatory evaluation 3. Appropriate evaluation 4.
Least Restrictive Environment 5. Procedural due process 6. Parental and student participation The first four principles describe what the schools contribute to the student. Zero rejection is a rule against excluding any student. Non-discrimatory evaluation requires schools to fairly evaluate students to see if they have a disability, and if so, what kind and how extensive.
Appropriate education requires schools to provide IEP’s (Individualized Education Program) for children ages three through twenty-one, and IFSP’s (Individualized Family Services Plan) for infants and toddlers. They are also required to augment the programs with related services and supplementary aids and materials. Once a school has enrolled the student, fairly evaluated them, and provided an appropriate education plan, there is one more thing IDEA calls for. That is education with the students who don’t have special needs in the least restrictive environment (LRE). That concept is also known as mainstreaming, integration, and inclusion (Turnbull et al., p23-29). The last two principles are more like checks and balances, which ensures the results of special education are what they should be.
Procedural due process is a safeguard for students to ensure their full IDEA rights. This principle also gives them the option to sue in a court of law if their rights are violated. The principle of parental and student participation is a rule requiring schools to collaborate with parents and adolescent students in designing and carrying out special education programs. As evident, special education has vastly improved over the course of the last hundred years. The quality of education given to those with special needs is finally starting to equal that of the non-disabled child. One can only wonder why it took so long if America is indeed, the land of the free, with liberty and justice for all. History.