A Brief History of Special Education

Perhaps the largest and most pervasive issue in special education, as well as my own journey in education, is special education’s relationship to general education. History has shown that this has never been an easy clear cut relationship between the two. There has been a lot of giving and taking or maybe I should say pulling and pushing when it comes to educational policy, and the educational practices and services of education and special education by the human educators who deliver those services on both sides of the isle, like me.

Over the last 20+ years I have been on both sides of education. I have seen and felt what it was like to be a regular main stream educator dealing with special education policy, special education students and their specialized teachers. I have also been on the special education side trying to get regular education teachers to work more effectively with my special education students through modifying their instruction and materials and having a little more patience and empathy.

Furthermore, I have been a mainstream regular education teacher who taught regular education inclusion classes trying to figure out how to best work with some new special education teacher in my class and his or her special education students as well. And, in contrast, I have been a special education inclusion teacher intruding on the territory of some regular education teachers with my special education students and the modifications I thought these teachers should implement. I can tell you first-hand that none of this give and take between special education and regular education has been easy. Nor do I see this pushing and pulling becoming easy anytime soon.

So, what is special education? And what makes it so special and yet so complex and controversial sometimes? Well, special education, as its name suggests, is a specialized branch of education. It claims its lineage to such people as Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard (1775-1838), the physician who “tamed” the “wild boy of Aveyron,” and Anne Sullivan Macy (1866-1936), the teacher who “worked miracles” with Helen Keller.

Special educators teach students who have physical, cognitive, language, learning, sensory, and/or emotional abilities that deviate from those of the general population. Special educators provide instruction specifically tailored to meet individualized needs. These teachers basically make education more available and accessible to students who otherwise would have limited access to education due to whatever disability they are struggling with.

It’s not just the teachers though who play a role in the history of special education in this country. Physicians and clergy, including Itard- mentioned above, Edouard O. Seguin (1812-1880), Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876), and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851), wanted to ameliorate the neglectful, often abusive treatment of individuals with disabilities. Sadly, education in this country was, more often than not, very neglectful and abusive when dealing with students that are different somehow.

There is even a rich literature in our nation that describes the treatment provided to individuals with disabilities in the 1800s and early 1900s. Sadly, in these stories, as well as in the real world, the segment of our population with disabilities were often confined in jails and almshouses without decent food, clothing, personal hygiene, and exercise.

For an example of this different treatment in our literature one needs to look no further than Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843). In addition, many times people with disabilities were often portrayed as villains, such as in the book Captain Hook in J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” in 1911.

The prevailing view of the authors of this time period was that one should submit to misfortunes, both as a form of obedience to God’s will, and because these seeming misfortunes are ultimately intended for one’s own good. Progress for our people with disabilities was hard to come by at this time with this way of thinking permeating our society, literature and thinking.

So, what was society to do about these people of misfortune? Well, during much of the nineteenth century, and early in the twentieth, professionals believed individuals with disabilities were best treated in residential facilities in rural environments. An out of sight out of mind kind of thing, if you will…

However, by the end of the nineteenth century the size of these institutions had increased so dramatically that the goal of rehabilitation for people with disabilities just wasn’t working. Institutions became instruments for permanent segregation.

I have some experience with these segregation policies of education. Some of it is good and some of it is not so good. You see, I have been a self-contained teacher on and off throughout the years in multiple environments in self-contained classrooms in public high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. I have also taught in multiple special education behavioral self-contained schools that totally separated these troubled students with disabilities in managing their behavior from their mainstream peers by putting them in completely different buildings that were sometimes even in different towns from their homes, friends and peers.

Over the years many special education professionals became critics of these institutions mentioned above that separated and segregated our children with disabilities from their peers. Irvine Howe was one of the first to advocate taking our youth out of these huge institutions and to place out residents into families. Unfortunately this practice became a logistical and pragmatic problem and it took a long time before it could become a viable alternative to institutionalization for our students with disabilities.

Now on the positive side, you might be interested in knowing however that in 1817 the first special education school in the United States, the American Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (now called the American School for the Deaf), was established in Hartford, Connecticut, by Gallaudet. That school is still there today and is one of the top schools in the country for students with auditory disabilities. A true success story!

However, as you can already imagine, the lasting success of the American School for the Deaf was the exception and not the rule during this time period. And to add to this, in the late nineteenth century, social Darwinism replaced environmentalism as the primary causal explanation for those individuals with disabilities who deviated from those of the general population.

Sadly, Darwinism opened the door to the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century. This then led to even further segregation and even sterilization of individuals with disabilities such as mental retardation. Sounds like something Hitler was doing in Germany also being done right here in our own country, to our own people, by our own people. Kind of scary and inhumane, wouldn’t you agree?

Today, this kind of treatment is obviously unacceptable. And in the early part of the 20th Century it was also unacceptable to some of the adults, especially the parents of these disabled children. Thus, concerned and angry parents formed advocacy groups to help bring the educational needs of children with disabilities into the public eye. The public had to see firsthand how wrong this this eugenics and sterilization movement was for our students that were different if it was ever going to be stopped.

Slowly, grassroots organizations made progress that even led to some states creating laws to protect their citizens with disabilities. For example, in 1930, in Peoria, Illinois, the first white cane ordinance gave individuals with blindness the right-of-way when crossing the street. This was a start, and other states did eventually follow suit. In time, this local grassroots’ movement and states’ movement led to enough pressure on our elected officials for something to be done on the national level for our people with disabilities.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy created the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. And in 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provided funding for primary education, and is seen by advocacy groups as expanding access to public education for children with disabilities.

When one thinks about Kennedy’s and Johnson’s record on civil rights, then it probably isn’t such a surprise finding out that these two presidents also spearheaded this national movement for our people with disabilities.

This federal movement led to section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. This guarantees civil rights for the disabled in the context of federally funded institutions or any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. All these years later as an educator, I personally deal with 504 cases every single day.

In 1975 Congress enacted Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), which establishes a right to public education for all children regardless of disability. This was another good thing because prior to federal legislation, parents had to mostly educate their children at home or pay for expensive private education.

The movement kept growing. In the 1982 the case of the Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified the level of services to be afforded students with special needs. The Court ruled that special education services need only provide some “educational benefit” to students. Public schools were not required to maximize the educational progress of students with disabilities.

Today, this ruling may not seem like a victory, and as a matter of fact, this same question is once again circulating through our courts today in 2017. However, given the time period it was made in, it was a victory because it said special education students could not pass through our school system without learning anything. They had to learn something. If one knows and understands how the laws work in this country, then one knows the laws always progress through tiny little increments that add up to progress over time. This ruling was a victory for special education students because it added one more rung onto the crusade.

In the 1980s the Regular Education Initiative (REI) came into being. This was an attempt to return responsibility for the education of students with disabilities to neighborhood schools and regular classroom teachers. I am very familiar with Regular Education Initiative because I spent four years as an REI teacher in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At this time I was certified as both a special education teacher and a regular education teacher and was working in both capacities in a duel role as an REI teacher; because that’s what was required of the position.

The 1990s saw a big boost for our special education students. 1990 birthed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This was, and is, the cornerstone of the concept of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for all of our students. To ensure FAPE, the law mandated that each student receiving special education services must also receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 reached beyond just the public schools. And Title 3 of IDEA prohibited disability-based discrimination in any place of public accommodation. Full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations in public places were expected. And of course public accommodations also included most places of education.

Also, in the 1990s the full inclusion movement gained a lot of momentum. This called for educating all students with disabilities in the regular classroom. I am also very familiar with this aspect of education as well, as I have also been an inclusion teacher from time to time over my career as an educator on both sides of the isle as a regular education teacher and a special education teacher.

Now on to President Bush and his educational reform with his No Child Left Behind law that replaced President Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The NCLB Act of 2001 stated that special education should continue to focus on producing results and along with this came a sharp increase in accountability for educators.

Now, this NCLB Act was good and bad. Of course we all want to see results for all of our students, and it’s just common sense that accountability helps this sort of thing happen. Where this kind of went crazy was that the NCLB demanded a host of new things, but did not provide the funds or support to achieve these new objectives.

Furthermore, teachers began feeling squeezed and threatened more and more by the new movement of big business and corporate education moving in and taking over education. People with no educational background now found themselves influencing education policy and gaining access to a lot of the educational funds.

This accountability craze stemmed by excessive standardized testing ran rapid and of course ran downstream from a host of well-connected elite Trump-like figures saying to their lower echelon educational counterparts, “You’re fired!” This environment of trying to stay off of the radar in order to keep one’s job, and beating our kids over the head with testing strategies, wasn’t good for our educators. It wasn’t good for our students. And it certainly wasn’t good for our more vulnerable special education students.

Some good did come from this era though. For example, the updated Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) happened. This further required schools to provide individualized or special education for children with qualifying disabilities. Under the IDEA, states who accept public funds for education must provide special education to qualifying children with disabilities. Like I said earlier, the law is a long slow process of tiny little steps adding up to progress made over time.

Finally, in 2015 President Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced President Bush’s NCLB, which had replaced President Johnson’s ESEA. Under Obama’s new ESSA schools were now allowed to back off on some of the testing. Hopefully, the standardized testing craze has been put in check. However, only time will tell. ESSA also returned to more local control. You know, the kind of control our forefathers intended.

You see the U.S. Constitution grants no authority over education to the federal government. Education is not mentioned in the Constitution of the United States, and for good reason. The Founders wanted most aspects of life managed by those who were closest to them, either by state or local government or by families, businesses, and other elements of civil society. Basically, they saw no role for the federal government in education.

You see, the Founders feared the concentration of power. They believed that the best way to protect individual freedom and civil society was to limit and divide power. However, this works both ways, because the states often find themselves asking the feds for more educational money. And the feds will only give the states additional money if the states do what the feds want… Hmm… Checks and balances, as well as compromise can be a really tricky thing, huh?

So on goes the battle in education and all the back and forth pushing and pulling between the federal government and the states and local government, as well as special education and regular education. And to add to this struggle, recently Judge Moukawsher, a state judge from Connecticut, in a lawsuit filed against the state by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, rocked the educational boat some more when in his ruling he included a message to lawmakers to reassess what level of services students with significant disabilities are entitled to.

His ruling and statements appear to say that he thinks we’re spending too much money on our special education students. And that for some of them, it just isn’t worth it because their disabilities are too severe. You can imagine how controversial this was and how much it angered some people.

The 2016 United States Presidential election resulted in something that few people saw coming. Real Estate mogul and reality star Donald Trump won the presidency and then appointed anti-public educator Betsy Devos to head up this country’s Department of Education. Her charge, given to her by Trump, is to drastically slash the Department of Education, and to push forward private charter schools over what they call a failing public educational system.

How this is going to affect our students, and especially our more vulnerable special education students, nobody knows for sure at this time. But, I can also tell you that there aren’t many people out there that feel comfortable with it right now. Only time will tell where this is all going to go and how it will affect our special education students…

So, as I said earlier, perhaps the largest, most pervasive issue in special education is its relationship to general education. Both my own travels and our nation’s journey through the vast realm of education over all of these years has been an interesting one and a tricky one plagued with controversy to say the least.

I can still remember when I first became a special education teacher back in the mid-1990s. A friend’s father, who was a school principal at the time, told me to get out of special education because it wasn’t going to last. Well, I’ve been in and out of special education for more than two decades now, and sometimes I don’t know if I’m a regular education teacher or a special education teacher, or both. And sometimes I think our country’s educational system might be feeling the same internal struggle that I am. But, regardless, all these years later, special education is still here.

In closing, although Itard failed to normalize Victor, the wild boy of Averyon, he did produce dramatic changes in Victor’s behavior through education. Today, modern special education practices can be traced to Itard. His work marks the beginning of widespread attempts to instruct students with disabilities. Fast forwarding to 2017, for what happens next in the future of education and special education in our country… Well, I guess that depends on all of us…

Distance Education: Education No More Distant

Whenever we come across the term “Education”, we always have a picture of a classroom in our mind- picture of a teacher or a lecturer in front of a bunch of students in a classroom. Or if this picture is black and white, there would be a slight transition. The characters would remain the same, except for the classroom- the classic old classroom under the tree, in a healthy natural environment where students are grasping every bit of knowledge with a cold breeze. Of late, the characters as well as the classrooms have been advanced. Be it their mannerisms, their behavior, their style etc. The interaction between the students and teachers is probably one the most interesting chemistries we come across. But what if they are separated? What if the source of education and the learner is separated? Quite difficult to digest…the set picture in our minds gets distorted, gets misshaped. But what if the idea of education is still retained putting the learner and the source of education apart? at a distance?

This is the concept of Distance Education that emerges out as a breakthrough to overcome the problem of distance. So what if the student is in India, and needs to acquire education from Australia, or say Russia? Be it any field of education, any area, it covers all of that. It is an advanced form of education which is in practice since 17th Century.

Types of Distance Education:

This advanced form of education is divided into two categories-
Synchronous- As the word suggests, this category needs synchronization between the students and the education provider. Both of them need to be present at the same time, so as to provide smooth and convenient operating of the synchronous form of Distance Education. Examples of this technology are video conferencing and web conferencing.

Asynchronous-
There need not be synchronization between the students and the education provider. This system has no time constraints whatsoever and thus facilitates easy and smooth functioning for individuals. Message board forums, email, video, print material, audio-recordings and voice mails are examples of asynchronous distance education.

Though this technology might sound difficult on implementation grounds, it has established a new benchmark for educational standards. People located far away from various institutions, universities can avail the best of knowledge and be associated with them. It has left no boundaries for education. If one wishes to learn from any corner of the world, he surely can.

This entire system of Distance Education not only serves a convenience for the learners round the globe, but also combats lots of difficulties for the education providers. For e.g., any institution or a university requires a huge area and technically sound infrastructure to facilitate a healthy studying environment. This technology being completely off-site has no such requirements and hence reduces the investment for the education providers. Moreover, it provides a new way of making money for the existing institutions and a new horizon for learners and education providers.

Home Improvement Tips: Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home

Reasons for A RedoHome improvement projects often begin with someone saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if… ?” usually followed by a wish for a remodelled kitchen or a room addition for space to accommodate every family member’s needs. More often than not, reality and dreams don’t coincide, due to limited funds for realizing the dream, or limits on the available space. The trick: turning your dreams into reality. Begin with a realistic evaluation of your needs. Homeowners usually consider home improvements for one of the following reasons.You may feel the need to update something that is out-of-date. If your kitchen colour scheme was perfect a few decades ago but no longer works, now may a good time to update it.Some home improvement projects grow out of an immediate need to replace broken or inefficient fixtures. If a sink, tub, or toilet needs to be replaced, consider taking advantage of the opportunity to do a makeover on the entire bathroom.If you’re preparing to sell your home, you’ll want to be sure to get top dollar from the sale. That’s great motivation for some home improvement projects.You have decided that staying put and improving your home is a better option than moving.Your family has grown and you need more space.Improving to Move? or Improving to Stay?Evaluate your plans carefully if you’re improving your home to list it for sale. Cutting corners may hurt your prospects rather than helping them. But don’t go overboard either. Potential buyers may prefer not to pay for some of the extras, such as a hot tub or pool. You’re better off keeping the changes simple.And remember that buyers who view your home may not share your tastes and may not appreciate the care you took to find just the right shade of green paint for the walls.You’ll find that improving to sell is easier if you can think about it from the prospective buyer’s point of view: What is important to the home buyer? Here are a few remodelling projects buyers are likely to find valuable:Adding or remodelling a bathImproving the kitchenAdding a new roomLandscapingAdding a bedroomAdding or enclosing a garage.If you’re remodelling because you want to stay in your home, you should still avoid over-improving it. You’ll probably want to sell it someday, and even if your house is the best on the block, it may be difficult to convince potential buyers to pay for the things you considered important. And when you consider making improvements, keep in mind the value of other homes in the area. Your home’s value should not be more than 20% above the average, which means that a $10,000 kitchen improvement project well could be a better investment than a $10,000 hot tub, especially if yours will be the only home in the area with a hot tub.Home Maintenance versus Home ImprovementsIt’s unfortunate that some home improvement projects are undertaken because something has broken. Replacing a leaky bathtub may be the first step to a major bath remodeling: since the tub has to be replaced anyway, why not do the whole room?While that might be a legitimate reason to remodel, avoid basing your home improvement projects on immediate needs. You’ll be better off if you minimize problems with proper maintenance. Examine every part of your home at least once a year. Check the roof, the plumbing, electrical wiring, etc. As soon as become aware of a problem, fix it. Making repairs when you’re first aware of them will help you avoid larger expenses later on. Keep in mind that maintenance does not add to the value of your home. Usually repairs are not improvements; they are necessities.Hiring Professionals May Save You Time and MoneyIt should go without saying that home projects can be expensive, so you may be tempted to tackle them yourself as a way to save money. That may be a smart move for small projects. You won’t have to wait for someone to fit your house into their busy schedule, and you can boast about having done the work yourself.But unless you’re very versatile, major home improvements are better left to professionals. If you decide to remodel the kitchen and plan to do the work yourself, will you be able to handle the plumbing, electrical, and carpentry work on your own?. And don’t forget that you’ll need to finish it quickly, because you won’t have a kitchen as long as it’s a “work in process” and eating three meals a day in restaurants could get expensive. Keep in mind, do-it-yourself jobs generally take more time. And you’ll be responsible for getting all the necessary permits and inspections.Hiring people who have the required experience can save you money and time, too. For example, these professionals can help you get a custom look using stock products, and that can be a significant savings. Getting something done right the first time will give you value that lasts for years.To find qualified and dependable home improvement specialists, check with friends, business associates, and neighbours for recommendations. Always get at least three references, and check them out thoroughly. Also check with the local chapter of the Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce. Their numbers can be found in the community services section of your telephone book.Once you’ve located the necessary home improvement specialists, make sure everyone is in agreement about the design, the schedule, and the budget, and get the details down in writing in a signed contract.It’s also wise to check on professional certifications and licenses, where required, and be certain that the contractors you hire are fully insured and bonded. Your town or city Building Department can provide that information. And it’s very important that you make sure contractors carry workers’ compensation insurance: if workers are injured on the job, you won’t be liable if the contractor is covered. Request copies of their insurance certificates. And make sure that either you or your contractor have gotten any necessary permits before the work begins. Contact your local Planning and Zoning Commission for information.Here’s a quick overview of some of the professionals you may need to work with when you remodel your home:Architect: Architects design homes or additions from the foundation to the roof. If your project will require structural changes such as adding or removing walls, or if the design is complex, you will probably need an architect. Since architects may charge an hourly or a flat fee, make sure you get an estimate of the total cost: drawing up the plans for a major remodeling project can take 80 hours or more.Contractor: The contractor oversees the home improvement project, including hiring and supervising workers, getting the necessary permits, making sure inspections are done as needed, and providing insurance for work crews. It’s always a good idea to get proposals from one or more reputable contractors, based on the specific details of your project.Be sure each contractor bids on exactly the same plan so that you can compare their bids more easily. When you’ve chosen a contractor, make sure the contract specifies that you will pay in stages. You’ll usually pay one third when the contract is signed so that the contractor can buy supplies. The number and timing for making the remaining payments will depend on the size of the project. Do not make the final payment until all the work is successfully completed, inspected, and approved.Interior Designers: Interior designers are specialists who will provide advice on furnishings, wall coverings, colors, styles, and more. They help save you time by narrowing your selection, and save money because they usually receive professional discounts from their suppliers. When meeting with an interior designer, be sure to tell them about your personal style and preferences. Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $150 per hour, or you may be able to negotiate a flat fee of approximately 25% of the total project cost.