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The Field of Special Education

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 1081 words Published: 3rd Nov 2020

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What is the need for special education?

In the 2015-2016 school year, there were 6.7 million children with disabilities in school in the United States(U.S.), accounting for 13.2 percent of all students attending schools(Heasley, 2018). Increases in special education numbers are not necessarily adverse effects, but rather systems put in place to identify and support students with disabilities. There are laws put in place that identify what special education and procedures to follow that confirms a moral quality education for everyone.

Historical Background

In 1965, the Elementry and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was established and addressed funding and services to states for students with disabilities(Friend, 2018).  Based on the civil right of every person, the  ESA approved allowances to serve low-income districts, textbooks special education centers, and scholarships for less fortunate college students. The most rewarding section of the ESEA was improving the quality of the schools. ESEA positioned the framework for the Education of the Handicapped Act (EHCA).

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In 1975, ESEA was amended and was changed to the  EHCA. EHCA  is known as the basis for following special education measures(Friend, 2018). The new law focused on court cases, identifying children that need assistance, and implementing rules and regulations for schools to follow. Some of the principles of  EHCA are still intact and are essential to the current-day special education law in today's society, known as the Individuals with Disabilities Act(IDEA). In  1990 the ECHA was amended to the IDEA, this law aims to make sure that children with disabilities have access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE)  that will prepare them for continuing education, future employment as well as the means and skills to live independently.  The purpose of IDEA is to direct states and agencies in delivering the early intervention, special education, and associated services to qualified infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities(U.S. Department of Education, n.d.). Research had reported that before this law that over 4 million children with disabilities were deprived of suitable access to FAPE  (American Psychological Association [APA], 2020, para. 1).  The most recent amendment took place in 1997 and  2004, where additional amendments were approved equal access to FAPE. The requirement is that schools must have supports and resources accessible that accommodate all children, regardless of disability status.  The name "special education " is somewhat a new idea; however, students with disabilities; existed in every period of humanity. 


Although there are several contributors to the field of special education, one of the earliest known documented contributors is Dr. Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard, who in the 1800s successfully educated a child with behavioral issues. Another prominent incidence of special education is when Anne Sullivan Macy educated  Helen Keller reading and communication skills. As the world progress in the 19th century, so did the values of assistance and support for special needs, such as mental hospitals, reform schools, and institutions' for mental retardation (Special Education News, 2020). Finally, John F. Kennedy, during the civil rights movements of the 1960s, granted access to children with disabilities creating the Handicapped Children Ac(Special Education News, 2020).

Laws and Rights of IDEA

As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, the IDEA recognizes and supports special education and services for children and youth with disabilities(University of Washington [UW], 2020). The basis is constructed on ensuring FAPE in the least restrictive environment(LRE) as possible. Secondly, it ensures the identified special needs children receive services related to their individual needs as well as preparedness for independent living and employment. Thirdly, it ensures the rights of the parent and special needs are protected by law. These procedural safeguards give parents the status that is needed for input in their child's Individualized Education Program(IEP), including" stay put" requirements.  Fourth, ensuring services have quality and quantity in supporting individuals with disabilities. Finally, provide funding/assistance to support individuals with disabilities to the state,  federal, and educational agencies.

Additionally, IDEA has a" child find" system that schools are required to evaluate students suspected of disability and provide them with special education and service supports. IDEA includes children age 3 through high school up to age 21 as well as early intervention programs up to age 3.


In conclusion,  special education children have to right to be in either a mainstream or inclusive classrooms depending on the level of disability and IEPs set in place, not just for the sake of IDEA law, but rather to encourage and challenge students with disabilities, increase, social skills and encourage diversity encountered in society. The best classroom environment is the best setting that supports children to achieve their goals. Teachers, parents, and school systems need to collaborate on accurately evaluate the learning environments that actively reflect children's needs. IEPs should be reassessed occasionally to confirm that the children's needs have improved or not.


  • American Psychological Association. (2020). Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Retrieved from Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Friend, M. (2018). Special Education (5 ed.). New York: Pearson.
  • Heasley, S. (2018). Special Education Enrollment Trends Upward. Retrieved from https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2018/06/05/special-ed-enrollment-upward/25150/
  • Special Education News. (2020). Special Education News. Retrieved from http://www.specialednews.com/
  • University of Washington. (2020). What is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act? Retrieved from https://www.washington.edu/doit/what-individuals-disabilities-education-act
  • U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.). About IDEA. Retrieved from https://sites.ed.gov/idea/about-idea/


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