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Examination of Foundations - Research Paper Example

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Examination of Foundations Institution In ancient societies, children with special needs were often killed (for example, in Sparta or in ancient tribes’ practices) either as sacrifice to “gods” or in the name of race preservation (Gearheart, 1972, p…
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Examination of Foundations In ancient societies, children with special needs were often killed (for example, in Sparta or in ancient tribes’ practices) either as sacrifice to “gods” or in the name of race preservation (Gearheart, 1972, p. 15). If not killed, disabled individuals were subject to neglect and even abuse on the basis of their difference. For example, in the Roman Empire, mentally retarded children were made to serve as court jesters and had to entertain the rich. The spread of Christianity in Europe changed the attitude to people with disabilities due to the idea of compassion for the handicapped. Still, the disabled were thought to be incapable of ever becoming educated or self-supporting, which led to preventing them from being understood and educated. There were only few “isolated instances of acceptance, kindly care, and education” (Dash, 2005, p.20). It was not until the early 19th century that the attitude to children with special needs changed. Early American practices in education, as Kaplan & Owings describe them, were greatly influenced by Old World practices and beliefs that the settlers had brought to America from their home countries (Kaplan & Owings, 2010, p. 87). Formal and private education was religion-based for its most part, but it did not focus on the needs of the disabled. Despite the growing number of government-sponsored schools for elementary and secondary students in the United States, education practices for children with disabilities had been private in nature prior to 1900s (Gearheart, 1972, p.1). American education practices for children with disabilities were brought to the United States from Europe, often by physicians who visited Europe to obtain first-hand knowledge about ways to educate children with special needs (Dash, 2005, p.20). American physicians based their efforts to educate children with special needs on the scientific findings by Itard and Sequin. Itard, a French doctor, is believed to have been the founder of education for disabled children. At the beginning of the 19th century he made successful efforts to educate a boy aged 11 or 12 who had been named Viktor. That way Itard developed and tried empirically a set of instructional devices, behavior modification methods, ways to teach speaking, as well as ways to educate the mentally retarded. Sequin, in his turn, developed a set of methods for teaching the mentally deficient. Having immigrated to the United States from France in the mid-19th century, he developed his concept of special education, which was revolutionary for that time. Together with Samuel Howe, Sequin formulated the following basics for educating the mentally retarded: the need of individualized instruction, the need to apply a carefully designed set of educational tasks, emphasize stimulation, meticulously arrange special children’s environment, the benefit of immediate reward for performance that is correct, the need of functional skills tutorship, the belief that every child has a capacity to improve to a certain degree, and the belief that every special child should be educated to the highest possible level (Dash, 2005, p. 21). Thanks to successful efforts of American physicians Braille (developed the system of teaching skills of reading and writing for the blind), Howe, Sullivan (taught the deaf-blind-mute Helen Keller to speak and write to such extent that the latter became a graduate and an author of several books), and Gallaudet (the founder of the first school for the deaf in the United States) led to opening of a series of schools for the disabled children, most of which were residential schools. Yet, by the end of the 19th century, pessimism and disbelief had developed in the society in relation to the education of the handicapped. That had happened due to a number of reasons, some of which were parents’ disappointment because the miraculous cure did not come in a short period of time, lack of qualified personnel, influence of Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest (theory of evolution), etc (Dash, 2005, p.23). Interest to special education revived only in the period after the World War 2. With the development of democracy and socialism in many countries, education of special children was recognized the basic right. In the United States, the education practices included education of the disabled in residential schools, which was quite centralized at first but grew less centralized by the 1970s. Moreover, the disabled got an opportunity for daily schooling, when they studied in separate classrooms within mainstream schools, and attended the same facilities, etc. That was the start of inclusion practices which remain the most popular method of educating differently able children today. As Farrell & Ainscow observe, “in the 1980s the terms “integration” or “mainstreaming” were used to refer to the placement of pupils with ‘SEN’ in mainstream schools” (Farrell & Ainscow, 2012, p.2) Despite the fact that efforts had been made to provide education for children with special needs, only a part of the disabled population was eligible for formal education by the 1970s. The ratification of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975 was a turning point in special education development in the States. It later transformed into IDEA. If before the 1975 Act only 1 out of 5 children with special needs had been accommodated by the United States public school system, after the legislation enactment the number started to steadily grow (United States Department of Education, n.d. ). It rose from 3.5 million children (before the EHA) to 6 million children attending schools at the beginning of 2000s under the IDEA (American Youth Policy Forum and Center on Education Policy, 2002). IDEA or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was ratified by the Congress in 1990 as an expanded version of EAHCA and since that time has been revised a multitude of times. Its major purpose was to guarantee that children with disabilities had an opportunity to get free public education relevant to their needs. While the history of disability education legislation is quite long, its most recent amendments were passed in 2004 (final regulations published in 2006 and 2011). The overall conclusion of IDEA efficacy was made by an independent commission that concluded that “”the IDEA has served us well” and has played a key role in ensuring that all children with disabilities have access to free public education (American Youth Policy Forum and Center on Education Policy, 2002). The period of commitment to the goals set in the IDEA enabled students with special needs to enter regular classrooms and graduate from high school. Thanks to this legislation, today children with special needs are identified earlier and more accurately, the majority of these children get education in the neighborhood schools rather than being sent to separate schools, the majority of students with disabilities (three-quarters) are educated in regular setting with non-disabled students, children with special needs received special preschool services at an earlier age, more students with special needs take part in the standardized testing problems for all children, academic achievements of students with special needs strengthened, more students with special needs take the SAT and ACT exams for entering colleges, more students graduate from high school and fewer drop out, more students with special needs apply for postsecondary education and opt for higher education, parents are better involved in their kids’ education, the number of employment opportunities increased for young people with disabilities, etc (American Youth Policy Forum and Center on Education Policy, 2002). At the same time, there are still areas where the IDEA has fallen short of achieving its goals. Therefore, the challenges to be addressed by educators in the future include improvement of students’ preparation for higher education and decent jobs, enhancement of their academic achievements, increasing their access to technology, increasing the number of well qualified teachers, etc (American Youth Policy Forum and Center on Education Policy, 2002). In conclusion, educational practices for children with special needs in American education system have a long and rich history. Rooted in Christian tradition and values, they absorbed the experience of the most talented European physicians and grew into an original set of education practices and beliefs. While the history of special education had had its own rises and falls by the middle of the 20th, the special education became a public concern in the 1960s and has advanced greatly since that time. With the establishment of the EAHCA and IDEA, advanced special education practices has been successfully implemented into the American reality and has brought rewarding results for children with special needs. References American Youth Policy Forum and Center on Education Policy (2002) “Twenty-five Years of Educating Children with Disabilities: The Good News and the Work Ahead”. Retrieved 27 Oct 2012 from http://www.aypf.org/publications/special_ed.pdf Dash, M. (2005) Education of Exceptional Children. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. Farrell, P. and Ainscow, M. (2012) Making Special Education Inclusive: From Research to Practice. Routledge. Gearheart, B. (1972) Education of the Exceptional Child: History, Present Practices, and Trends. University Press of America. “IDEA—the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” (2012) NICHCY. Retrieved onj 27 Oct 2012 from http://nichcy.org/laws/idea. Kaplan, L. & Owings, W. American Education: Building a Common Foundation. Cengage Learning.  United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (n.d.) “History: Twenty-Five Years of Progress in Educating Children With Disabilities Through IDEA.” Retrieved on 27 Oct 2012 from http://www.ed.gov/policy/speced/leg/idea/history.pdf Read More
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