Special Education in Mexico

By Shepherd, Terry L.; Contreras, Diana et al. | Teaching Exceptional Children, May/June 2002 | Go to article overview

Special Education in Mexico


Shepherd, Terry L., Contreras, Diana, Brown, Randel, Teaching Exceptional Children


One Community's Response

Like many developing countries, Mexico has struggled to provide for the educational needs of children with disabilities. Economic instability has often forced a reduction in services to people with disabilities. Cultural values have also prevented families from requesting government support for children with disabilities. Many families in Mexico hold the traditional view of a person's disability as God's judgment on the family (Cieloha, 1986). With the strengthening economy of Mexico, however, educators have been able to pay more attention to the needs of children with disabilities. This article looks at the history of special education in Mexico, discusses the emergence of special education programs, and examines a school for special education in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.

History of Special Education in Mexico

The history of special education in Mexico is similar to the history of special education in the United States. Like the United States, Mexico began efforts to provide for the needs of people with disabilities long before special education laws came into being. One of the first schools established for people with disabilities in Mexico was la Escuela Nacional de Sordos, the National School of the Deaf (Cieloha, 1986; Garza, 1999). Established in 1867 under the direction of President Benito Juarez and the Minister of Justice and Public Education, Gabino Barreda, the National School of the Deaf included "Spanish reading and writing, catechism and religious principles, world and Mexican history, geography, natural history, arithmetic," and other vocational subjects that included gardening; sewing, embroidery, and knitting; and bookkeeping for "those who showed a particular aptitude" (Larroyo, 1983). In 1879, the National School for the Blind was established in Mexico. The National School for the Blind was created with a curricular focus and intent equivalent to the National School of the Deaf.

In 1914, Dr. Jose de Jesus Gonzales founded a school for children with mental retardation in Leon, Guanajuato. Between 1919 and 1927, the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico developed the first teacher education program geared toward working with children with disabilities (Cieloha, 1986). During the next 30 years, laws were created that provided for the services of children with mental retardation. Educational programs for students with disabilities were expanded in 1962 when a school for children with learning disabilities was established in Cordoba, Veracruz. These expansions continued until the programs were politically consolidated with the creation of the Direccion General de Educacion Especial in 1970 (Cieloha). Schools and specialized programs for people with disabilities continued to grow in number, yet many of these services were available only to students in Mexico City and other major population centers in Mexico. Although 31 states had administrative coordinators for special education by 1979, not all special education programs are of equal quality. Large gaps exist in the quality and quantity of services provided to people with disabilities. And not all people with disabilities are guaranteed appropriate educational services.

During the past 6 years, cooperation between the Mexican Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education has increased. From this collaboration, Mexico has declared education as a right for all children and has shown dedication to improving the quality of education for all children including children with disabilities (Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC], 1999; Garza, 1999). As in the United States, equity of access is a major component of special education in Mexico. Special Assistant to the Minister of Education Sofialeticia Moreales Garza (1999) has defined inclusive education "as the right of every child to be enrolled in basic schooling and to meet his or her basic educational needs" (p. 4). As a result of including children with disabilities into the general education classrooms, the Ordinary School Support Service Units CUSAERs) have been expanded; and the special education schools have been redesignated as Centro de Atencion Multiple (CAM), or Centers for Multiple Attention (CRC, 1999). …

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