Idea Position Paper Essay Research Paper

Idea Position Paper Essay, Research Paper

. “We have seen tremendous progress over the past 25 years —

students with disabilities are graduating from high school, completing college, and entering the competitive workforce in record numbers —

and we must continue this progress over the next 25 years and beyond.”

President William Jefferson Clinton

November 29, 2000

The above quote was in, in my opinion, the most accurate and profound statement made by our former president in all eight years in office. The credit for the tremendous progress is given to Congress for the enactment of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (Public Law 94-142). This act was designed to support states and localities in protecting the rights of, meeting the individual needs of, and improving the results for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities and their families. Several years and many amendments later it was enacted under the acronym IDEA the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (Turnball, Turnball, Shank, Leal 1999). In my opinion I think that IDEA has made a marked improvement in the education programs for all students.

Before the enactment of Public Law 94-142, the fate of many individuals with disabilities was likely to be dim. Too many individuals lived in state institutions for persons with mental retardation or mental illness. In 1967, for example, state institutions were homes for almost 200,000 persons with significant disabilities (CEC, 2000). Many of these restrictive settings provided only minimal food, clothing, and shelter. Too often, persons with disabilities, such as Allan (see story below), were merely accommodated rather than assessed, educated, and rehabilitated.

Allan was left as an infant on the steps of an institution for persons with mental retardation in the late 1940s. By age 35, he had become blind and was frequently observed sitting in a corner of the room, slapping his heavily callused face as he rocked back and forth humming to himself.

In the late 1970s, Allan was assessed properly for the first time. To the dismay of his examiners, he was found to be of average intelligence; further review of his records revealed that by observing fellow residents of the institution, he had learned self-injurious behavior that caused his total loss of vision.

Although the institution then began a special program to teach Allan to be more independent, a major portion of his life was lost because of a lack of appropriate assessments and effective interventions (IDEA).

Unfortunately, Allan s history was repeated in the life experiences of tens of thousands of individuals with disabilities who lacked support from IDEA. Inaccurate tests led to inappropriately labeling and ineffectively educating most children with disabilities. Providing appropriate education to youngsters from diverse cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds was especially challenging. Further, most families were not afforded the opportunity to be involved in planning or placement decisions regarding their child, and resources were not available to enable children with significant disabilities to live at home and receive an education at neighborhood schools in their community.

However, thanks to the trio of Lloyd Dunn, Evelyn Deno and James Gallagher leading the way to major reform, educating individuals with disabilities changed dramatically. They had help from others including civil rights activists, families, educators, organizations representing families and special educators, and their lawyers (Turnball, Turnball, Shank, Leal, 1999).

Hector is a charming, outgoing, very active, six-year-old Hispanic child who lives with his family and attends his neighborhood school in Arizona.

Early in 1st grade, Hector participated in a new behavioral program to address his sudden mood swings and frequent arguments and fights V both during class and on the playground. His teacher taught Hector specific social skills to improve his competence in such areas as answering questions, controlling his anger, and getting along with others. While working in a small cooperative group with three other students, Hector was able to observe firsthand other children who behaved properly at school.

By the end of 1st grade, Hector s behavior had changed dramatically. Hector was appropriately engaged and worked hard to complete his academic assignments each day. His behavior on the playground improved as well. Rather than respond impetuously, Hector kept his temper and played cooperatively with the other children. No longer viewed as a disruptive student, Hector, and his family, now looks forward to a bright future with realistic hopes for continued success and high achievement in 2nd grade and beyond (CEC).

In the 25 years since the passage of Public Law 94-142, significant progress has been made toward meeting major national goals for developing and implementing effective programs and services for early intervention, special education, and related services. Before IDEA, many children like Hector were denied access to education and opportunities to learn. For example, in 1970, U.S. schools educated only one in five children with disabilities, and many states had laws excluding certain students, including children who were deaf, blind, emotionally disturbed, or mentally retarded (Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 1999).

Today, early intervention programs and services are provided to almost 200,000 eligible infants and toddlers and their families, while nearly 6 million children and youth receive special education and related services to meet their individual needs (CEC, 2000). Other accomplishments directly attributable to IDEA include educating more children in their neighborhood schools, rather than in separate schools and institutions, and contributing to improvements in the rate of high school graduation, post-secondary school enrollment, and post-school employment for youth with disabilities who have benefited from IDEA (Quinn, 1994).

There are many examples of the accomplishments of IDEA and a few of them are:

h The majority of children with disabilities are now being educated in their neighborhood schools in regular classrooms with their non-disabled peers.

h High school graduation rates and employment rates among youth with disabilities have increased dramatically. For example, graduation rates increased by 14 percent from 1984 to 1997. Today, post-school employment rates for youth served under IDEA are twice those of older adults with similar disabilities who did not have the benefit of IDEA.

h Post-secondary enrollments among individuals with disabilities receiving IDEA services have also sharply increased. For example, the percentage of college freshmen reporting disabilities has more than tripled since 1978 (IDEA, 2000).

The promising future of Hector and other children with disabilities and their families stands in sharp contrast to conditions before IDEA. These last 25 years have witnessed significant changes as the nation has moved from paying little or no attention to the special needs of individuals with disabilities, to merely accommodating these individuals basic needs, and eventually to providing programs and services for all children with disabilities and their families.


Council for Exceptional Children, 2000

Department of Education, 2000

Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 1999

Quinn, Patricia O. ADD and the College Student: A Guide for High School and

College Students With Attention Deficit Disorder, Magination, 1994.

Turbnall, Ann and Rud et al. Exceptional Lives Special Education in Today s

Schools, Merrill, 1999.


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