Early Childhood SpecialEducation An overview of the history, laws and trends in early childhood special education
History The field of early childhood special education has grown out of several different fields including early childhood education, elementary special education, medicine and psychology. A few people that have had a great influence on the education of young children with special needs are Jean-Marc Itard Maria Montessori Jean Piaget See how these theorist impacted early childhood special education ….
Jean-Marc Itard Jean-Marc tried to teach a 12 year old boy who was believed to have lived the first 12 years of his life in the woods with the wolves. While Jean-Marc was unable to fully educate and integrate this young man into society he was one of the first to try to work with children with special needs. His work influenced another theorist, Edouard Sequin, who started to understand the importance of learning in the early years of childhood.
Maria Montessori Montessori used the discovery approach to learning and encouraged other educators to watch how students interacted with peers and their environment before developing different learning experiences for the students. Montessori stressed the importance of building off of each child’s interest. Montessori promoted the use of integrating the students’ senses and incorporating manipulatives in learning.
Jean Piaget Piaget developed different stages of cognitive development. Piaget stressed the importance that experiences play in our learning. His theories led to programs that consider the child to be an active participate in his/her own learning and focused on the strengths of the students.
Laws and Legislation There have been many important laws passed and amended in order to provide individuals with disabilities the rights they deserve. Here are a few of the important ones and the influence they have had on early childhood special education.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act ensures every child the right to access and take part in federally funded programs.Handicapped Children’s Early Education Assistance Act 1968 This law set up programs for early childhood education that evolved parents, provided training to teachers and assessed the success of both the students and the program. These programs served as a model for others.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 Mandates the rights of young children with special needs not just in preschools but in child-care centers and home child-care settings as well. These institutions have to make rational adjustments for children with special needs..
No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 This law contains many parts that directly relate to elementary and secondary education including testing in grades 3-8, highly qualified teachers, all programs must be scientifically based on research and the requirement of schools making Adequately Yearly Progress. While these components of the law may not influence early childhood education directly, they do creating an indirect impact. For example, many teachers and school districts feel that in order to prepare students for testing in grades 3 and up students need to enter kindergarten with more readiness skills which places a bigger academic task on early childhood educators. Other parts of the law influence early childhood such as the Early Childhood Educator Professional Development Program which provides grants for professional development for programs that work with young children in low-income or high-need areas. The law provided funding for the Early Reading First program which is a reading program for students birth to preschool.
Public Law 93-380 Education Amendments Buckley Amendment, Title V This law would later be revised, expanded and reauthorized several times resulting in 2004 in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act. This law stated the governments pledge to educate students with special needs and started to look at things such as a student’s right to be educated in the least restrictive environment and nondiscriminatory testing .
2004 Public Law 108-446 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004This law includes several policies that were established in earlier versions of the law including: The use of Individualized Family Service Plans for each student Provided incentive for states to develop their own multifaceted intervention plan for children birth – 3 Free and appropriate education for 3-5 year olds Transition services for families of students going from early intervention to preschool Additions in this law included: Early childhood program and teachers need to use approaches gathered from “scientifically based research” Early intervention services do not stop at 3 but may continue until the child reaches kindergarten
As a result of these laws current trends in early childhood specialeducation include: Providing services in inclusive settings with typical developing peers Viewing the child as part of the family and the care-giver relationship Interventions that are carried out as part of the child’s daily routine, providing hands-on, meaningful experiences Working with the family and their cultural values Collaboration among service providers (teacher, speech and language pathologist, occupational therapist) and the family Special education teachers that are trained in providing support for special education students within the inclusive setting Research based programs that are based on standards and provide evidence of progress
What’s next? The field of early childhood special education is constantly changing. It is our job to make sure that society continues to value the importance of educating all students at early ages and young children with special needs continue receive the rights and support they are entitled to.