Special education features instruction and interventions designed to meet the individual needs of each child with a disability.
The U.S. Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, Public Law (P.L.) 94 142, in 1975. This landmark law—together with subsequent amendments as currently reflected in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; P.L. 108-446)—supports states and localities in protecting the rights of, meeting the individual needs of, and improving results for infants, toddlers, children, and youths with disabilities and their families.
As we celebrate the 35th anniversary of P.L. 94 142 this year, significant national progress has been made in ensuring the civil rights and providing equal access to education for all children with disabilities. During the 2007–08 school year, IDEA mandated programs and services were provided to more than 6 million children and youths with disabilities and more than 320,000 infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. These programs and services are provided in each of the 50 states, eight territories, District of Columbia, and in schools supported by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
During these last 35 years, IDEA also has developed a national infrastructure of supports that are improving results for millions of children with disabilities, as well as their nondisabled friends and classmates. Notably, many of the educational approaches, techniques, and practices employed by our nation’s best teachers are the direct result of IDEA investments in rigorous education research, training, and technical assistance. Teachers can employ these approaches, techniques, and practices with confidence that they are likely to be effective.