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Special education addresses the individual and diverse needs of students. It identifies the exceptionalities of particular learners and proposes interventions for disabled students as well as gifted learners. Understanding shifts and trends in the history of special education can provide a deeper understanding of education more generally as well as understandings of childhood and children’s rights. This entry reviews the foundational roots of special education and provides an overview of key terms and debates within the field.

The History of Special Education

In the United States, special education arguably began with the formation of special schools in the 19th century. The Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons, later renamed The American School for the Deaf, opened on April 15, 1817, in ...

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