(Originally known as the Education of All Handicapped Children Act
of 1975, public law 94-142. Prior to this, there was no mandatory special
education law. The original law has been amended 7 times including
the December 2004 reauthorization. Although still referred to as ‘IDEA,’ the
title has been changed slightly to Individuals with Disabilities Education
Improvement Act of 2004. The majority of changes from the latest reauthorization
do not take effect until July 1, 2005. Until then, the 1997 reauthorization
provisions hold (see below). This website will be updated when the
2004 law is enacted.)
An education act to provide federal financial assistance to State and local
education agencies to guarantee special education and related services
to eligible children with disabilities.
WHO IS PROTECTED
Children ages 0-21 who are determined by a multidisciplinary team to be eligible
within one or more of 13 specific categories of disability and who need
special education and related services. Categories include autism, deafness,
deaf-blindness, hearing impairments, mental retardation, multiple disabilities,
orthopedic impairments, other health impairments, serious emotional disturbance,
specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, traumatic
brain injury, and visual impairment.
RESPONSIBILITY TO PROVIDE A FREE, APPROPRIATE PUBLIC EDUCATION (FAPE)
A FAPE is defined to mean special education and related services. Special
education means "specially designed instruction, at no cost to the
parents, to meet the unique needs of the child with a disability...." Related
services are provided if students require them in order to benefit from
specially designed instruction. States are required to ensure the provision
of "full educational opportunity" to all children with disabilities.
IDEA requires the development of an Individualized
Education Program (IEP) document with specific content and a required
number of specific participants at an IEP meeting.
FUNDING TO IMPLEMENT REQUIREMENTS
IDEA provides federal funds under Parts B and C to assist State and local
education agencies in meeting IDEA requirements to serve infants, toddlers,
children, and youth with disabilities.
IDEA requires written notice to parents regarding identification, evaluation,
and/or placement. Further, written notice must be made prior to any change
in placement. The Act delineates the required components of the written
A comprehensive evaluation is required. A multidisciplinary team evaluates
the child, and parental consent is required before an initial evaluation.
A professional who is fluent in the communication method(s) used by your
child should conduct the evaluation. IDEA requires that the IEP team is
to determine if reevaluations are to be conducted every 3 years. A reevaluation
is not required before a significant change in placement. For evaluation
and placement decisions, IDEA requires that more than one single procedure
or information source be used; that information from all sources be documented
and carefully considered; that the eligibility decision be made by a group
of persons who know about the student, the evaluation data, and placement
options; and that the placement decision serves the student in the least
restrictive environment. An IEP review meeting is required before any change
IDEA delineates specific requirements for local education agencies to provide
impartial hearings for parents who disagree with the identification, evaluation,
or placement of a child.