A brief history of special education is necessary for anyone wanting to become involved in the education systems in their area. Special education, unlike many other education systems, has had a relatively short history here in the U.S. In fact, special education only truly began to gain traction in the country in the mid-to-late 1960s. At that time, civil rights activists were battling hard against school segregation. Those battles seem to have left an indelible impression on American society, and over time special education has become one of the cornerstones of effective education reform in the country. A brief history of special education will help you better understand where all this started and why it’s continuing to thrive.
In the 1950s and 1960s, there were a handful of school districts in the United States that implemented desegregation in their schools. Essentially, these schools were separated by race but still offered similar programs and educational philosophies to those in integrated schools. By the end of the decade, however, the practice of segregating students by race was condemned by educators and the public at large. The result? More schools were adding special education classes to their curriculum to meet the growing need for such instruction.
Throughout this period of time, the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) identified hearing loss, hyperlexia, and autism as the three most common disabilities that placing students in special education. By bringing these three disorders into the classroom, educators hoped to provide a more customized and individualized learning experience to every child. The result was the creation of the IEP or individualized education plans, which are now commonly referred to as Special Education Units. Throughout the years since the creation of the IEP, many other disability education resources have been added to the classroom and to the process of education itself.
Special education resources are typically developed and taught by teachers within a Special Education School District. The goal is to ensure that children with special needs learn to achieve their academic goals and to participate meaningfully in the academic process as well. The development of specialized instructional methods is dependent upon the specific needs and circumstances of individual students. For example, there are different instructional methods used for children who process information through visual images versus those who process information primarily orally. There are also different ways in which to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic to children who have language developmental needs, while others may focus on only one or two of these areas.
With the IEP and the growth of the Special Education field came the idea of setting up an Education Opportunity Grant (EOG) program. The purpose of an EOG is to fund projects that would aid in the classroom and in community development for students with special needs. Although public schools typically receive funds from the State in which they reside, many districts have opted to obtain funds from private foundations in an effort to generate additional revenue. In some cases, public schools are eligible for a greater amount of funding if they meet set criteria; such as being majority non-minority. Most private schools are private organizations that do not receive State funding.
If you or someone you know needs to attend public schools that are funded through a grant, the first step you should take is to visit the district website. You can usually find this information on the Special Education Programs page. There are also links that will take you directly to the grant application. Once you fill out and submit your grant request, you should be informed in a few weeks whether you were approved and how much money you will receive.