UI's REACH Program Takes Special Education One Step Further

Apr 19, 2017

Before the Americans with Disabilities Act, families who had a child with special needs were often told to send their children to an institution, or that there was no hope. Two Iowa educators have just released a free, online book about the history of special education in Iowa.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with two former school psychologists, Jeff Grimes and Jim Stumme.

“We heard stories from parents that physicians would tell them to put their kids in these institutions. They would say that there’s no way you can keep these children in the home, the system is not set up to handle that,” explains Stumme.

“Prior to doing the research and all the interviews on this book, we had thought about these kids that did not attend school, we thought it was because parents were embarrassed because they had a child with a disability. But what we found out was that in those days, there was no funding to help these students, and families didn’t have a lot of options.”

Toward the end of this hour, Pamela Ries, who heads the University of Iowa’s REACH program, and Ed Messimer, who has a student enrolled in REACH (Travis), join the conversation.

About half of the students are from Iowa, and about half are from elsewhere. They have just under 60 enrolled in the program currently.

“We couldn’t find any resources for Travis in Texas other than a private, for-profit organization. We were not impressed. As Travis finished his high school year, we were informed that in order for him to get any help whatsoever, we would have to leave our small town,” says Messimer.

“Since my wife is from Iowa originally, I started scrolling through information at the University of Iowa, and I discovered this REACH program," he says. "My son took a history class at the University of Iowa, and he passed. I’m so proud of him.”