U.S. Dept. of Education Celebration Nov. 18, 2010

A brief history of IDEA by Fred Weintraub, former CEC assistant executive director for government relations.

IDEA has opened the door for students like these CEC 2010 Yes I Can! winners to succeed.

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They have full and complete lives today because of the supports mandated through this law. I want to say thank you to all the advocates and parents over the years who worked to create this law and make it better over the years.

It makes a difference for the affected children. It's about providing support to the community.

I was a freshman at Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire studying special education 35 years ago. After 33 years in the field, I have seen many positive changes. I started teaching students who had their initial opportunity to recieve an education coming out of the back wards at Laconia State School. Many years later, I continue to support Inclusion as it was intended in IDEA and restated in IDEIA. My hope is for continued progress towards the rights of individuals and their families in these uncertain times.

IDEA has been a blessing. It has given people with disabilities a chance to participate in their education. When people are given high expectations most meet or exceed the expectations. As a special educator it is my responsibility,to make the content knowledge fit my students; not forcing the students to fit the knowledge.

As the creator of Gonzaga University's program in special education, I look back on IDEA as a wonderful bill that allowed us to graduate over 600 undergraduates and well over 150 graduate students. These pesons completed a program with excellent evidence-based training. Our graduates also reflect the Jesuit Tradition "to become a person for others."

I cannot say enough wonderful things about IDEA and what it has meant to our candidates, their students, and the nation as a whole.

I have three young adult children who received special education services through the IDEA mandate. They have full and complete lives today because of the supports mandated through this law. I want to say thank you to all the advocates and parents over the years who worked to create this law and make it better over the years. The US should be proud of this law and the difference it makes every day to millions of children.

An educator and civil rights advocate for individuals with significant disabilities prior to the passage of Section 504 and PL 94-142, in 1970 I initiated the Travel Training Program for students with significant disabilities other than blindness in the NYC public schools. The goal of travel training is to teach students with disabilities how to travel safely and independently using public transportation. Travel training is specially designed instruction, not a related service, and we were very pleased that it was included in IDEA 1997 and repeated in IDEA 2004 as special education. I have seen many changes since PL94-142 was passed. While the vast majority are very positive, there have been some not so positive changes. We all have to be on guard against the assumption that more is better and applaud the achievement of not needing a service or support any longer. This is clearly seen in the area of related services, including special door-to-door school bus transportation. Independent mobility and travel are fundamental in preparing students for employment, independent living, and participation in the broader community. We have provided travel training to approximately 12,000 students with significant disabilities, and have an average of 90% successfully completing the program and using public transit as their primary mode of transportation. Post-school outcomes are definitely affected by independent mobility and travel. In the future, I hope to see travel training offered by every school district in the country.

As a parent, I am privileged to participate with special educators who provide unwavering commitment and profound fortitude in getting resources for a special needs student while opening doors to a big wide world instead of being shut out. IDEA not only demands accountability, it instills hope in the child through learning in the mainstream classroom.

It is the best IDEA ever. Experiences through out my life (the last 49 years); from babysitting, at a young age, the neighbor girl with lived with DCD, tutoring while in high school, answering the call on my life to become a Special Educator, to becoming a parent of a child who lives with a disability, have shown me the necessity for IDEA and continued support and growth in the services offered. Without this backing, not only my child, but so many to number would not be excelling and becoming their best without it.

I am humbled to have been a part of special education since 1987 when I decided to major in Special Education, Learning and Behavior Disorders.

When I began my Master’s Thesis Program in 1992 for Severe Learning Disabilities, inclusion was the new buzzword. I was adamantly opposed and could not see the benefit. My thinking was that the students had failed in the regular classroom so why put them back?
With the insistence of my thesis committee I had to look at both the pros and cons of the movement. I conducted an in-depth survey of both regular and special educators in my state as to the status and teachers’ attitudes toward inclusion. To my surprise, the regular educators’ strong belief in the benefit of inclusion to special needs students was for social reasons. That benefit is certainly beneficial and in hindsight has been shown to improve knowledge and acceptance of students with special needs. However, at the time I was appalled. I thought school was about academics – yes, even for special needs students. That was my emphasis in resource and collaboration settings for my students. I am pleased that inclusion is now being implemented to allow access to higher expectations and academic achievement. I now realize that change takes place slowly. Probably the social aspect was the beginning of the shift to fully including all students in all educational opportunities.

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