The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a United States federal law that governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities. It addresses the educational needs of children with disabilities from birth to age 18 or 21 in cases that involve 14 specified categories of disability.
The IDEA is "spending clause" legislation, meaning that it only applies to those States and their local educational agencies that accept federal funding under the IDEA. While States declining such funding are not subject to the IDEA, all States have accepted funding under this statute and are subject to it.
The IDEA and its predecessor statute, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, arose from federal case law holding the deprivation of free public education to disabled children constitutes a deprivation of due process. It has grown in scope and form over the years. IDEA has been reauthorized and amended a number of times, most recently in December 2004, which contained several significant amendments. Its terms are further defined by regulations of the United States Department of Education, which are found in Parts 300 and 301 of Title 34 of theCode of Federal Regulations.
In defining the purpose of special education, IDEA 2004 clarifies Congress’ intended outcome for each child with a disability: students must be provided a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that prepares them for further education, employment and independent living.
Under IDEA 2004:
- Special education and related services should be designed to meet the unique learning needs of eligible children with disabilities, preschool through age 21.
- Students with disabilities should be prepared for further education, employment and independent living.
Before the statute (The Education for All Handicapped Children Act) was enacted in 1975, U.S. public schools educated only 1 out of 5 children with disabilities. Until that time, many states had laws that explicitly excluded children with certain types of disabilities from attending public school, including children who were blind, deaf, and children labeled "emotionally disturbed" or "mentally retarded." At the time the EHA was enacted, more than 1 million children in the U.S. had no access to the public school system. Many of these children lived at state institutions where they received limited or no educational or rehabilitation services. Another 3.5 million children attended school but were “warehoused” in segregated facilities and received little or no effective instruction.
As of 2006, more than 6 million children in the U.S. receive special education services through IDEA.
In 1954, the established educational format in the United States of segregating black and white students into separate schools was deemed unconstitutional by Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). This caused a great deal of unrest in the political sphere and marks a gateway moment in the Civil Rights Movement. Although not highlighted extensively in US history classes, education was a large part of the Civil Rights controversy.
The years that led up to the formation of Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 were marked by strife in the United States. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 in Dallas, Texas (Assassination of John F. Kennedy), the Vietnam war was ongoing from 1955 until 1975. On top of those events, the Civil Rights Movement was in full force in the United States. From schools being integrated to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, from Greensboro sit-ins to marches on Washington, equal rights for all was a prevalent ideal. President Kennedy showed interest in mental retardation studies and President Johnson used Federal funds to increase research on “at-risk” youth. Early intervention programs for children living in low socioeconomic situations, such as Head Start Head Start Program, began showing up around the country. Education was soon at the forefront of many political agendas.
The first educational sector to argue for access to equal educational opportunities for all students was the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC), which sued Pennsylvania in 1972 for not providing equal access to educational opportunities to children with disabilities. Soon after this, theRehabilitation Act of 1973 established that Federal programs could not discriminate on the basis of disabilities. However, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 forced parents to take any cases to the court system. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act created a system for these cases to be received and resolved without involving the court system in an effort to decrease the litigation costs associated with filing a claim.
27 years later, in 1990, the EHA was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in order to place more focus on the individual, as opposed to a condition that individual may have. The IDEA also had many improvements on the EHA, such as: Promotes research and technology Details on transition programs for students post-high school Programs that educate children in their neighborhood schools, as opposed to separate schools
Details about the IDEA can be viewed in subsections below.
Provisions of IDEA
Eligibility for services
Having a disability does not automatically qualify a student for special education services under the IDEA. The disability must result in the student needing additional or different services to participate in school.
IDEA defines a "child with a disability" as a "child... with an intellectual disability, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance..., orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities; AND, who... [because of the condition] needs special education and related services."
Children with disabilities who qualify for special education are also automatically protected by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, all modifications that can be provided under Section 504 or the ADA can be provided under the IDEA if included in the student's IEP.
Students with disabilities who do not qualify for special education services under the IDEA may qualify for accommodations or modifications under Section 504 and under the ADA. Their rights are protected by due process procedure requirements.
The zero reject rule was affirmed in Parks v. Pavkovic, 753 F.2d 1397 (7th Cir.1985) and Timothy W. v. Rochester School District 875 F.2d 954 (1st Cir. 1989). The courts have ruled that even if the student is completely incapable of benefiting from educational services and all efforts are futile—even if the child is unconscious or in a coma—the school is still required to provide educational services to the child.
Individualized Education Program
The act requires that public schools create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each student who is found to be eligible under both the federal and state eligibility/disability standards. The IEP is the cornerstone of a student's educational program. It specifies the services to be provided and how often, describes the student's present levels of performance and how the student's disabilities affect academic performance, and specifies accommodations and modifications to be provided for the student.
An IEP must be designed to meet the unique educational needs of that one child in the Least Restrictive Environment appropriate to the needs of that child. That is, the least restrictive environment in which the child learns. When a child qualifies for services, an IEP team is convened to design an education plan. In addition to the child’s parents, the IEP team must include at least one of the child’s regular education teachers (if applicable), a special education teacher, someone who can interpret the educational implications of the child’s evaluation, such as a school psychologist, any related service personnel deemed appropriate or necessary, and an administrator or CSE (Committee of Special Education) representative who has adequate knowledge of the availability of services in the district and the authority to commit those services on behalf of the child. Parents are considered to be equal members of the IEP team along with the school staff. And of course, parents have fundamental rights as parents. Based on the full educational evaluation results, this team collaborates to write an IEP for the individual child, one that will provide a free, appropriate public education. The required content of an IEP is described in Individualized Education Program.
The definition of related services in the IDEA includes, but is 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, music 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.
Free Appropriate Public Education
Guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), FAPE is defined as an educational program that is individualized to a specific child, designed to meet that child's unique needs, and from which the child receives educational benefit. To provide FAPE, schools must provide students with an “… education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.”
Some of the criteria specified in various sections of the IDEA statute includes requirements that schools provide each disabled student an education that:
- Is designed to meet the unique needs of that one student
- Provides “ …access to the general curriculum to meet the challenging expectations established for all children” (that is, it meets the approximate grade-level standards of the state educational agency)
- Is provided in accordance with the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as defined in 1414(d)(3).
- Results in educational benefit to the child.
Least Restrictive Environment
The U.S. Dept. Education, 2005a regulations implementing 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."
Simply put, the LRE is the environment most like that of typical children in which the child with a disability can succeed academically (as measured by the specific goals in the student's IEP). This refers to the two questions decided upon in Daniel R. R. v. State Board of Education, 874 F.2D 1036 (5th Cir. 1989).
This court, relying on Roncker, also developed a two-part test for determining if the LRE requirement is met. The test poses two questions:
- Can an appropriate education in the general education classroom with the use of supplementary aids and services be achieved satisfactorily?
- If a student is placed in a more restrictive setting, is the student "integrated" to the "maximum extent appropriate"? (Standard in AL, DE, GA, FL, LA, MS, NJ, PA, TX).
Discipline of a child with a disability
Pursuant to IDEA, when disciplining a child with a disability, one must take that disability into consideration to determine the appropriateness of the disciplinary actions. For example, if a child withAutism is sensitive to loud noises, and she runs out of a room filled with loud noises due to sensory overload, appropriate disciplinary measure for that behavior (running out of the room)must take into account the child's disability; such as avoiding punishments that involve loud noises. Moreover, an assessment should be made as to whether appropriate accommodations were in place to meet the needs of the child.
According to the United States Department of Education, in cases of children with disabilities who have been suspended for 10 or more days for each school year (including partial days), the local education agency (LEA) must hold a manifestation determination hearing within 10 school days of any decision to change the placement of a child resulting from of a violation of code of student conduct. The Stay Put law states that a child shall not be moved from his or her current placement or interim services into an alternative placement if the infraction was deemed to cause danger to other students. The LEA, the parent, and relevant members of the individualized education program (IEP) team (as determined by the parent and LEA) shall review all relevant information in the student's file, including the child's IEP, any teacher observations, and any relevant information provided by the parents to determine if the conduct in question was:
- Caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the child's disability; or
- The direct result of the LEA's failure to implement the IEP.
If the LEA, the parent, and relevant members of the IEP team make the determination that the conduct was a manifestation of the child’s disability, the IEP team shall:
- Conduct a functional behavioral assessment and implement a behavioral intervention plan for such child, provided that the LEA had not conducted such assessment prior to such determination before the behavior that resulted in a change in placement described in Section 615(k)(1)(C) or (G);
- In the situation where a behavioral intervention plan has been developed, review the behavioral intervention plan if the child already has such a behavioral intervention plan, and modify it, as necessary, to address the behavior; and
- Except as provided in Section 615(k)(1)(G), return the child to the placement from which the child was removed, unless the parent and the LEA agree to a change of placement as part of the modification of the behavior intervention plan.
If it is determined that a student's behavior is a manifestation of his or her disability, then he or she may not be suspended or expelled. However, under IDEA 2004,if a student "brings a weapon to school or a school function; or knowingly possess, uses, or sells illegal drugs or controlled substances at school or a school function"; or causes "serious bodily injury upon another person," he or she my be placed in an interim alternate educational setting (IAES) for up to 45 school days. This allows the student to continue receiving educational services while the IEP team has time to determine the appropriate placement and the appropriate course of action including reviewing the FBA and the BIP.
Public school districts are responsible for identifying all students with disabilities within their districts, regardless of whether they are attending public schools, since private institutions may not be funded for providing accommodations under IDEA.
IDEA includes a set of procedural safeguards designed to protect the rights of children with disabilities and their families, and to ensure that children with disabilities receive a FAPE. The procedural safeguards include the opportunity for parents to review their child's full educational records; full parent participation in identification and IEP team meetings; parent involvement in placement decisions; Prior Written Notice; the right of parents to request independent educational evaluations at public expense; Notice of Procedural Safeguards; Resolution Process; and objective mediation funded by the state education agency and impartial Due Process Hearings. IDEA guarantees the following rights to parents:
- Right to be informed in writing of the Procedural Safeguards (There is a booklet)
This booklet is to be provided in the following instances * On the first complaint or request for an evaluation
- Upon the request of a parent or guardian
- If a complaint is filed with the department of education
- Upon your child having their school changed as a result of disciplinary action against your child
The professional safeguard booklet titled, Whose Idea Is This? A Parent’s Guide to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 outlines the expectations and responsibilities of the parents as well as the expectations and legal responsibilities of the teachers, administration and school district.
- Right to review all educational records.
- To be equal partners on the IEP team, along with the school staff. To participate in all aspects of planning their child’s education.
- To file complaints with the state education agency
- Request mediation, or a due process hearing
- At this time, parents may present an alternative IEP and their witnesses (experts and others), to support their case.
- These hearings are Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) hearings and can be appealed. This is not a trial.
The entire goal of this process is to make the evaluation and, if needed, implementation of an IEP a joint venture between the students guardians and the school, with the goal of providing the education services needed to aid instruction in a general classroom setting, or other setting if needed. The booklet outlines a seven step process to determine a student’s educational needs and the services that they require:
- Request for assistance: Parents may contact the schools to discuss potential learning concerns that they may have and the school contacts home if they believe the child is struggling due to a disability.
- Request for evaluation: Here a parent may request, in writing, for a formal evaluation of the student with the school to determine if the student has any educational disabilities.
- Evaluation: Students are typically evaluated on the following items, although additional areas can be examined upon parent or school request: Health, vision, hearing, social and emotional development, general intelligence, academic performance, communication abilities and motor abilities.
- Development of an IEP: In accordance with the findings of the evaluation and in joint collaboration between parents and school a plan of action to aid the student is created. At this time a parent must also provide consent to the plan and guidelines that are created as part of the IEP
- Annual Review: As part of IDEA it is mandated that a child’s IEP is reviewed at least once a year. This is a chance for parents and school personal to comment on the effectiveness of the plan and to decide on an appropriate future course of action.
- Re-evaluation: Allows for a student to have their educational needs reassessed by school personal if a parent does not agree with the findings of the initial evaluation
- Independent educational evaluation: This is a parent action that informs the school that they disagree with the schools evaluation of their child. From here it may be required that an independent, non-school affiliated team, evaluates the child in order to determine the child’s educational needs.
The Education for all Handicapped children Act of 1975 started the course of action for early intervention programs. In this act, public schools that received federal funding were required to provide equal access to education for children with disabilities.
On September 6, 2011, the US Department of Education updated the IDEA to include specific interventions for children of ages 2 and under that have disabilities. This section of the IDEA is entitled Part C and serves children with developmental delays or children that have conditions that may lead to developmental delays in the future. Part C is a $436 million initiative that will be administered at the state level.
On September 28, 2011, the Department of Education published an article in the Federal Register detailing the updates that have been made to Part C of the IDEA. The regulations are effective on October 28, 2011. Major changes in the regulations are detailed below:
- The definition of multidisciplinary has been revised to respect aspects of an updated individualized family service plan (IFSP) team.
- Native language is the language normally used by the parents of the child for any child that is deemed limited English proficient
- State’s applications to must include how the State plans to follow the payor of last resort requirements in Section 303.511
- Distinguishes between pre-referral, referral, and post-referral IFSP activities such as screening, evaluations, assessments, IFSP development, etc.
- Specifies that early identification information in provided in the native languages of various population groups in the State
- State must report to the public the performance of each Early Intervention System program in relation to the State’s Annual Performance Report
More specific details on Early Intervention requirements are found below.
Part C of IDEA
An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is an early intervention program set up for children with disabilities between the child’s birth and the age of 3. The IFSP stems from Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Part C of IDEA is the program that awards grants to every state in the United States to provide early intervention services to children from birth to age 3 who have disabilities and to their families. Part C of IDEA also allows states to provide these services to the children who do not necessarily have disabilities, but developmental delays instead. As long as the participating state provides early intervention that is available to every eligible child and the respective family, the state is expected to make their own definition of developmental delay. Lastly, services from Part C are not necessarily free. With these conditions laid out by Part C of IDEA, the Individualized Family Service Plan ensures these conditions.
Goals for an IFSP
The goal of an IFSP for a child is to provide services, aligned with the goal of the family, for a child with a disability between birth and the age of 3. After the child and the child’s family have been identified to be potentially eligible to receive an IFSP, the child will undergo a comprehensive multidisciplinary assessment. If qualified, an IFSP is then created and written for the child and the child’s family. An IFSP will outline the following:
- The child's current levels of physical, cognitive, communication, social or emotional, and adaptive development.
- The family's resources, priorities, and concerns to help develop the child.
- The desired end result for the child and for the family, as well as the steps needed to achieve said end result. If the family chooses to revise the plan, they should include so as newly revised additions to the plan.
- The early intervention services for the child and the family. This includes how often and the method of how the child and the family will receive the services.
- The different environments that the services could apply to. For example, the family might have requested to receive services for the child at a day care center environment.
- The date the services will begin and their anticipated duration.
- The identification of the service coordinator, from the profession most immediately relevant to the infant's or toddler's family's needs, who will be responsible for the coordination and implementation of the plan with the other agencies and persons.
- The steps to be taken to support the transition of the toddler with a disability to preschool or other appropriate services.
In summary, a key to an effective IFSP is to include outcomes that “address the entire family’s well-being and not only outcomes designed to benefit the child’s development.” For this reason, the IFSP will inherently have goals that are designed for the family as well as for the child. The service provider of the IFSP should prioritize the family’s concerns from the family’s perspective and not from the child’s perspective. For example, a child might not have fully developed language skills by the age of 3. Although this is critical for the child, this may not be an immediate need for the family because the family might have more urgent family needs before the child needs to improve his/her language skills. Thus, the IFSP should address the family’s needs first before addressing the child’s need, as an example.
Role of the Service Coordinator
A service coordinator will be assigned to a family who qualifies for an IFSP. The service coordinator helps the family throughout the whole process of the IFSP, whether it be the planning, the executing, or the evaluating of the plan. The service coordinator is to help the family receive the services as explained by the IFSP until the child turns three or until the child no longer needs any early intervention services. The service coordinator is free to families. The responsibilities of a service coordinator should include:
- Providing verbal and written information in the family's native language.
- Coordinating the performance of evaluations and assessments.
- Facilitating and participating in the development, review and evaluation of the IFSP, assuring that the family's priorities are being addressed.
- Identifying and facilitating the delivery of appropriate and available supports, services, resources and advocacy services.
- Coordinating with medical and health providers when needed.
- Initiating transition planning when the child is two and a half years old.
Differences between IFSP and IEP
It should be noted that when writing the IFSP for a child, the IFSP can (but not always) cover services that are not outlined by part C of the IDEA. For example, a child may need special medical services that are in other parts of IDEA other than Part C. If this is the case, the IFSP will still cover those needed services along with how those services will be funded. The Individualized Family Service Plan is different compared to an Individual Education Plan in many key ways:
- The IFSP centers around the family and not solely on the child with the disability. In an IEP, the plan is centered (arguably) completely on the needs of the child.
- The IFSP will have goals and outcomes for the family situation. The IEP has goals and outcomes only on the child.
- The IFSP includes services to help a family in other settings besides just in a school. This could include helping the family with the child with the disability during child care, gym classes, or at parks. The IEP provides services solely on what happens at school grounds
- The IFSP covers services that a child might need outside of just Part C of IDEA.
- The IFSP assigns a service coordinator to assist the family when the IFSP is being developed, executed, and evaluated.
Does it work? Is this helping my child?
Here is the link to the government web site. Click here to visit the IDEA web site.