Individuals with Disablities Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is our nations Special Education Law. IDEA was originally enacted by Congress in 1975 to ensure that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education, just like other children. The most current version of IDEA was passed in 2004 and it governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities. The primary goals of IDEA are:

  • Protect the rights of children with disabilities. IDEA ensures students with disabilities have access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), just like all other children. Schools are required to provide special education in the least restrictive environment. That means schools must teach students with disabilities in general education classroom whenever possible.
  • To give parents a voice in their child’s education. Under 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.

IDEA includes children ages birth to 21.

  • Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth-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.

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