Individuals with Disabilities ActLast updated Tuesday, April 05, 2011 |
The IDEA became active in 2005. Commonly known as the Special Education Act, the IDEA provides guidelines for the education of children with disabilities in the public school system. A “child with a disability” is defined by the IDEA (U.S. Department of Education, 2004) as:
Child with a disability means a child evaluated… as having mental retardation, a hearing impairment (including deafness), a speech or language impairment, a visual impairment (including blindness), a serious emotional disturbance … anorthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury…other health impairment, a specific learning disability, deaf-blindness, or multiple disabilities, and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services…
There are 13 categories of disability for U.S. children defined in the IDEA. To be eligible for Special Education services in schools a child must meet the criteria of at least one of these. In order to qualify for educational services under the IDEA one also must be between the ages of 3-21. Additionally, the disability must interfere with educational performance to the point of endangering an appropriate education.
Under the IDEA, children are entitled to a free evaluation to determine if such a disability is present. This evaluation is done by a team of professionals qualified to address the health, abilities and educational needs of disabled children. It is the responsibility of the school system to arrange evaluations and pursue appropriate services for children, however, parents may request an evaluation and other agencies may identify the need for an evaluation and make referrals. Agencies other than the school system that are involved with the child or family frequently request evaluation services on behalf of the parents with parental consent (NEA, 2002-2009).
If a child is determined to have one of the disabilities served by the IDEA guidelines an individualized educational plan (IEP) is created for that child. Children with disabilities are then provided with services and accommodations that give the child optimum access to an appropriate education. The IEP is a written document created by a team of professionals and parents. Any other significant and pertinent members of the child’s life--therapists, caregivers, other family members, social workers, attorneys, and physicians, for example--may be included. The IEP outlines needs, an appropriate educational plan and any additional services or supports that are necessary to assist the child educationally. The IEP further states how the educational plan, and the child’s progress, will be monitored. Scheduled reviews of the IEP revisit the plan and evaluate its effectiveness for the child.
Accommodations for disabled children are too varied to list here, however, below are some examples of accommodations that may be recommended and provided for a child in need of educational assistance. Accommodations are tailored to the child’s specific needs. Not every disabled child will require the same supports, techniques and services, however. A few ways in which schools assist disabled children are with the provision of:
- reduced workloads
- additional time for taking tests or completing assignments
- a classroom setting with reduced stimulation
- tape recorders
- structured communication systems with parents
- an in-classroom aid
- sitting the child close to the teacher
- providing the use of a computer
The rights of disabled children are protected under the IDEA and there are provisions for mediation and appeal mandated by law. Parents may use these if the educational needs of their children are not being met by school systems. The rights of disabled children to inclusion are also protected under the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act (U.S. Department of Justice, 2009). Further, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects children with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal funding. It states:
No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance (U.S. Department of Education, 2007).
Parents who would like more information on special education services and the procedures for meeting their children’s educational needs have many resources. Parents may contact the local school district or their state’s Department of Education or Office of Civil Rights. All U.S. states also have Parent Training and Information Centers that address the needs of disabled children and provide information and resources to parents. Some of many other available resources are listed below:
- Administration on Developmental Disabilities http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/add/
- Disability-Related Resources http://www.familyvillage.wisc.edu
- Division of Early Childhood of the Council For Exceptional Children http://www.dec-sped.org
- The IDEA Laws and Information http://www.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/the IDEA/the IDEA2004.html
- OSEP—Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/osep/index.html
- Resources for Parents of Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers with Delays and Disabilities http://www.kidsource.com
- Supplemental Security Income http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/index.htm
NEA. (2002-2009). THE IDEA: Special Education. Retrieved May 16, 2009, from National Education Association: http://www.nea.org/specialed
U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.). Building the Legacy: THE IDEA 2004. Retrieved May 16, 2009, from ED.gov: http://the IDEA.ed.gov/
U.S. Department of Education. (2007, September). Free Appropriate Public Education. Retrieved May 16, 2009, from ED.gov: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/edlite-FAPE504.html
U.S. Department of Justice. (2009, March 20). AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT OF 1990, AS AMENDED. Retrieved May 17, 2009, from ADA.gov: http://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm