The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities.
Congress said this: “Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.”
How did it all begin? On November 29, 1975, the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), guaranteed access to a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) to every child with a disability.
The current, reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was signed into law on December 3, 2004, by President George W. Bush.
Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth – age 2) and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Children and youth (ages 3 – 21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B.
IDEA has four distinct sections: Sections A, B, C and D.
Part A of IDEA: Lays out the basic foundation for the rest of the Act.
Part B of IDEA: Lays out the educational guidelines for school children 3-21 years of age. IDEA provides financial support for state and local school districts. To receive funding, school districts must comply with 6 main principles set out by IDEA:
1) Every child with a disability is entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
2) Children are entitled to an evaluation in all areas related to the suspected disability.
3) An Individualized Education Program (IEP) will be developed.
4) Educational services must be provided in the least restrictive environment (LRE).
5) Input of the child and their parents must be taken into account in the education process.
6) Parents have the right under IDEA to question their child’s program plan (due process).
Part C of IDEA: Provides guidelines concerning the funding and services to be provided to children from birth through 3 years of age.
Part D of IDEA: Describes national activities to improve the education of children with disabilities. These activities include grants to improve the education and transitional services provided to students with disabilities. In addition, this section provides resources to support programs, projects and activities which contribute positive results for children with disabilities (IDEA, 1997).