History of Special Education & What It Means for Us Today


From Cheryl Swope | January 22, 2019 | For Special Needs, On Classical Education, Reflections

photo: the oldest permanent school for the deaf, founded in 1817, Connecticut

Have you ever wondered when education began for children with special needs? Was it in America? Europe?

Did it begin with children who had Down syndrome? Blindness? Who decided to develop teaching materials for children who needed modifications? How did classical education influence special education?

You may appreciate the quick timeline beginning in the 1500s and embedded in this new article rich with applications for us today. I wrote the piece at the request of Classical Thistle, classical education advocates. With gratitude to Margret A. Winzer for her informative book, From Integration to Inclusion: A History of Special Education, here is an excerpt from my article:

When Pedro Ponce de León opened his school for non-speaking children with profound deafness, he had no delusions of teaching without the aid of adaptations. His early work remains instructive to us today. “Ponce’s work was … an astute application of the sign language he and his brother Benedictine monks used daily. Ponce’s great achievements may not have been teaching speech and language to the deaf boys but more his recognition that disability did not hinder learning and his use of alternative stimuli…. Most importantly, perhaps, Ponce de León was the first successful special educator, and 1578 the year in which special education truly began.”

Read the full article with applications for the children we love and teach:
Teach Them to Climb

Simply Classical Curriculum for the riches of a classical education with researched teaching techniques for children with learning challenges.



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