During the first years of a child’s life, the brain is still malleable and able to form important connections so that the child can learn a wide variety of information and abilities. However, if the child suffers from an illness, injury, or condition that causes a disability, it can interfere with his or her ability absorb information in the same way as non-disabled children. Special education classes can help children with disabilities learn in a way tailored to their needs.
In 1975, the U.S. government first legally addressed special education in public schools with the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, or EHA. This included both physically and mentally handicapped children. The act stated that all schools receiving public funding must have programs specifically created for special needs children. These lesson plans were developed with the help of parents so that disabled children had as much of a normal education as possible. The EHA was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990.
Later, in 2004, the government recognized the need to amend IDEA so that it better met the needs of disabled children and their education. This was called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, or IDEIA. IDEIA was signed into being in late 2004, and it was adopted in all states by 2006.
To better address the education of disabled children, the federal governments’ IDEIA changed the law so that states could apply for grants and other financial aid to help them develop special education programs in public schools. In addition, these funds can help with things like training special education teachers and buying technology necessary to help some students learn.
Under the IDEIA, the government also outlined potentially disabling problems more clearly. However, it is important to keep in mind that these disabilities affect children differently, meaning that a disabling case of Autism may prevent one child from learning in a regular classroom, while another child may be able to succeed in a regular classroom. Thus, it is up to parents as well as doctors and counselors to determine the best way to address a child’s educational needs.
Some of the disabilities detailed under IDEIA include:
Sensory disorders that affect vision, hearing, or speech capabilities