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Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

- Updated 8/13/99 -

IDEA is a federal law that guarantees all students between the ages of 3 through 21 with disabilities the right to a free appropriate public education designed to meet their individual needs. It also offers protections for the rights of students with disabilities and their parents.

Under the provisions of IDEA, children with disabilities may receive special education services when they meet the eligibility criteria for one or more of the following disabilities:

  • Mental Retardation
  • Blindness/Visual Impairment
  • Deafness/Hearing Impairment
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Serious Emotional Disturbance
  • Autism
  • Speech or Language Impairment
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Multiple Disabilities
  • Other Health Impairment
  • Deaf/Blindness
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

and, because of these disabilities, need special education and related services.

IDEA guarantees four (4) rights and two (2) protections for each child and his/her parents. For each student with a disability, the public education agency must provide:

1. A Free Appropriate Public Education
The education must be provided at no cost to the student or his/her parents. It must be designed to meet the unique needs of each individual student.

2. An Education in the Least Restrictive Environment
Students with disabilities are to be educated as much as possible with students who have no disabilities. This includes making use of regular school buildings whenever possible, as well as joint participation in non-academic and extracurricular activities such as meals, art, music, physical education and recess. The amount of time a student with a disability spends with students who have no disabilities is to be determined on an individual basis.

3. Related Services
Related and other supportive services are to be provided as needed in order to assist a student with a disability to benefit from special education. These related services include, but are not limited to:

  • Speech · Audiology
  • Psychological Services· Early Identification
  • Physical Therapy · Counseling Services
  • Occupational Therapy · Medical Services (for
  • Recreation diagnosis or evaluation)
  • Parent Training · Parent Counseling
  • Transportation · Therapeutic Recreation
  • Social Work Services · Rehabilitation Counseling

4. Fair Assessment
Each student with a disability must receive a complete, nondiscriminatory educational evaluation prior to receiving special education services, and at least every three years thereafter.

IDEA also provides two protections:

1. An Individualized Education Program (IEP)
An IEP must be developed jointly by the school and the student's parents. It must be designed to meet each student's unique needs and must be in effect before special education services are provided to the student. The IEP must be reviewed at least once a year.

2. Due Process Procedures
Parents must give their consent during the entire educational process. If a parent does not consent to special education services for his/her child, the student cannot be denied regular education services. Parents and schools have the right to request a due process hearing if they cannot agree or if their rights or the student's rights have been denied.

Each state must develop an annual plan that describes how the state and the school districts within that state will comply with the requirements of IDEA.