Continuing Barriers in Special Education

By Jacqueline Hernandez, Daisy Limon, Nayeli Perez and Janette Rodriguez

In the United States, one out of six students has a learning disability that affects their academic skills. Out of all students with disabilities, 95% attend a public school. Public Law 94-142, the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (EHCA) of 1975 now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), aims to provide an equal education to all students with disabilities. Furthermore, IDEA’s funds provide early intervention for children with recognizable disabilities to minimize the problem in developmental delay. Although this act has created an immense improvement in the education this population receives, many areas still require further development.

Some barriers for children with disabilities’ education include the misuse of funding, poor assessments, limited training for teachers, and poor collaboration between schools and caregivers. Students with disabilities struggle to gain access for special education services due to eligibility barriers. In the case of Compton Unified School District v. Addison (2010), the school district failed to evaluate a student at the parents’ request due to suspicion of a learning disability even though the student displayed behavioral problems and low academic scores. Furthermore, misdiagnosis causes children with disabilities to be villainized and forced into the school-to-prison pipeline.

Funding from IDEA does not always cover the cost for literacy programs or instructional materials needed to increase reading comprehension for students with disabilities. As it is, states are funded for the number of special needs students enrolled in schools rather than the quality of academic programs. Some schools choose not to spend funds on training teachers in technology or purchasing technology items since the school might have to use their personal funds.

Additionally, teachers that do not have training in disabilities reported having low academic expectations for their special needs students affecting their students’ academic progress and inclusion in a classroom.

Another barrier to these children’s successful integration in the school system is the term “inclusion” that has been part of the ideology in the political fight for equal education. As researchers state, this term along with “inclusion kids” has further stigmatized students with disabilities by highlighting their differences and labeling them as abnormal. In contrast to these beliefs, the structural view is that students are not at fault for having disabilities. Congress heavily believes that having disabilities is part of the human life and no individual should be treated as less than because everyone can be a contributing member to society.

Although EHCA/IDEA is meant to provide equal education to students with disabilities, the education system does not meet all this population’s needs. In conclusion, many students with disabilities are not being assessed properly and are left to fall between the cracks. These matters are to be taken into consideration in order to make appropriate modifications to this policy.


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