July 6, 2024

Special education has a long history, spanning centuries of changing beliefs and methods. Ancient civilizations, like the Greeks and Romans, experimented with rudimentary forms of education for some individuals with disabilities. During the Middle Ages and the 18th century, the majority of people with disabilities were kept separate from society, adopting an exclusionary stance. Specialised care facilities were established in the 19th century, as opposed to educational ones. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (later known as IDEA), which required free and adequate public education for all children with disabilities, and other integration-related initiatives didn’t start to take hold until the middle of the 20th century. This signalled a revolutionary change towards the creation of individualised education plans (IEPs) and inclusion in regular classrooms.

Throughout its history, special education has seen shifts from exclusion and institutionalization to inclusion and individualized supports, reflecting broader societal changes in attitudes towards disability rights and education.

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