The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the United States. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities.
IDEA was formerly known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act but has grown considerably since. IDEA became a federal standard by an act of Congressional adoption in 1975 but has been amended many times since. The IDEA was most recently amended in 2004, which was a significant update.
Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth-2) and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Children and youth (ages 3-21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B.
IDEA is considered to be a civil rights law. However, states are not required to participate. As an incentive and to assist states in complying with its requirements, IDEA makes funds available to states that adopt at least the minimum policies and procedures specified in the IDEA regarding the education of children with disabilities. Since its inception, all states have chosen to participate.
As of 2006, more than 6 million children in the US receive special education services through IDEA. Many U.S. states are still resistant to educating special needs children appropriately even though they continue to accept federal funding. The federal and state enforcement agencies do not use strong enforcement methods or penalties.
The definition of related services in IDEA include, but are not limited to: transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes speech-language pathology and audiology services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, including therapeutic recreation, early identification and assessment of disabilities in children, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes. The term also includes school health services, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training.
The US Department of Education, 2005 regulations that implemented IDEA states: "...to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities including children in public or private institutions or care facilities, are educated with children who are nondisabled; and special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily."
For more information, visit the IDEA website: http://idea.ed.gov.