The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is one of our nation’s most important education laws. It requires that all children be given a free appropriate public education (FAPE) by ensuring that qualifying students with disabilities receive special education and related services. The IDEA provides services to eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth.
When it passed the law, Congress stated:
“Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.”
With this in mind, the purpose of IDEA is to:
- Ensure that all kids with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education by providing special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living
- Ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and their parents are protected
- Assist states, localities, educational service agencies and federal agencies to provide for the appropriate education of kids with disabilities
- Assist states in implementing a statewide, comprehensive, coordinated, multidisciplinary, interagency system of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities
- Ensure that parents and educators have the necessary tools to improve educational outcomes for kids with disabilities by supporting system improvements, coordinated research, personnel preparation, coordinated technical assistance, dissemination and support, and technology development and media
- To assess and ensure the effectiveness of our efforts to educate kids with disabilities
The IDEA promotes these goals by providing financial assistance to school districts and by requiring schools to create an individualized education plan (IEP) for each of those students who are between 3 and 21 years old. The IEP is created with the input of the children and the parents and must generally provide for education in the least restrictive possible setting – ideally within the typical education setting alongside non-disabled students.
The IDEA also applies to children younger than 3 by providing an appropriate, timely, multidisciplinary evaluation of the need for intervention with a young child with a disability. The law requires families to receive an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) that lays out the priorities, concerns and resources of the family, the goals of the child, what services will be provided to the child, and steps for transitioning the child into formal education. Families must give consent to any intervention services and have a right to participate in the development of the ISFP.
Leigh Law Group represents children and families in the development of IEP and IFSPs and all throughout the educational process.