The Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 requires public schools in the United States to offer educational training and other services to all children, even those with profound mental retardation. These students often receive publicly funded education their entire lives.
Educational programs for mentally retarded children under 6 years old focus on exploration, socialization, language acquisition, and developing basic living skills. Such programs may be provided in settings ranging from specialized educational centers to the home.
Children of school age, typically from 6 to 18 years old, receive education that emphasizes basic academic and social skills. However, the specific skills taught to these children vary widely, especially across the levels of retardation. For example, students with mild retardation receive instruction in math, reading, writing, and social skills. Students with profound retardation receive training in more basic skills, such as bathing, brushing their teeth, and feeding or dressing themselves. Educational services for older students often emphasize the transition to adulthood. These programs include teaching skills in developing friendships, self-sufficiency at home, and specific work skills.
The Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 and subsequent laws known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) require that all children be placed in the “least restrictive” setting possible. Because retardation levels vary widely, educational services are not provided in any single type of setting for all these students. Students with mild levels of retardation may be educated in regular classrooms, with or without special education consultants. More restrictive settings include half-day placement in regular classrooms and in special education resource rooms, special education classrooms within regular schools, separate schools for students with special needs, and homebound or hospital educational programs