Special education may be defined as a government-supported system that gives all students with disabilities the opportunity to meet their specific and unique learning needs and fulfill their true potential through specialized guidelines. Due to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), in the United States, special education is the part of the public education system and offered free of charge. Nevertheless, the history of the special education law began only in 1975 as “educational philosophy toward students with disabilities in schools occurred in several phases” (Rothstein and Johnson 9). In the 1800s, students with disabilities studied in separate classes to relieve stress on other students and teachers. However, in the middle of the 1900s, the recognition of the person’s dignity and self-worth encouraged the teachers’ self-reliance, and the influence of segregation was realized as negative.
Unfortunately, in the 1970s, the guidelines for special education were not properly elaborated, and it could be defined as a series of common practices. The identification of students who needed special education was frequently inappropriate. Due to racial prejudice and stereotypes, the representatives of Hispanic, African-American, and other minor ethnic groups were constantly placed in special education programs without a reasonable basis. Meanwhile, almost three million children with disabilities had no opportunity to receive appropriate education in public schools (Rothstein and Johnson 10). During congressional hearings in 1973-1974, testimony and statements revealed numerous problems concerning the status of special education in different states across the country (Rothstein and Johnson 12). In 1975, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) that was changed to IDEA in 1990 (Rothstein and Johnson 19). IDEA is currently characterized by well-defined regulations concerning the accessibility of education for all children with disabilities.
The fundamental principles of IDEA were designed to ensure that every student with disabilities has access to free public education, and their special needs and requirements will be met. The program of special education and related services should prepare any individual with disabilities to “further education, employment, and independent living” (Rothstein and Johnson 38). Moreover, IDEA guarantees that the rights of students with disabilities and their parents are protected with the assistance of federal agencies, educational service agencies, localities, and the government. In addition, an individual with disabilities is ultimately defined in a proper way as “any person who has physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities” (Rothstein and Johnson 32). IDEA includes eight core principles of special education that should determinate its success.
One of the principles of IDEA is defined as the principle of the least restrictive environment (LRE). According to modern terminology, it may be referred to the concept of inclusion (Rothstein and Johnson 40). In other words, students with disabilities should cooperate and receive public education with students without disabilities “to the maximum extent appropriate” (Rothstein and Johnson 40). There are numerous programs for the effective inclusion of students with autism, dyslexia, learning, and language disabilities into the educational process.
From a personal perspective, the special education program is an integral part of the education system of the United States. It goes without saying that all children with disabilities should have a right to study and communicate with their peers without disabilities for their appropriate development. However, the success of inclusion in modern schools substantially depends on the type and stage of the student’s disability. While students with non-severe disabilities that slightly limit life activities integrate without difficulties, students with a substantial impairment will inevitably require closer attention and an individual program. Otherwise, the progress of all other children will be decelerated.
Rothstein, Laura, and Scott F. Johnson. Special Education Law. 4th ed., Sage, 2010.