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And the walls came tumbling down.

As we usher in a new decade with this issue of EXCEPTIONAL PARENT, we can appreciate how much progress has been made in enriching the lives of children with disabilities and their families. In the mid-1960s, when the federal government began to respond to the stirrings of the parent movement and funded projects to improve care for people with mental retardation and mental illness, no one anticipated the monumental changes which were to occur.

The past two decades have witnessed the opening of new opportunities for full participation in community life for children and adults with disabilities. In the 70s, the efforts early in the decade begun as a result of the Pennsylvania court decision in 1971 and culminated in the enactment of the Education of All Handicapped Children in 1975. By the end of the decade, the educational programs mandated by this federal law were being put into place in all fifty states.

The decade of the 80s saw the implementation of this law and the defeat of a series of legislative efforts to undermine its mandate. Last year witnessed a broadening of the rights under the original law so that children and families would be entitled to services from birth. The federal court has recently reaffirmed the standards for the education of the child with the most severe disabilities where a school system tried to withhold free public education because there was no proof the child in question could profit from educational or therapeutic programs. In a judicial opinion, the Federal Appeals Court reminded the school system that it was clear that Congress had intended to make the needs of these youngsters a top priority (see What's Happening on p. 58 for fuller presentation). The Supreme Court, by not hearing a further appeal, has upheld this ruling.

Over the past two decades, as many, many children with disabilities have begun to be educated within public school programs, all of us - parents, professionals, government officials - have begun to learn by direct experiences about the resources required o fully implement the legislation. Over these years, as youngsters progressed on to secondary school and then into colleges or other post-secondary programs, each new step has meant the exploration of relatively unknown territories for educators, children and parents. Throughout the country, parents have pioneered every effort and reminded everyone in the community that it was time to ensure the expansion of opportunities not only in schools but in all aspects of life for all children.

In the past several years, some states and local communities have complained about "unanticipated costs" of the revolutionary changes brought about by the legislation. In our own state, some critics have referred to special education as a "budget-buster." As a result, we are all aware that a great deal of work remains for us all in this new decade.

In dramatic contrast, this last year, we have seen enthusiasm and excitement in two important areas that could not have been anticipated twenty years ago. The computer revolution in relation to people with disabilities, which has also been pioneered by parents, has provided wonderful opportunities for children and young adults. At a recent conference it was evident that the continuing efforts of parents, people with disabilities and the high tech industry ensure the continued development in this area. At another recent meeting, we observed ongoing, dramatic developments in adaptive equipment which have evolved because the lives of people with disabilities have already changed so dramatically and have called attention to new needs and new solutions. And all of us have seen the media including more and more individuals with disabilities in programming with a sense of sensitivity and opportunity that reflects real changes going on in our society.

For many individuals, the symbol that ushers in this decade has been the removal of the Berlin Wall. It has created a great sense of optimism in which we wish that all unresolved problems, some stemming from prejudice, will come to an end and free us all. Similarly, we have seen the walls of prejudice and mean-spiritedness that have surrounded individuals with disabilities for so many decades crumbling. Just as the wall came tumbling down in Berlin because of the efforts of many, many people who we do not see on the evening news, the walls of prejudice surrounding people with disabilities have been tumbling and will continue to tumble because of the energetic, persistent work of parents and professionals who, at long last, have begun to appreciate the commonality of their concerns and are learning to work together cooperatively.

We pledge that EXCEPTIONAL PARENT will continue to work together with parent organizations throughout the country to build the alliances that will provide the energy so that all the remaining walls of prejudice shall come tumbling down. While many citizens and political leaders are hopeful that the dramatic political changes around the world can result in decreased allocation of resources for armaments, we all must continue to speak out at every level to insist upon a rearrangement of national priorities to make available the resources that are required to fulfill all the goals of the legislation of the past two decades.
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Title Annotation:progress made in enriching the lives of children with disabilities
Author:Klein, Stanley D.; Schleifer, Maxwell J.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:editorial
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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