"There is a brilliant child locked inside every student." Marva Collins. The special education system of the past often forgot this adage. Children who were different were kept separate and not given the same education as other children. They were not held to the same standard or given the opportunities to learn and progress. These children were often forgotten; unless a parent was willing to fight for them. That stigma has changed in the past 15 years. While the number of children labeled special education has increased, our special education system has changed for the better.
IDEA was the basis for the changes that I will discuss. IDEA is the federal program that mandates special education practices. It helped to standardized programs around the country. One way that IDEA had changed special education over the years is in its focus on social skills. Today's special education curriculum includes the teaching of social skills. Social skills are an integral part of everyday life and are something that many special education children struggle with. In the past special education children were segregated and kept with other special education children. This did not help them gain many social skills because all students in the classroom had a problem with social skills. They also did not get to interact in other parts of everyday school life such as lunch or PE, two wonderful times where social skills are learned. These students often didn't interact with other children from the neighborhood because their families wanted to keep them a secret. The children had very few opportunities to observe children or adults interacting within social situations.
These days' social skills are a standard part of an IEP (Armstrong 2003). An IEP is an individualized education plan. It is the legal document that outlines the specific goals and accommodations to help student's function in school. Examples of some of the social skills included in IEP's are things that range from shoe tying to conversation skills, depending on the deficit. There are tests that measure students' social aptitudes then special arrangements are made to meet these challenges (Logsdon, 2008). With special education children spending most of their time in an inclusion setting they are attending lunch, PE, music, art and many other classes or functions that let them interact with their peers. They also are involved in situations that let them practice and observe social skills such as school programs and assemblies. In an inclusion classroom the students also see the teacher interacting with regular education students who do not have any social problems. This allows the special education children the opportunity to learn through observation and not only direct instruction. Social skills are life skills that are very important for the special education students to learn and master. They will help them in school as well as with getting a job in the future.