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The Promise of Special Education

ISSUE No. 9 • FALL ’17
Gary M. Sasso, Dean
Dean Gary M. Sasso

The first year I taught special education—1975—was the year that Public Law 94-142 (now called the Individuals with Disabilities Act) was passed. That law guarantees a free and appropriate public education to every child, no matter his or her disability. It’s a wonderful and necessary ideal.

I saw what happened prior to that law being passed. Children were excluded from schools. Children were warehoused in institutions. It was not good. The new law codified programs specifically designed to help children based on their particular learning problems. 

That remains the promise of special education. 

Over the years, we’ve seen a number of changes in how we work with children with special needs, and some of these changes have raised concerns about equity and social justice. However, we must continue to see special education as a positive in children’s lives.

This issue of Theory to Practice highlights the efforts of Lehigh’s College of Education in the areas of special education. We are proud to announce the opening of a new Autism Clinic in January 2018 that will help children with autism gain language skills and improve how they interact with others. We also will train graduate students in using applied behavior analysis, which has proved to be an effective tool in helping children with autism make great strides.

In this issue, we also highlight faculty research focused on a teaching strategy to help students with learning disabilities understand fractions, as well as a study on whether virtual reality programs can help enhance the writing fluency of students with special needs. You also will read about an initiative to promote health and development among at-risk infants and toddlers, an app to assess student motivation, the development of geospatial curricula and ADHD research.

Finally, and with mixed feelings, I want to share that after 10 years as dean of Lehigh’s College of Education, I will be retiring at the end of the 2017-2018 academic year. It’s been an honor and privilege to have been able to share the research and programs of our talented faculty and staff with you. I hope you enjoy this issue of Theory to Practice. Thank you for reading.  

Gary. M. Sasso
Dean, College of Education