In the late 1960s, special education became a focus within the overall War on Poverty. The issue of poverty and mental retardation received growing attention. Controversy grew about the traditional classification and placement practices.
The President's Committee and the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped sponsored a 1969 conference titled "The Six-Hour Retarded Child".
We now have what may be called a 6-hour retarded child – disabled from 9 to 3, five days a week, solely on the basis of an IQ score, without regard to his adaptive behavior, which may be exceptionally adaptive to the situation and community in which he lives.
The concern focused on the mass migration of large numbers of low income families from minority groups to large cities.
A large number of these children score low enough on individual tests of intelligence to be classified as "mentally retarded." They are sometimes called "functionally retarded" to distinguish them from those who, presumably, would have been "retarded" regardless of environment. The latter are sometimes called "organically retarded" even when there is no evidence of "organic deficit."
The production of so many "functionally retarded" children by our society raises disturbing questions: Do we need more special education that is designed for the "retarded?" Do we need more of the same kind of education these children have been getting in the regular classroom? What is the role of the schools in a society beset by racism, poverty, alienation, and unrest.
The conference's recommendations included some of the earliest uses of the terms "inclusive" and "zero reject," and reference to "nondiscriminatory evaluation," "individualized instruction," and "strength based planning" which would come to play increasingly important roles over the decades.