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The History of Inclusion in the United States

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                                                      President Kennedy and the 1961 poster children for the
                                                      National  Association for Retarded Children at the White
                                                      House. With the children are, from left, Eunice Kennedy
                                                      Shriver; the girls’ mother; Leonard Mayo, chair of the
                                                      president’s Panel on Mental Retardation; President
                                                      Kennedy; and Vincent Fitzpatrick, president of NARC.

Kennedy’s interest in special education derived largely from personal considerations. His sister Rosemary had been identified as mentally retarded, and the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, named in honor of his brother, had been supporting research in mental retardation for some time before his election. Urged on by family members—especially his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver—and with the support of the National Association for Retarded Children (NARC), Kennedy in 1961 appointed a Panel on Mental Retardation delegated to examine ways “to consider a national approach to the prevention and management of mental retardation.” In presenting a rationale for the panel’s creation, the president argued that “We, as a nation, have far too long postponed an intensive search for solutions to the problems of the mentally retarded. That failure should be corrected. . . .” Within a year, the panel, which included several prominent special educators, doctors, and others associated with NARC and the American Association on Mental Deficiency, had produced a report entitled A Proposed Program for National Action To Combat Mental Retardation. The report provided guidance to the development of federal programs in special education for the next several years, establishing goals, guidelines, and parameters for expanded research and legislation as well as increased federal funding in education, personnel training, and residential care.3

Although the panel dissolved soon after issuing the report, the Kennedy administration’s proactive involvement in special education remained strong and continued into the years of the Johnson administration following Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. The centerpiece of Kennedy’s legislative initiatives was both PL 88-156, which focused on supporting state initiatives, and its companion PL 88-164. This was a comprehensive act that established a Division of Handicapped Children and Youth within the U.S. Office of Education; authorized funding for continued and expanded training of special

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