(PCM) Happy Special Education Day! On this day in 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was signed into law, giving all children with disabilities access to free and appropriate public education.
Though IDEA has since been revised many times, it is still the basis for special education law in the United States. IDEA defines the rights of disabled school children and their caregivers, provides guidelines for schools and families to work together, and ensures access to the supports and services that each child needs to succeed.
Since 2005 (the 30th anniversary of IDEA), National Special Education Day has been observed on December 2nd to celebrate the progress in American special education. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the educational issues that many disabled children still face.
There are nearly 6 million students with disabilities in the United States today. Thanks to IDEA, many of those students are able to meet their full potential. But no system is perfect – many students are still in need of special interventions or supports. Special education in America is a work in progress; it is changed bit by bit through the hard work of students, families, educators, advocates, and lawmakers, as well as whole communities.
To honor National Special Education Day, consider the things that you can do to support special needs kids. Use your vote and your tax dollars to guide education issues in your state. Use social media to help boost the signal for school programs and non-profits dedicated to disabled children and their families – or, better yet, donate or volunteer, and learn about the health and social issues that are impacting children today. While a supportive educational environment is critical to the success of special needs kids, so is understanding and acceptance in their communities.