What is IDEA?

IDEA is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that is a federal law requiring schools to serve all educational needs of eligible students with disabilities. For parents who feel their child needs the benefit of Special Education services, IDEA provides the legal rights and protections needed to ensure children receive the assistance and accommodations they need in order to participate in the educational process and experience.

IDEA was passed originally in 1975 and has been amended several times since, but still has two main purposes:

  • To protect the rights of children with disabilities
  • To give parents a voice in their child’s education

The children who are protected under IDEA are aged from infants through high school graduation or 21 years old, whichever comes first.

IDEA is very specific as to who is actually eligible to receive protection. A child must first have one of 13 kinds of disabilities:

  • Autism
  • Deaf-blindness
  • Deafness
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Hearing impairment
  • Intellectual disability
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Other health impairment (for example ADHD)
  • Specific learning disability
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairment, including blindness

IDEA covers these thirteen disabilities in the process and implementation of an IEP in order for students to be offered the best possible opportunity to make progress and be successful in school. Without IDEA, parents of children with disabilities had very little voice in the education process of their children and were left to find specialized services that would allow their child to participate. With IDEA in place, the parents and children are protected with the school owning the implementation and execution of the IEP and Special Education services needed by the child.