History of Special Education


Council for Education of Exceptional Children is founded

July 1, 1922

Started by an organized meeting at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University set up to discuss ways teachers could brainstorm and work together.

Cuyahoga council for Retarded Children founded

July 8, 1933

A council set up in Ohio to help children who were not allowed to go to public school

National Association for Retarded Citizens (The Arc) is founded

May 8, 1950

“A constitution was drawn up with the broad purposes to promote the welfare of mentally retarded persons of all ages and to prevent mental retardation” Segal, Robert Phd. (2013). The National Association for Retarded Citizens. Retreived from http://www.thearc.org/page.aspx?pid=2342.

Brown v. the Board of Education

May 17, 1954

Found that segregation of schools was unlawful. Opened the doorway for other civil rights groups to demand fair and equal public education.

Panel on Mental retardation

July 8, 1961

26 member panel appointed by President John F. Kennedy paved the way for federal funding for the research of mental retardation and new legislation involving mental retardation.

Maternal and Child Health and Mental Retardation Planning Amendment

October 24, 1963

"The first major legislation to combat mental illness and retardation. The amendment incorporated many of the panel's recommendations and provided planning grants to enable states to update their intellectual disabilities programs. It also increased funding for prevention through maternity and infant care"JFK and People with Intellectual Disabilities. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Retrieved on Feb 7, 2010 from http://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/JFK-and-People-with-Intellectual-Disabilities.aspx

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965-

April 11, 1965

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the first federal grant program specifically for youth with disabilities

EAHCA Reauthorized

Aug 5, 1968

Early intervention is added.

PARC v. the Commonwealth of PA

July 8, 1972

Was the first education lawsuit establishing the right for public education for mental retarded students which helped paved the way for the Mills v. Board of Education.

Mills v. Board of Education

July 8, 1972

Landmark case that declared schools could not turn away students using the excuse of lack of funds and resources.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Aug 5, 1973

Provides for equal access to public facilities and protects individuals from discrimination due to their disability.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975

July 8, 1975

“Requires that vocational education be provided for students with disabilities” (NASET, 2007)

Hendrick Hudson Central School District Board of Education v. Rowley

July 8, 1982

Parents sought to add additional services to their child’s IEP and the Federal Court decided the school was providing a meaningful education and no additional services were needed.

1984 Vocational Education Act of 1984 (Perkins Act)


The law states that individuals who are members of special populations (including individuals with disabilities) must be provided with equal access to recruitment, enrollment, and placement activities in vocational education” (NASET, 2007)

Irving Independent School District v. Tatro

July 8, 1984

Supreme Court ruled that the school must provide the medical service (catheter) so that the child could receive free and appropriate education.

Burlington School Committee v. Department of Education of Massachusetts


Supreme Court ruled that reimbursement to attend private school was legal if the public school was not providing free and appropriate education.

Hong v. Doe

July 12, 1988

Found that students with disabilities could not be excluded from school due to behavioral issues.

Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1998

Aug 19, 1988

“This law provides funding to develop statewide, consumer-responsive information and training programs designed to meet the assistive technology (AT) needs of individuals with disabilities of all ages” (NASET, 2007).


Aug 5, 1990

“Broadened Section 504 to include public accommodations, employment and transportation and telecommunications" (facebooker_1206134997).


Aug 5, 1990

“Added autism and TBI (facebooker_1206134997).



Added developmentally delayed to the definition of disabled and required parents to work with LEA's to settle disagreements.

No Child Left Behind

July 8, 2001

Set up procedures and standards for schools to close achievement gaps focusing on students who are disadvantaged such as special needs students. Assessments are done using state testing.

ESEA Revised


Provides federal funding to Title 1 schools to purchase resouce items such as library resources without the approval of government officials.

IDEA 2004

July 8, 2004

Aligns with NCLB.