A Synopsis of Special Education History

Special education is a field that focuses on providing education and support to individuals with disabilities or special needs. The history of special education is a long and complex one that has been shaped by social, cultural, and political factors. This paper provides a synopsis of special education history. Tracing the evolution of special education from its earliest origins to the present day.

Ancient Origins of Special Education

Special education has roots in ancient civilizations, including Egypt, Greece, and Rome. These societies recognized the need to educate individuals with disabilities, and they developed methods for teaching blind, deaf, and intellectually disabled individuals. For example, in ancient Egypt, blind students were taught to use tactile symbols. While in ancient Greece, deaf students were taught to communicate using sign language.

The Influence of Religion on Special Education

Religion has also played a significant role in the history of special education. In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church established schools for blind and deaf students. And monks were often responsible for teaching these students. During the Reformation, Protestant churches began to establish schools for students with disabilities. And the education of students with disabilities became more widespread.

The Emergence of Disability Rights Movements

The disability rights movement emerged in the 19th century, as individuals with disabilities began to demand equal rights and access to education. In the United States, the Perkins School for the Blind was established in 1829, followed by the American School for the Deaf in 1817. These schools were among the first in the world to provide education for students with disabilities.

In the 20th century, disability rights movements gained momentum, with organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) advocating for equal access to education for students with disabilities. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibited discrimination against individuals with disabilities in federally funded programs, was a significant milestone in the history of special education.

Special Education in the United States

Special education in the United States began to take shape in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1907, the first special education classes were established in Boston, Massachusetts. And by the 1920s, special education had become more widespread. The first federal funding for special education was provided in 1958, with the passage of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act

In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) was passed, requiring public schools to provide free appropriate public education to all students with disabilities. This law has later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and it has been amended several times since its passage. IDEA provides a framework for the provision of special education services in the United States, including the identification and evaluation of students with disabilities, the development of individualized education plans (IEPs), and the provision of services and accommodations to students with disabilities.

Current Trends in Special Education

Today, special education continues to evolve, as new technologies. And approaches are developed to support the needs of students with disabilities. One of the most significant trends in special education is the use of assistive technology, including computers, and tablets. And communication devices, to support learning and communication. In addition, there is a growing focus on inclusive education, which aims to provide. All students with disabilities with access to the general education curriculum and activities.


The history of special education is a complex and multifaceted one that has been shaped by a range of social, cultural, and political factors. From the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome to the modern-day United States. Special education has evolved in response to changing societal attitudes and the needs of individuals with disabilities. Today, special education continues to be an essential field.

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