History of NADS
Special Education for Children with Disabilities
After many years of hard work by parents and other advocates, education for all children with disabilities became a federal law. On Nov. 29, 1975, then-President Gerald Ford signed into law the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142).
In adopting this landmark civil rights measure, Congress opened public school doors for millions of children with disabilities and laid the foundation of the country’s commitment to ensuring that they have opportunities to develop their talents, share their gifts, and contribute to their communities.
In the last 35 years, expectations for all students, including students with disabilities, have expanded. Classrooms have become more inclusive and the future of children with disabilities brighter. Significant progress has been made toward protecting the rights of, meeting the individual needs of, and improving educational results for infants, toddlers, children, and youths with disabilities.
Since 1975, policies and practices that meaningfully include students with disabilities in general education classrooms and accountability systems have proliferated. In 2010 nearly 60 percent of students with disabilities were in general education classrooms 80 percent or more of their school day. Early intervention services are now provided to nearly 350,000 infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families, and over 6.6 million children and youths receive special education and related services designed to meet their individual needs.
In 2010, the 35th anniversary of the passage of Public Law 94-142 was celebrated. It is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
For more information on Public Law 94-142 go to: http://idea.ed.gov/explore/home.
Education Within NADS
Even though federal and state laws mandated free appropriate education for all children with disabilities, NADS families still had to fight for their child’s rights, and we developed programs to assist in this effort:
In 1987 NADS trained a group of parents to be Education Facilitators--i.e. they were trained to assist parents experiencing problems with their school districts. Unfortunately because of family responsibilities and work schedules, volunteers were not usually available during the week when schoolmeetings were scheduled, so NADS staff members provided advocacy and assistance to families dealing with education challenges.
For many years NADS has provided support and information to families who call on us for assistance with school issues. Often the questions are about inclusion versus special education settings. Sometimes there are questions about IEPs and strategies for successful school experiences for our children. Another set of issues pertains to appropriate support fortransitions from elementary to high school and, one of the most difficult transitions – from high school to post-secondary programs. We receive regular phone calls from out of state families moving toIllinois. They frequently ask us about the philosophyof school districts and what their track record is in educating children with Down syndrome. Those involved in our Parent-to-Parent Network were willing to share their experiences with other parents who were interested in learning more about school districts in the Chicago metropolitan area.
Education Programs for Students
NADS staff and trained public speakers have provided education programs in schools for students in elementary, junior high, high school and college. These presentations have emphasized the fact that children with Down syndrome are children first and have gifts and challenges just like other children.
NADS has held conferences in the Chicago area since the early 1960’s – Professor Jerome Lejeune gave presentations several times in the 1960’s, 70’s and in 80’s. Since 1980 NADS has held a conference every other year featuring an array of local and national speakers, including physicians, researchers, educators, therapists, parents and individuals with Down syndrome. Topics addressed have included health issues, communication skills, reading, sensory processing, post secondary programs, and many other subjects of interest to parents and professionals.
A conference for teens and adults with Down syndrome runs concurrently with the conference for parents and professionals. Some of the topics covered have included: social relationships, health issues, safety in the community, and work skills; participants also have an opportunity to take part in interactive drama and dancing.
In later years workshops were also offered in Spanish, and our Spanish-speaking parents were able to receive information in their native language - topics such as the IEP process, education rights and developing strategies to succeed at school and in the community.