IDEA Information and Resources
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA")
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is the federal legislation that ensures students with a disability are provided with Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) designed to meet their unique needs. Schools are required to provide special education in the least restrictive environment. That means schools must teach students with disabilities in the general education environment whenever possible.
Under the IDEA, parents have a say in the educational decisions the school makes about their child. At every point of the process, the law gives parents specific rights and protections. These are called procedural safeguards.
The IDEA is composed of four parts. Part A covers the general provisions of the law. Part B covers assistance for education of children with disabilities. Part C covers infants and toddlers with disabilities, which includes children from birth to age three. And Part D covers the national support programs administered at the federal level.
If your child qualifies for special education services, you will work with a school team, called the IEP team, to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP is a written document that is developed for each public school child who is eligible for special education. The IEP is created through a team effort and reviewed at least once a year.
The IEP is designed to meet your child’s unique educational needs. It guarantees the necessary supports and services that are agreed upon and written for your child. An IEP is like a formal contract that outlines how the school will support your child.
The IDEA requires certain information to be included in the IEP: Present levels of educational performance, measurable goals, and special education and related services.
Your school district has an obligation to “identify, locate and evaluate” all children with disabilities who may be eligible for special education, including those who are attending private schools or are homeless or wards of the court. You can also make a referral for assessment at any time. The student is to be assessed in all areas related to the suspected disability including, where appropriate, health and development, vision (including low vision), hearing, motor abilities, language function, general ability, academic performance, self-help, orientation and mobility skills, career and vocational abilities and interest, and social and emotional status. A developmental history should be obtained, when appropriate.
Accommodations and modifications
The difference between success and failure for a particular student with an IEP often comes down to how effectively the curriculum is adapted to individual needs. Accommodations and modifications are the tools used by the IEP team to achieve that end.
'Related services' is the term for those services a disabled child needs in order to benefit from special education. Related services means transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes speech-language pathology and audiology services, interpreting services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, including therapeutic recreation, early identification and assessment of disabilities in children, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes. Related services also include school health services and school nurse services, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training.
Least restrictive environment
The IDEA includes two fundamental requirements: that the child will receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The least restrictive environment means that a student who has a disability should have the opportunity to be educated with non-disabled peers, to the greatest extent appropriate. They should have access to the general education curriculum, or any other program that non-disabled peers would be able to access. The student should be provided with supplementary aids and services necessary to achieve educational goals if placed in a setting with non-disabled peers.
Supplementary aids and services
Supplementary aids and services means aids, services and other supports to enable students with disabilities to be educated with nondisabled students to the maximum extent appropriate in the least restrictive environment.