Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

(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.

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.

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.

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 notices.

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 in placement.

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.