A Brief History of Special Education

The link between special education and general education is arguably the biggest and most ubiquitous issue in both those fields, as well as in my own career in education. History demonstrates that there has never been a straightforward, straightforward relationship between the two. When it comes to educational policy, educational practises, and special education services, there has been a lot of giving and taking—or perhaps I should say pushing and pulling—by the human educators who provide those services on both sides of the isle, like myself.

I have experience on both ends of education over the past 20+ years. I have experienced what it was like to deal with special education policies, special education children, and their specialised teachers as a regular main stream educator. On the special education side, I’ve also been working to change the instruction and materials normal education teachers use as well as their patience and empathy in order to better support my special education kids.


Also, I have worked as a regular education teacher in the mainstream and taught inclusion courses while attempting to figure out the best way to collaborate with a new special education teacher in my class as well as his or her special education kids. And in contrast, I have trespassed on some normal education teachers’ turf as a special education inclusion teacher by bringing my special education children and suggesting modifications that I thought these teachers should make. I can attest firsthand that there has been no easy compromise between special education and ordinary schooling. I also don’t anticipate this tugging and pushing ever getting any easier.

What exactly is special education then? What makes it so unique, yet occasionally so difficult to understand and contentious? As the name suggests, special education is a specialist area of education. It attributes its origins to individuals like Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard (1775–1838), a doctor who “tamed” the “wild lad of Aveyron,” and Anne Sullivan Macy (1866–1936), a teacher who “worked wonders” with Helen Keller.

Students who differ from the normal population in their physical, cognitive, linguistic, learning, sensory, and/or emotional capacities are taught by special educators.Special educators deliver teaching that is specially crafted to fit each student’s needs. These educators essentially increase the accessibility and availability of education for kids who, due to a disability they may be dealing with, would otherwise only have restricted access to it.