Whether or not we are aware of it, we have all come in to contact with a person with special needs. The term “special needs child” is defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) as a child that uses “more medical care, mental health services, or educational services than is usual for most children of the same age.” In fact, according to the latest study released by the same agency, almost 14% of children under the age of 18 are classified as having special needs. That is roughly 10.2 million children.
“10.2 million children under the age of 18 are classified as having special needs.” In 1975, Congress recognized children with special needs with the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA). This federal law mandated that special education programs be made available to children who needed them and if those program were not made available the law also offered a course of action for the parents of special needs children who felt that their child’s educational needs were not being met.
Passage of the EHA opened the door for subsequent education reforms such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which, among other things, extended the coverage of EHA to all eligible children with special needs from preschool to the age of 21.