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What is the IDEA?

The Individuals with Disabilities Act or IDEA is a federal law that requires states to provide a “free, appropriate public education” to children with disabilities so they can be educated to the greatest extent possible with all other children. must use to support special education in every state. It was first passed in 1975 and called the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. It provides legal rights to both parents and legal guardians.

What is the IDEA?

The IDEA requires all public schools to provide special education services to children with disabilities from 3 years old to 21 years old. Qualifying children under the IDEA are entitled to special education and related services at no cost to their parents/guardians.

What is Special Education?

Special education can include a wide range of services and support. It is tailored to meet the needs of your child. Special education adapts to what is taught and how it is taught for each child's individual needs. Many think that children with special education will stay in a special education classroom all day away from other children. IDEA requires that children with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The IDEA requires that children who receive special education should learn in the same classroom as other children as much as possible. Children must have access to the same general curriculum or coursework so that the child can meet the same educational standards (tests and other measurements used to pass children from grade to grade) that apply to all children in that school district.

How does my Child Qualify under the IDEA?

To qualify for IDEA services, children must have a disability and need special education to make progress in school. The IDEA is the federal law that gives all students the right to a free education that will best meet their needs. Schools are required to find and evaluate students who may have disabilities at no cost to the families. This is a process called “Child Find.” When a school knows or thinks that a child may have a disability, they must evaluate the child. Child Find applies to kids from birth to 21 years old. It can apply to kids with learning and thinking differences, developmental delays, and various other conditions.

What Disabilities are Covered under the IDEA?

Under the IDEA, children are eligible for special education if they fall into one of 13 categories. However, having one of these diagnoses doesn’t guarantee eligibility. To be eligible, a child must have a disability and, as a result of that disability, need special education to make progress in school. 

  1. Autism
  2. Deaf-blindness
  3. Deafness
  4. Emotional Disturbance
  5. Hearing impairment
  6. Intellectual disability
  7. Multiple disabilities
  8. Orthopedic impairment
  9. Other health impairment (Includes ADHD)
  10. Specific learning disability (includes dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and other learning differences)
  11. Speech or language impairment
  12. Traumatic brain injury
  13. Visual impairment, including blindness

What Happens After the Evaluation?

After the evaluation, the school will hold an eligibility meeting to decide if your child qualifies for special education. If the school determines that your child does indeed qualify for special education, the school team will work with you as the parent or legal guardian to develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP). The IEP will state the child’s education goals as well as the services and support the school will provide throughout the school year.

What does the IDEA Provide?

The IDEA requires public schools to provide a free appropriate public education also known as a FAPE to eligible children with disabilities. It requires public schools to provide special education and related services to eligible students. It provides parents an evaluation of their child if they have concerns their child may need special education paid for by the school. Most importantly, it provides an education in a least restrictive environment or LRE that allows children to remain in a regular classroom with other students as much as possible.

What is the Least Restrictive Environment?

The IDEA requires that students with disabilities be taught in a least restrictive environment or LRE in a regular classroom with students that don’t require special education as much as possible. If the school isn’t able to provide extra support and services in a regular classroom, the child can go to a more restrictive setting such as a special needs classroom. 

What are My Rights under the IDEA?

The school is required to provide you with information in your preferred language, evaluate all children that they deem might benefit from special education services, send you written notice of any future IEP meetings, and send you progress reports as often as they send progress reports to parents of students not requiring special education. Finally, the school must adhere to the required timelines.

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