The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has a long history. Prior to its implementation in 1975, approximately 1 million children with disabilities were shut out of schools and hundreds of thousands more were denied appropriate services. Since then, the legislation changed the lives of these children. Many are learning and achieving at levels previously thought impossible. As a result, they are graduating from high school, going to college and entering the workforce as productive citizens in unprecedented numbers.
Ninety percent of children with developmental disabilities were previously housed in state institutions. Today, they are no longer in those settings. As compared to their predecessors, three times the number of young people with disabilities are enrolled in colleges or universities, and twice as many of today's 20 year olds with disabilities are working.
While this is significant progress, we can and must do better. The status of children with disabilities still falls short of our expectations for them.
- Twice as many children with disabilities drop out of school.
- Drop outs do not return to school, have difficulty finding jobs and often end up in the criminal justice system.
- Girls who drop out often become young unwed mothers?at a much higher rate than their nondisabled peers.
- Many children with disabilities are excluded from the curriculum and assessments used with their nondisabled classmates, limiting their possibilities of performing to higher standards of performance.
Strategies for Success
The new IDEA legislation is an attempt to remedy these and other problems that contribute to the barriers children with disabilities face.
IDEA will make these changes by:
- Raising expectations for children with disabilities;
- Increasing parental involvement in the education of their children;
- Ensuring that regular education teachers are involved in planning and assessing children's progress;
- Including children with disabilities in assessments, performance goals, and reports to the public;
- Supporting quality professional development for all personnel who are involved in educating children with disabilities.
Over the past four decades, special education research has provided practical answers to questions about how best to educate infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities. These accomplishments have translated into benefits for all our citizens.
- Over 1 million children, many of whom would have been placed in separate schools and institutions 25 years ago, are being educated in neighborhood schools, saving an average of $10,000 per child per year.
- Nine percent more children with disabilities graduated from high school between 1984 and 1992.
- Youth served under IDEA are employed twice as often as their predecessors, older American with similar disabilities who were not served under the law.
- Nearly half of all adults with disabilities have successfully completed course-work in colleges and universities.
- Although less than 1% of the annual expenditures to educate children with disabilities is spent on research and development to improve practice, these dollars have had exponential results. They support programs that allow children with disabilities to become independent learners and self-supporting adults.
- New knowledge has resulted in technologies that have enriched all our lives. For example, the Kurtzweil Machine, originally developed for taking written text and translating it into Braille and speech was the forerunner of the fax machine. Captioning, an aid for the deaf, has become a boon for older Americans with poor hearing and for those who are learning to read and speak English.