The Evolution of Special Needs Education

To start of school awareness week 2016, we are going to take a look at the evolution of special needs education through years and explain in a fun what is all about.

This article is one of five posts over the week 14th – 18th of March 2016.

Special Needs education schools are different to your typical mainstream schools, why? that will be explained later in the article.

pick your desk and open up your works books for school to start.

Special needs education can be excellent for your child development if there suffer from complex disability’s and learning needs.

The environments the children are taught in are quiet and a small number of peers but what different from mainstream school and when did special education needs come about and why do some children go through mainstream school first? are all questions parents ask and outsider wonders why their different schools or just think there is one kind of school.

I’m wanting to explain everything in simple to understand means and sections to answer your questions and raise awareness of this kind of education.

Types of Special Needs Education

There around about 15 different category and types of special needs schools out there.

  • Moderate Learning Difficulties [MLD]
  • Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties [PMLD]
  • Severe Learning Difficulties [SLD]
  • Specific Learning Difficulties {Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia} [SPLD]
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [ADHD]
  • Artificially-ventilated breathing and/or tracheostomy
  • Autism / Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Behavioural / Emotional / Social Difficulties and Disorders
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Complex Health Needs
  • Down’s Syndrome / Williams Syndrome / Fragile X
  • Dyspraxia
  • Epilepsy
  • Fostering
  • Gifted Children
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Neurological Disfunction and Disorder /Brain Injury
  • Physical Impairment
  • Rett syndrome
  • Sexual / Emotional / Physical Abuse
  • Speech / Language / Communication Difficulties
  • Tourette’s Syndrome
  • Visually Impaired

As you can see there a lot of medical conditions and situation that need a tailored and safe environment to learn in.

All special needs schools are tailored to the conditions of the students that enrol in their schools. Some schools only cater for one condition, while other schools cater all kinds of conditions.

I have gathered the information from Special Needs UK school finder section.

Mainstream vs Special Needs Education

In the world, 30% of the population have been in mainstream and special needs education.

This is due to a number of reasons, it could be late diagnoses of medical conditions or a sudden life changing event like an accident which requires the student to move into Special needs education.

Students with disabilities in mainstream schools usually stand out like a flashing beacon. by the use of body language, the pace of learning and behaviour.

In a whole mainstream education are not equipped to deal with special educational needs of their students. instead, there more focus on exam results and the student getting on with their work and to cope with the timetable.

In special education, it’s different for all schools that cater for disabilities, which I will go in-depth at another time.

In a summary, the environment is quieter, smaller class sizes and a lot more staff to students.

History of Special Schools

One of the first special schools in the world was the Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles in Paris, which was founded in 1784. It was the first school in the world to teach blind students. The first school in U.K, for the Deaf, was established 1760  in Edinburgh by Thomas Braidwood, with education for visually impaired people beginning in the Edinburgh and Bristol in 1765.

In the 19th Century, people with disabilities and the inhumane conditions where they were supposedly housed and educated were addressed in the literature of Charles Dickens. Dickens characterized people with severe disabilities as having the same, if not more, compassion and insight in Bleak House and Little Dorrit.

Such attention to the downtrodden conditions of people with disabilities brought resulted in reforms in Europe including the re-evaluation of special schools. In the United States reform came more slowly. Throughout the mid half of the 20th century, special schools, termed institutions, were not only accepted but encouraged. Students with disabilities were housed with people with mental illnesses, and they were not educated much, if at all.

Deinstitutionalization proceeded in the US beginning in the 1970s following the exposes of the institutions, and it has taken some time for the Education for All Handicapped Children’s Act of 1974, to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and then Individuals with Disabilities Educational Improvement Act (IDEA) have come to fruition. School integration was supported as early as the 1970s, and teacher preparation programs in higher education have carefully taught and instructed graduates on inclusion in the classroom, individual, school, and district levels for decades resulting in dual certification of “regular teachers”.

With the Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1997, school districts in the United States began to slowly integrate students with moderate and severe special needs into regular school systems. This changed the form and function of special education services in many school districts and special schools subsequently saw a steady decrease in enrolment as districts weighed the cost per student. It also posed general funding dilemmas to certain local schools and districts, changed how schools view assessments, and formally introduced the concept of inclusion to many educators, students and parents


To find out more on special education, click here to go over to a Wikipedia article all about special education.

That’s all for today join us tomorrow for another article.

Mike Cunniffe

© Autism Life 2016

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