For centuries, communities have been marginalized or “hidden away” due to their disabilities, to include children with special needs (defined as any child who has been determined to require special attention and specific necessities that other children do not).
In more recent times, these individuals were routinely institutionalized, denied education, and subject to discrimination in employment, housing, transportation, and other aspects of daily life. Our nation had seen a sweeping movement as early as the 60s, inspired by other initiatives such as civil rights for equity and fairness as we sought to realize a better future.
Throughout the next three decades, milestone legislation has worked to provide opportunities for youth such as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) to ensure all states had “free and appropriate” education to children with special needs. The new law emphasized the inclusion of students with disabilities in mainstream classrooms by stipulating that they be taught in the “least restrictive environment” possible, a new concept.
Before this law, 1.75 million children with special needs were excluded from public schools. Other laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and movements in self-advocacy and personcentered language made headway to ensure that stereotypes and stigmas were a thing of the past.
At PDN Children’s, we desire a world where all children thrive in an inclusive environment, recognizing their abilities and talents. Yet, we are still far from achieving a world of equality. That is why our organization was created-to help children with special needs achieve their fullest potential in the El Paso, Texas, community. We, alongside many community stakeholders, partnering non-profit organizations, and private sector champions, work to achieve our mission each day.