Special education has grown and improved dramatically over the years. Its history contains many admirable historical figures and events that have defined and influenced Special Education. However, I chose 4 people and one event that I thought had a big impact on special education. Without these people, special education would not be where it is today. I believe that Jean Itard, Edouard Seguin, Helen Keller, Samuel Howe, and Brown Vs. Board of Education, have all been important moments in Special Ed’s history. Special Ed status, education wouldn’t progress that much without them.
Jean Itard is perhaps best defined as “the father of Special Education”. Although she was not aware that his work would be called Special Education, his work had a profound effect on future generations. Itard was raised to be a trader. However, during the French Revolution, he joined the army to become an assistant surgeon. After the war, he embarked on a new and exciting project called Victor. Victor was a wild, animal-like boy who was found running around in the forest. In 1800 he was bought in Paris for observation. When Itard saw the wild and uncivilized boy, he assumed that he had recently been abandoned by his parents. Like a wild animal that doesn’t like being caged, Victor has escaped a couple of times from a widow’s bedroom window. Normally it was lacking, but Itard believed he could educate the boy through experience. In Itard’s day, it was a common belief that the mentally disabled were uneducable. The notable guru spent five years trying to “cure” him. After 5 years, Victor could read and pronounce some words and could even show affection towards his caretakers. Unfortunately he never reached normality. Itard thought he had failed as a teacher, but his experience of him with Victor taught others that to achieve the slightest success, he had to accept Victor as a person. His work implemented the most important truth of all, and it was that education had to be in harmony with the dynamic nature of life.
The next important historical figure was not a teacher, but an extraordinary student. Helen Keller had an illness that left her blind and deaf. As a child, she suffered from severe delay. She made animal-like sounds, she tore off her clothes and was not toilet trained. It was evident that she lacked civilian traits. Many years later, she too said, “I was an animal.” Poor Helen had become a very difficult child. She terrorized the house and often endangered the people who were there. The Kellers were advised to visit a deaf child expert. This was the famous Alexander Graham Bell. Bell suggested that the family seek out a Perkins University instructor.
On March 3, 1883, he met his teacher and caretaker, Miss Anne Sullivan. During their first meeting, Anne wrote the word doll on her arm. After writing her word on her arm, Anne gave Helen a doll, to show her what her “doll” was. The next word that was spoken was “cake”. Although she could quickly repeat the same finger movements as hers, she never really understood what her words meant. While Anne was struggling to help her understand the meaning of a word, she was also struggling to try to control Helen’s unwanted behavior. Making her educated and civil was a great challenge for Anne. After a month, her behavior improved. It was that first month in which the bond between Anne and Helen tightened. After that month it was time for people to refer to the “miracle. It wasn’t until 1887 that Helen began to understand the words. Anne rubbed some water on Helen’s hand and explained the word on her hand. Something about this activity has helped Helen understand the meaning of words Helen has progressed as an individual over the years.
The life he lived had an impact on teaching methods, as well as on technology. With Anne’s help, through her writings, her lectures and the way she lived her life, she showed people that being disabled is not the end of the world. His impact on education can be shown through this quote from him: “The public must learn that the blind man is neither a gender nor a monster nor an idiot. He has a mind that can be educated, a hand that can be trained … “
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