What Does BEH Mean in Special Education? The Bureau of Education for the Handicapped

What Does BEH Mean in Special Education? The Bureau of Education for the Handicapped
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Just What Is It?

There are many laws and offices that control special education practices. One of them is BEH. So, what does BEH mean in special education? It was known as the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped, a part of the Department of Education. It was created in the mid-1960s in order to help bring special education into the realm of federal programming.

The Bureau brought together parents, professionals, and state and national leaders together in order to help children with special needs. Now that you know what it is–or was–let’s take a look at what it has done for children in need of special education.

PL 94-142

The most important thing that the Bureau did was create Public Law 94-142, otherwise known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, in 1975 This act paved the way for students with special needs to receive a free and appropriate public education. Before this law was enacted, students with special needs either didn’t receive an education, or were not being educated properly. The BEH stepped in and decided that is was time to make it a federal law to provide every student with special needs an appropriate education.

PL 94-142, later came to be known as IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. At the time that this law was passed there were about 8 million children in need of special education services, but only half of them were receiving an appropriate education. IDEA is a law that ensures that students with special needs receive the appropriate interventions, education, and all of the services that they need as well. This law was re-authorized in 2004 and includes children from birth, for early intervention, all the way up to students who are twenty-one years of age.


The BEH impacts about 6.5 million children in the United States, as stated on the Department of Education website, with services guaranteed by the IDEA. Students who are in need of special education services receive Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), which includes goals and objectives based on their needs that are re-assessed yearly.


Today, the BEH is known as OSEP, the Office of Special Education Programs. As stated on their website, OSEP is dedicated to improving results for children with special needs by providing leadership and financial support to assist both states and local school districts. This is very similar to what the BEH had intended to do.

Without the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped, who knows what the education of students with special needs would look like today. We have them to thank for providing these students with an appropriate education.


Martin, Edwin W. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation: Rise and Fall…and Rise Again? From Questia

Department of Education, The Individuals With Disabilities Act (IDEA)

Simons, Barbara, and Dwyer, Janet. Education of the Handicapped from the Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science. On JSTOR

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS)