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Special education in the USA is, in most respects, a 20th century phenomenon and is now governed primarily by federal legislation first enacted in 1975. The federal law in…
Special education in the USA is, in most respects, a 20th century phenomenon and is now governed primarily by federal legislation first enacted in 1975. The federal law in its most recent reauthorization (2004) continues to require a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for all students with disabilities, a full continuum of alternative placements (CAP) ranging from residential or hospital care to inclusion in general education, an individual education plan or program (IEP) for each student identified as needing special education, and placement in the least restrictive environment (LRE) that is thought best for implementing the IEP. Parents must be involved in the special education process. Approximately 14 percent of public school students were identified for special education in 2004–2005, but the number and percentage of students identified in most high-incidence categories as needing special education have declined in recent years (the total for all categories was about 8.5 percent of public school students in 2010). A variety of evidence-based interventions can be used to address the wide range of instructional and behavioral needs of students with disabilities and their families, including transition to further education or work, family services, and teacher education. Special education in the USA may find new sources of support and thrive or may become less common or be abandoned entirely due to criticism and withdrawal of support for social welfare programs of government.