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A Wonderful IDEA: A Brief Introduction to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Last updated on: June 8, 2021

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) helps children with disabilities throughout the United States. In fact, it helps states and other public agencies provide special education and services to 6.5 million children with disabilities. Under the IDEA, schools are required to evaluate students for learning disabilities and provide services for those who need it.

The History of IDEA

In 1975, Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act to support states and cities to protect the rights of children with disabilities and their families. The Act also attempted to meet educational needs as well. In 1997, the law transformed into the IDEA.

The law has helped millions of children and families. In 1970, for example, only one in five children with disabilities were able to seek special education. In fact, some states had specific laws that excluded children with certain disabilities from seeking education in the public system altogether.

Today, students with disabilities have access to classrooms in their own neighborhood with peers who are not disabled. High school graduation rates have increased dramatically for those with disabilities, thanks in large part to IDEA. In turn, post-employment opportunities are also significantly better. Enrollment in postsecondary education for disabled individuals has also tripled since 1978.

The Purpose of the IDEA

Although IDEA has been amended several times since its inception in 1975, the overarching objective of the law has not changed. The law has two primary goals:

  1. Protecting the rights of children who have disabilities. The law ensures that students across the country have access to free and appropriate public education. Schools are required to provide children with education the fits their needs in the least restrictive environment, which allows children to be in general education classrooms whenever possible.
  2.     Giving parents a prominent voice in their child’s education. With IDEA, parents have a say in how their child is educated. While making educational decisions, parents have rights and protections every step of the way.

Children Covered by the IDEA

Unfortunately, not every child who has a learning disability or attention issue will be eligible for special education services through IDEA. The Act services children who have several kinds of disabilities, including:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Deafness
  • Autism
  • Hearing impairment
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Other health impairments (including ADHD)
  • Specific learning disabilities (such as dyscalculia, dyslexia, and dysgraphia)
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Visual impairment (including blindness)
  • Speech or language impairments

The child should not only have the disability, but the condition should also require special education services to make progress in school.

Keep in mind that even if your child does not specifically qualify under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, your child still may be entitled to other educational benefits based on their unique circumstances.

The Matus Law Group is dedicated to helping parents of special needs children ensure their children receive the education they deserve. Contact our compassionate team today to learn how we can help!

Christine Matus

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Christine Matus

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