Special education programs are designed for those students who are mentally, physically, socially and/or emotionally delayed. This aspect of “delay,” broadly categorized as a developmental delay, signify an aspect of the child’s overall development (physical, cognitive, scholastic skills) which place them behind their peers. Due to these special requirements, students’ needs cannot be met within the traditional classroom environment. Special education programs and services adapt content, teaching methodology and delivery instruction to meet the appropriate needs of each child. These services are of no cost to the family and are available to children until they reach 21 years of age (states have services set in place for adults who are in need of specialized services after age 21).
The strides made in special education advocacy and policy have come far. Primarily established through the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (1975) External link , the law was later amended into the Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act of 2004 External link .
Education for All Handicapped Children Act, 1975
In 1975, Congress enacted Public Law 94-142, more commonly known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA). The goal of EHA was to ensure children with disabilities gained access to a free and appropriate public education. This law provided local and statewide support and protection to children and youth with disabilities, as well as their families.
Under EHA, all public schools were granted federal funding that provided equal access to education for children with physical and/or mental disabilities. Schools were required to evaluate children and create an educational plan that paralleled the academic experience of their non-disabled peers. EHA requirements also provided parents and families the necessary support systems to ensure their child received appropriate and adequate services, along with the services needed to dispute decisions made on behalf of the child.
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