If you have children with disabilities, you might find yourself getting discouraged thinking about their education and future.
However, we are fortunate to have laws in this country such as The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which protect the rights of children with disabilities.
What is The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law which entitles all children with disabilities to a high quality, free and appropriate, public education to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.
Prior to this law, over four million children with disabilities were denied appropriate access to public education. Many children weren’t allowed in public schools at all, while others were put in segregated classes or in regular classrooms without adequate support or tools for their special needs.
Today, IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, youth and children with disabilities.
Who is Eligible Under IDEA?
To qualify for special education under IDEA, children with disabilities must have at least one of the following :
- Emotional disturbance
- Hearing impairment
- Intellectual disability
- Multiple disabilities
- Orthopedic impairment
- Other health impairment (including ADHD)
- Specific learning disability (including dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia, among others)
- Speech or language impairment
- Traumatic brain injury
- Visual impairment, including blindness
Note that children with disabilities don’t automatically qualify for special education services. To be eligible, the child must:
- Have a disability and, as a result of that disability;
- Need special education in order to make progress in school.
For example, if your child has a speech impairment but is doing well in school, he or she might not be covered under this law.
Access to Special Education for Children With Disabilities
To access special education services for your child, begin by requesting an evaluation from your school system. In your letter make sure to include a list of issues or struggles your child is experiencing as well as any evidence of having a special disability.
If the evaluation shows your child is eligible for special education, you will work with a school team to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
By law, an IEP includes:
- A statement of your child’s current level of performance.
- Your child’s annual educational goals.
- Special education supports and services that the school will provide to help your child reach goals.
- Modifications and accommodations the school will have in place to help your child make progress.
- Accommodations your child will be allowed when taking standardized tests.
- How and when the school will measure your child’s progress toward annual goals.
- Transition planning that prepares your child for life after high school.
If Your Child is Not Eligible Under IDEA
If you child is not eligible for special education support under IDEA, he or she might still be eligible under another law called Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This law can provide accommodations to help children with disabilities in school.
IDEA gives you an equal say in decisions about your child’s education. Therefore, get involved and take the time to understand how the laws protect your child’s education and future.