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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: An Overview

  • By:sierraedlaw

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) legally mandates that schools must meet the education needs of students that demonstrate that one or more disabilities impede their education progress. Schools must evaluate eligible students for a wide variety of disabilities that include learning disabilities. The groundbreaking federal law was passed in response from pressure put on by disability advocacy groups.

Not every child that displays a learning disability qualifies for special education plans designed to help them keep up in the classroom. In many cases, students diagnosed with ADHD do not receive help and guidance under IDEA. If you believe your child qualifies for a special education plan under IDEA, you have to follow a strict legal process to see your case to a conclusion. The process can be intimidating for many parents because of the number of state and federal laws that address children with disability issues

However, IDEA should be the first federal law that parents learn and understand. Learning about your child’s legal rights in accordance to IDEA gives you the information you need to make decisions in the best interest of your child.

The Primary Objectives of IDEA

Since the passage of IDEA in 1975, the landmark special education law has undergone several changes to stay current with the rapidly changing ways we teach our children. Many of the changes deal with technological advances, such as the use of the Internet in the classroom. The addition of computer software programs have dramatically changed the way students learn. Yet, the core objectives of IDEA remain in place more than 40 years after Congress passed the law.

Protect the Rights of Children Who Have Disabilities

The most important objective of IDEA is to ensure students with disabilities have unobstructed access to “free and appropriate” education. The section of IDEA that presents the rights of students with disabilities is often referred to as “The Special Education Bill of Rights.” Schools must develop and implement special education plans for students in the “least restrictive learning environment.” This means school systems must place students with disabilities in standard classroom as much as possible.

Parents Have a Strong Voice in their Child’s Education

Before IDEA, parents had little, if any influence on how their special needs children received educations. IDEA changed the frustration of having no parental say by requiring schools to include parents in every “major education decision,” including the creation of a special needs child’s special education plan. The rights and protections given to parents under IDEA are called “rights and protections.”

Student Eligibility under IDEA

More than six million school-age students enrolled in American school systems qualify for receiving special education services. Of the more than six million eligible special needs students, about 50% suffer from a defined learning disability. IDEA applies to children from infancy until high school graduation or when a student reaches 21 years of age.

Here are some of the most common disabilities covered under IDEA:

  • Autism
  • Deafness
  • Blindness
  • Dyslexia
  • Emotional Disturbance
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Dyscalculia
  • Speech or Language Impairment
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

Children who do not qualify for special services as mandated by IDEA have other legal options to pursue. Under the law called Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, schools are required to offer special needs children accommodations in the classroom. To learn how IDEA can help your special needs child prosper in the classroom, schedule a free initial consultation with a licensed attorney that has a proven record of successfully litigating special education cases.

Posted in: IEP's, Special Education, Student Advocacy, Student Disabilities