Special Education Timeline

  • Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons was opened

    This asylum in Connecticut was opened as a means to give deaf people a chance at being educated. In the past, those who were deaf and “dumb” stayed home with their parents and were never educated. Although this school was well-intentioned, it was the beginning of the segregation of individuals with special needs from society at large.
  • Plessy vs. Ferguson Court Case

    The court case of Plessy vs. Ferguson was decided, which ultimately allowed separation on the basis of “separate but equal.” Although it was aimed at segregation based on race, this would also affect children with special needs. They could also be segregated into separate schools based on the separate but equal argument.
  • Council for Exceptional Children was founded

    The Council for Exceptional Children was founded on this date. It took place at Columbia University and its aims were to unite educators, families, and advocates interested in helping “special children.” It also aimed at refusing to identify children by their disability and also wanted to begin to establish standards within the field of special education.
  • National Mental Health Foundation was founded

    President Harry Truman signed the National Mental Health Foundation into being. This foundation was initially made up of mental health workers who witnessed the extreme abuse their patients suffered in institutions during World War II. The foundation pushes for understanding and treatment of intellectual and cognitive disabilities through scientific research.
  • National Association for Retarded Citizens was founded

    A group of parents across the United States banded together to promote the welfare of “mentally retarded” people and to research the causes of “mental retardation.” The groups of parents, although interested in promoting the rights of all people with cognitive disabilities, also focused specifically on getting more educational rights and access for their children.
  • Brown vs. Board of Education Court Case

    This court case established that the separate but equal clause was unconstitutional. This was a huge step toward making sure all students, whether based on race or on disability would receive equal education.
  • American National Standards Institute introduces Universal Design

    ANSI passed the A117.1, a national standard for producing architectural structures that are accessible to all people, including those with physical disabilities. The Universal Design theory can be applied to many aspects, including education.
  • President’s Panel on Mental Retardation

    President John F. Kennedy created the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation, which fought for federal funding aid to states and fought for the rights of people with cognitive disabilities. It consisted of 26 physicians, scientists, educators, lawyers, psychologists and social scientists.
  • Community Mental Health Act is passed

    John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act into law on this day. This act altered the way mental health services functioned by creating health care centers that were both comprehensive and community-oriented as opposed to the “warehoused” style of hospitals and psych wards. Although it still segregated mental health patients, it was one of the first moves toward caring for people with disabilities instead of putting up with them.
  • Civil Rights Act was enacted

    The Civil Rights Act made it illegal to discriminate based on race, religion, color, sex, and national origin. Later, the Civil Rights Act was extended to include disability and age. This was a landmark decision that specifically defined discrimination against those with disabilities as illegal.
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act

    President Lyndon B. Johnson signed this act as a means to fight the “War on Poverty.” The bill provided federal funds aimed at helping children with special needs as well as children who lived in extreme poverty. This was the largest federal education act to pass to date.
  • PARC vs. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

    This court case did a couple of things. First, it established that schools must provide a free and appropriate education to all children, including those with disabilities, until the age of 21. It also began to define what appropriate means. In other words, schools must provide the specific supports a student with a disability may need.
  • Mills vs. Board of Education Court Case

    Several students in the District of Columbia area were expelled or refused enrollment based on their disabilities and the amount of money the schools had to pay to support these students. This court case ruled that schools must enroll and keep students with disabilities and provide any sort of support they need, regardless of budget constraints.
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act was passed

    Under this law, individuals with disabilities cannot be discriminated against based on their disability. This applies to any entity that receives federal aid, including public schools. Some students who are not eligible for help under IDEA can get help through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
  • The Development Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act

    This act defined in its Bill of Rights the kinds of funds different organizations that support individuals with developmental disabilities would receive. The funds were allocated to universities, services for people with developmental disabilities, as well as organizations that advocate for people with developmental disabilities.
  • Education for All Handicapped Children Act

    President Gerald Ford signed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. This ensured that any schools that received federal funds would ensure that “handicapped” children would receive a free meal each day at school, as well as equal opportunities to education. It also gave parents more rights to fight for the rights of their children with disabilities.
  • Howard S. vs. Friendswood Independent School District Court Case

    A young teenager with emotional and behavioral disabilities took part in special education while in junior high. When he entered high school, the school began to discipline him rather than provide the necessary supports. They further refused the parents’ requests for evaluation for behavior disabilities. This court case both set boundaries in how schools should handle discipline of students with disabilities and also contributed to the free appropriate public education argument.
  • Larry P. vs. Riles Court Case

    This court case helped to establish the nondiscriminatory evaluation part of the IDEA principles. The court case found that African-American children were placed in special education because of racially biased and unfair testing. This case established that students must be evaluated fairly and their evaluation cannot be based on one test alone (such as just the IQ test).
  • Irving Independent School District vs. Tatro Court Case

    This court case continued to establish the role that schools must have in providing students with disabilities the kind of help they need. It was determined that catheterization was a service that the school must provide to its student. This paved the way for giving students with disabilities the kinds of support they need at school for no extra cost to the family.
  • Education of the Deaf Act was passed

    This act established a group of 12 members called the Commission on Education of the Deaf. They were responsible for researching the latest research on deafness and deaf education. They then made recommendations to the President and Congress based on the research. What’s more, the act also made it possible for further post-secondary and technical education for deaf individuals.
  • Alamo Heights Independent School District vs. State Board of Education Court Case

    This court case determined that schools must continue to provide free appropriate public education with the necessary supports over the summer. Individuals with disabilities could potentially lose all of their progress made during the school year if they are not provided the necessary supports and education over the summer. This court case helped to establish a solution to that so these students could continue to make progress the next year.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act

    President H. W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under this law, persons with disabilities have equal access to employment, public accommodations, transportation, and governmental services.
  • No Child Left Behind was founded

    This act required schools to teach students basic skills by certain grades. If all students are not taught sufficiently, from the gifted to those with intellectual and cognitive disabilities, schools do not receive federal funding. Standards are set per state, with the goal being to meet the math and reading standards by 2014.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act was passed

    The changes to IDEA are to basically continue to add to definitions of disabilities as more data is collected. It also establishes special education differences between preschoolers and school age children through 21 years old. It also further defines such principles as free appropriate education, response to intervention, and nondiscriminatory evaluation.
  • AAMR changes to AAIDD (American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities)

    The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities changed its name from American Association on Mental Retardation. This reflects a more inclusive attitude toward individuals with disabilities and supports people-first language.