A Place to Learn: The Development of a Free Appropriate Public Education for All Children
The 1950s: Special Education Reemerged.
The Civil Right to an Equal Education Was Recognized.
In 1904 in Europe, Binet and Simon developed tests to determine if a child "suspected of disabilities" should be transferred to a special education class, separate from other students. The test determined if the child was unable to benefit from general class instruction. In 1916, Terman standardized the Binet-Simon test for American children. Thus began our history of systematically sorting children into separate classrooms, classes and services for special and general education. It would take most of the rest of the 20th century to turn this practice around, but “separate” still exists in many ways.
The number of special classrooms and classes grew from 1915 to 1930. With the Great Depression of the 1930s, there was a dramatic decrease. At that point, according to the Arc US, "Mildly retarded* children either stayed at home or attended general classes. The more severely retarded* youngsters were placed in institutions."
Disclaimer: The language used to describe people with intellectual and developmental disabilities has changed over the past 50 years. In the earlier decades of this time period, terms and language that are now considered disrespectful and offensive, were acceptable. Today, it is respectful to use person-first language, putting the person before the label, such as “person with a disability.” Today, there are also individuals with disabilities who prefer to own their label, or in other words, take it back. Therefore, you may hear language such as “I am an autistic.” This is a disability studies perspective. While these two ways of using language dramatically differ, they both operate from an informed perspective which is respectful. It is important to provide rationales for the manner we use language that come from respect, dignity and social justice. Any time outdated language is used in this section, the word or term will be followed by an asterisk. *
Terms such as "retarded," "handicapped," "trainable," “crippled” and "educable" are not acceptable in any model.
The remnants of what is now considered unacceptable language and terms may still be found in references to official governmental bodies (i.e. President's Panel on Mental Retardation), organizations that were founded during these earlier years, federal laws, reports (i.e. Community Residences for Mentally Retarded Persons), case law, and quotations. Advocacy is important in abolishing outdated language practices.