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Special Education 101

by Hannah Forsythe

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Special Education 101
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By Hannah Forsythe
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Chapter 1
The History of Special Education
The school system in America has gone through a lot of changes to get the place we are at today. Now, every child is recognized as being their own person that has their own way of learning and that needs different things. Before this, students who would now be part of special education programs were not be treated well. In the 1800s, students with special needs were seen as a burden. Students with disabilities were taken out of the classroom and put in different classrooms because people thought it would be easier for everyone. The teacher would not have to worry about spending extra time helping the student and the student would have an easier time with easier class lessons. Students with disabilities were given no chance to show that they were capable of participating socially and academically to learn like their classmates. Around the mid-1900s, there was a change in how people were viewing the education of students with special needs. People now saw the importance of making sure students with disabilities were getting some type of valuable education. This is when the door opened for larger changes to be made in special education. 
A court case focused on making sure students were seen as equals was the main reason things started to change for students with disabilities. After this court case, Brown v. Board of Education, things like grants and education laws started being put into place. This case was originally started to end segregation based on race in the classroom. It then became used to stop segregation against students with disabilities. After this case, there was a loose and broad law structure that did not do much for students with disabilities. As time went on, the specifics were decided and the education system became a more inclusive and fair environment. IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, was one of the first major federal laws created to ensure all students’ right to an education would be equally protected under the law. All students between the ages of 3-21 were entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Sometime after the IDEA mandate was created, it was reformed to include that students with disabilities were not only entitled to a non-discriminatory education, but that the education they received needed to be of good quality. IEP’s, Individual Education Plans, were one of the more extensive services that came from this reform to IDEA along with many other services. Basically, there was a focus on making sure students received all the necessary accommodations and services they needed to be a successful student.
  Another very important thing that came out of this shift in the American special education system was awareness of the rights of students with disabilities that came from these new mandates and discussions that started. People were now beginning to realize that these children are capable of more than they were being allowed to show. The viewpoint switched from trying to give students with disabilities the easiest education for them and their teacher, to allow them to show how much potential they possess. We are now aware that every student should have the right to an education that is tailored to exactly what they need. There are lots of systems and people in place to make sure every student gets what they are entitled to under the law. 
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Example
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Johnny is struggling with his schoolwork. His family and teachers are noticing that he is falling behind, becoming upset with himself, and school. Johnny’s teacher is now required to make sure that they are watching this and beginning the processes to help identify exactly what Johnny needs. Because of all the mandates like IDEA and FAPE, Johnny should have a team of people ready to help him and give him access to the accommodations the school system provides or possibly an IEP. If he does not have this at his school, the school he is at is required to find a program that will provide him with everything needs. Johnny will be taken care of and placed in the environment that will serve him best. 
Ch. 1 Reflection Questions
What changed from the 1800s to the 1900s in society’s view of students with disabilities?

What did IDEA mean for students with disabilities? What do you think it might mean for students who might not have been identified as having disabilities?

Why did people begin to start changing their perspectives of students with disabilities? How do you think this looked while mandates like IDEA were being put into place? 
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