NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1143593
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 19
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1535-0584
A Review and Analysis of the History of Special Education and Disability Advocacy in the United States
Spaulding, Lucinda S.; Pratt, Sharon M.
American Educational History Journal, v42 n1 p91-109 2015
Most reviews of the history of special education in the United States survey reforms from the 1960s to the1970s, thus inferring the field is fairly young and progress is quite recent. However, this recent era of reform is not unprecedented. The history of disability advocacy and the development of special education in the United States began a century earlier with reformers engaged in changing the plight of people with disabilities, namely, through altering societal attitudes, establishing legal rights, and ensuring training and education. In this review of the literature and analysis of historical documents the authors identified three distinct eras in the history of special education in the United States: (1) Early Reform (1800-1860); (2) Stagnation and Regression (1860-1950); and (3) Contemporary Reform (1950-present). Further, several themes emerge and are evidenced in each historical era through societal attitudes, enacted legislation, and educational provisions. These themes include: (1) the treatment of people with disabilities following societal and cultural trends; (2) changing conceptions of disability as a qualitative or quantitative phenomenon; (3) shifting emphases on nature and nurture; and (4) the new not necessarily being better than the old. In this paper the authors introduce these themes, examine developments in special education in each era in light of these themes, and then explore parallels between the eras. The purpose of this paper is to provide a historical perspective for the most recent and often studied era of reform in special education by examining the frequently overlooked era of early reform and the period of stagnation and regression that followed. This review demonstrates the history of special education in the United States is significant, and as Mostert and Crocket (1999-2000) asserted, it is only by remembering the past that we can truly prepare for the future.
IAP - Information Age Publishing, Inc. P.O. Box 79049, Charlotte, NC 28271-7047. Tel: 704-752-9125; Fax: 704-752-9113; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Information Analyses; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A