Residential Care Education Research Paper Starter

Residential Care Education

(Research Starters)

This paper provides an overview of the beginnings of residential care and the shaping of residential care in providing education services to confined individuals in the United States. It also describes the advantages and disadvantages of residential care, special education law, and educational services in residential care. In the United States, specific studies on educational services in residential care are limited. This could be attributed to the advocacy efforts of parents, individuals with disabilities, and their advocates. However, individuals with disabilities continue to be placed in residential care facilities.

Keywords Activities of Daily Living; Disabilities; Historical Perspectives; IDEA 2004; Individualized Education Program; Life Skills; Normalization; Residential Care


Society has always struggled with the care and education of individuals with disabilities. The care of individuals with disabilities closely mirrors the changes in society's viewpoints of individuals with disabilities. Past and present educational settings or placement options for individuals with special needs include residential schools, specialized schools, self-contained classrooms, resource rooms, teachers serving as consultants and homebound or hospital instruction. Each educational setting or placement option offers advantages and disadvantages for individuals with special needs. It should be acknowledged that no single educational setting or placement option will meet the needs of all individuals with special needs. Thus, each educational setting or placement option should be considered of equal importance regardless of its history. The purpose of this paper is to provide general information on the history, criticisms, placement, and educational services provided by residential care facilities.

The Beginnings of Residential Care

In earlier times, the individual with any type of difference was seen as an omen, curse, children of the devil and were often beaten, left to die, or subject to other cruel actions (Beck, 2002; Peterson, 1987). Peterson stated that with the spread of Christianity, individuals with disabilities became more protected (p. 93). This period of time marked the beginning of residential institutions or homes for the physically or mentally impaired (Peterson, 1987).

Residential schools have existed since the 1500s in England. The first mental institution, St. Mary of Bethlehem, was established in London in 1547 (Smith & Luckasson, 1995). The term Bedlam, often used to mean noise and chaos, was originally used to describe individuals at this facility. Sadly, the residents were considered to be an entertainment, as outsiders would pay money to watch them (Smith & Luckasson, 1995).

Johann Guggenbuhl established the first institution for what he termed "cretins" (mentally retarded) in Switzerland in 1840 (Peterson, 1987; Smith & Luckasson, 1995). Unfortunately, his facility, Abendberg, closed in 1867 under allegations of financial and medical malpractice (Smith & Luckasson, 1995). However, his efforts of early advocacy were later adopted internationally and led to the establishment of residential care. In the 1800's and continuing until World War II, residential schools and institutions worldwide provided education to many individuals who were deaf, blind, and mentally retarded (Peterson, 1987).

History of Residential Care in the United States

Residential schools in Europe primarily provided custodial care for individuals with special needs. The residential schools founded in the United States provided the first formalized education for individuals needing specific educational instruction. The purpose of establishing the schools was to provide specialized living arrangements to educate and house individuals who were deaf, juvenile delinquents, blind, or mentally retarded. In the United States, the first residential care facility was established for the deaf in 1817 in Connecticut. Thomas Gallaudet established the American Asylum for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, currently the American School for the Deaf (Cruickshank & Johnson, 1958; Smith & Luckasson, 1995).

The first residential facility for juvenile delinquents, the House of Refuge, was established in 1825 in New York by the Society for the Prevention of Pauperism (New York State Archives, n.d.). This facility was considered a reformatory school that housed children who were vagrants or petty thieves. The school required the residents to work, learn basic literacy skills for religious purposes, and was one of the first to use a behavior system.

It is interesting that Samuel Gridley Howe was among the first to question the practice of isolation and segregation even though he established two residential facilities for the blind and mentally retarded. Howe opened the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston in 1832 (Cruickshank & Johnson, 1958; Peterson, 1987; Smith & Luckasson, 1995). The Perkins Institute has a rich history of accomplishments including educating Laura Bridgman, who some believe to have been the first educated person who was deaf-blind, and of course, its most famus resident Helen Keller, who others believe is the first educated person who was deaf-blind (Perkins School for the Blind, n.d.).

In 1848, Howe established the Massachusetts School for Idiotic Children, an institution for the mentally retarded (Smith & Luckasson, 1995). The school was considered a model for educational practices for the mentally retarded. The institution was renamed the Walter E. Fernald State School in 1925. Unfortunately, the school is now best known as the site of questionable research ethics involving informed consent. Experiments were conducted in the late 1940s to early 1950s by Harvard University and MIT to determine the effects of repeated radiation exposures on humans. The most troubling part of the experiments was that the individuals and their families did not understand or provide informed consent for the experiments.

Smith and Luckasson (1995) stated that the first school for the physically disabled was established in 1884 in Philadelphia. By 1917, most states had a residential school for the mentally retarded, deaf, and/or blind (Smith & Luckasson, 1995).

Initially residential schools in the United States were for the establishment of training and educating persons with special needs. Cruickshank and Johnson (1958) stated that the establishment of residential care facilities was tolerated as a way to provide care for individuals who could not care for themselves. By developing and funding residential schools, society could reduce its responsibility for individuals with special needs through training and education. While society recognized a need to provide services, many residential care facilities were built away from towns and followed the guidelines established in England.

In the 1930's and 1940's, growth was in large-scale institutions and segregation of the handicapped. During the depression, the societal and economic viewpoints had many questioning if funding of residential schools and the educational practices within them was of any value. The lack of funding and trained staff, overcrowded facilities, and societal shift forced many institutions to become custodial care facilities mainly for the mentally retarded (Peterson, 1987). Soldiers and personnel returning from World War II increased the need for specialized services specifically for individuals with behavioral, physical, and mental deficits (Peterson, 1987). As a result, society once again developed an interest in residential care and education of the disabled as the wars added many disabled individuals to society.

Until the late 1950s, residential programs for individuals with special needs continued although services continued to be separate, isolated, and segregated (Peterson, 1987; Smith & Luckasson, 1995). Individuals with mild needs were provided educational services. Unfortunately, in many of these facilities, different forms of neglect and deprivation were practiced, especially if the individual had multiple disabilities (i.e., cerebral palsy and deaf). Once an individual entered they seldom left and most residents lacked the necessary skills to survive in the outside world (Peterson, 1987). In the 1970s and 1980s, many institutions were under intense public scrutiny due to inhumane conditions and the minimum of care being provided. As a result, many courts closed the facilities as they actually violated basic human rights (Smith & Luckasson, 1995).

During this same period, society saw the emergence of parent groups and associations such as the Association of Retarded Citizens (ARC) who advocated for community services and...

(The entire section is 3857 words.)