Special Education: A Guide

special education

There’s a lot to learn about special education, from its humble beginnings and long history to the resources available to you.

Here is our full guide to special education in the United States and the benefits that it offers to you and others who need it.

The History of Special Education

So, how did special education start? How has it progressed over the years?

Before it became a normal part of society, there were millions of children that could not get adequate schooling before the 1970s. However, once legislation started being passed, there was a multitude of laws and mandates that provided intellectual and developmental disabled students with incredible opportunities they had never seen before.

As far back as the 1930s, advocacy groups worked hard to fight for high-quality specialized education. These groups were typically made up of parents with marginalized children. In the 1950s, the lobbying of these groups started to influence laws being passed that provided teachers with training for children who were deaf, hard-of-hearing, or those with an intellectual disability.

More laws were passed and funds started to be granted for disabled students in the 1960s.

The 1970s brought a variety of landmark court decisions that gave states that responsibility to provide schooling and resources for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These decisions made a huge impact and forever altered the timeline  in the United States. In the following section, we will go over the legislation passed.

Currently, in the US, local and state institutions are responsible for providing 91% of the funding for this program, and federal funds cover the other 9%.

Laws Protecting Special Education

Here are the laws passed over the years to protect education for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Rehabilitation Act

The Rehabilitation Act was passed in 1973 and guaranteed civil rights to all disabled people and ensured accommodations for intellectually and developmentally disabled students in schools.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act

In 1975, the EHA, or the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed, which enforced the right for disabled children to receive an appropriate and free education. This particular law is still a cornerstone in the country today.

The EHA was reauthorized in 1997 and received many revisions, which resulted in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

IDEA focused on the use of individual education plans, also known as IEPS, for every disabled student. It also started the use of individualized transition plans (ITPs) to prepare students for success as adults.

special education

The No Child Left Behind Act

In the early 2000s (2001 and 2004) the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was implemented and provided more accountability to schools, as well as adding loan programs and technology assistance to help them acquire necessary resources.


Looking for more resources  in the United States? Here are some to get you started.

Federal Sites

Virginia Sites

For more resources, check out our special education page!

Learn More About Special Education with Moms In Motion

Interested in learning more  in the United States? Check out our blog to read more on the subject.

You can also contact us directly for specific questions – reach out to Moms In Motion today!

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