Importance of Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Children who need special education services have to undergo an extensive legal procedure to avail them. There are several rules and regulations for children who need special education, and as a parent, it can be confusing for you. Of all the laws associated with education for children with special needs, the most important is The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If you think that your child needs special education, you need to know about IDEA and all the rights and protections it provides to children with disabilities and their parents or caregivers.
What Is the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that provides rights and protections to children with disabilities and supports special education. The individuals with disabilities education act was first passed in the year 1975 and was known as the Education of Handicapped Children Act. The act was then amended, with some new laws and was renamed IDEA. It was again amended in 2004 to ensure equal access to education, and the final regulations were passed in 2006.
The IDEA act of 1975 is divided into three parts:
Part A: Lays down the framework for the rest of the act and defined the terms used within the act.
Part B: This section lays down the educational guidelines for school children between 3-21 years of age.
Part C: Recognizes the need for identifying and reaching children from birth to 2 years of age.
Part D: Lays down the guidelines for activities needed to improve the education of children with disabilities.
Significance of IDEA
IDEA is designed to ensure that children with special needs get a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). What makes IDEA significant is the following:
- It ensures that children who have an identified disability get special education and related services tailored to their specific needs.
- It gives the appropriate education needed by children with disabilities to ensure they are employable and live independently.
- It ensures that the rights of children with disabilities and their families are protected under the law.
- It assesses institutions providing services to children with disabilities and ensures their efforts.
- It assists educational service agencies, localities, federal agencies, and the states in various forms in carrying out their task related to the education of children with disabilities.
Who Is Eligible for IDEA?
As per the IDEA, children with the following health conditions are entitled to special education:
- Children with a specific learning disability (SLD) such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, auditory processing disorder, and nonverbal learning disability.
- Other health impairments such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
- Some health issues that fall under the ’emotional disturbance’ category, such as schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and depression.
- Speech and language impairment: conditions such as stuttering and trouble in pronouncing words.
- Visual impairment, including blindness: Children who have significant visual impairment leading to partial or complete blindness, or conditions that cannot be corrected with eyewear.
- Children who cannot hear most or any sound even using a hearing aid.
- Hearing impairment that is not covered under the deafness category.
- Deaf and blind: Kids who have severe hearing and vision loss, and need special communication needs.
- Orthopaedic impairment: where kids lack functional ability in the body. Example: cerebral palsy.
- Intellectual disability: This includes children with below-average intelligence, such as those with Down’s syndrome.
- Traumatic brain injury: Brain injury caused by an accident that leads to disability.
- Multiple disabilities: Kids who have more than one defined category of disability.
Procedure to Get Services from IDEA
Here is the procedure through which a child can get services from IDEA:
- The first step is to identify the child that needs special education and related services. ‘Child Find’ is one way for the state to locate, evaluate, and identify the child, or the parents can request for evaluation by the school.
- The child is evaluated through assessment in all suspected areas of disability. The results will determine the eligibility for special education and services and the appropriate education and program for the child. If the parents disagree, they have the right to take up an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE).
- The final eligibility is decided by a group of qualified professionals and parents. They will decide the category for the child as defined under the IDEA guidelines. The parents can also challenge this decision through a special hearing.
- If the child is eligible for services as a ‘child with a disability’ under the IDEA, they are eligible to receive the services within 30 days after the determination. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meets the child to write down the IEP.
- The school system is tasked with scheduling the IEP meeting and contacts the parents and participants. The meeting is scheduled at a place and time that is agreeable to the parents, and they are informed about the purpose of the meeting and the people attending it.
- The IEP meeting will discuss the child’s needs and write down the specific requirements. Before the school system goes ahead with the program and services, parental consent is necessary. If the parents disagree, they can work it out with the IEP team; if not, they can discuss it with the state education agency.
- The IEP’s copy is provided to the child’s teachers and parents, and the education is carried out under the procedure defined in the IEP.
- The child’s progress is measured as stated in the IEP and reported to the parents periodically.
- The IEP is also reviewed by the team at least once a year or whenever the parents or teacher asks for a review. If needed, it can also be revised, and the parents are needed to attend these meetings for their consent.
- The child is evaluated at least every three years to find if they still fall under the ‘child with a disability’ category.
Role of Parents
The parents are the child’s advocates and get the final say in making decisions about their education. The evaluation and education program for children with disabilities can only be conducted with ‘informed consent’ of the parents and can be withdrawn at any time. The parents also have the right to participate in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) of the child and make decisions along with the team.
Cons of IDEA Act
While the IDEA act is in the best interests of children with disabilities and their families, there is some vagueness in the final implementation that makes it tricky for parents to understand. The evaluations of children with disabilities can be inconsistent at times and depend on how good the people who are trained to administer them are. And the parents may voice complaints regarding the same.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensures that children with disabilities get all the rights and protections under the law to address their individual needs. If you believe your child has a disability and needs special education, contact their school counsellor to begin with the process of evaluation.