The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a four-part (A-D) piece of American Legislation which allows students with a disability access to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that is fitted to the individual needs of the student.

IDEA is a federal law that mandates schools to serve eligible students with disabilities. These schools must find and evaluate students presumed to have disabilities.

Keep in mind, the evaluation itself will be at no cost to the parents/guardians.

Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) -Defined

Over the years, IDEA has changed and evolved each time new laws are passed based on students rights. Today, IDEA includes individuals from birth through high school graduation or age 21 (whichever comes first). The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act provides services to these children ranging from early intervention services up to age 3, to special education for older students in public schools (can include charter schools as well).

Once the students are identified as having a disability, the school system must provide the student with special education and related services, if needed. The school system is required to meet the student’s unique needs with the overall goal being to help the students make progress within the school’s curriculum.

Another objective of IDEA is for parents to have a voice in their child’s education. Because of this, parents have a say in the school system’s educational decisions that are made regarding their child.

I cannot emphasize this enough… Parents have an immense amount of pull and decision making ability through the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act!

During the entire process, the law allows the parents specific rights and protections which are known as procedural safeguards.

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Another important note to discuss is that not every student who has learning and attention issues will be eligible for special education under IDEA.

In order to qualify, the student must be eligible under one of the thirteen disability categories which are covered under IDEA.

Thirteen Disability Categories Under IDEA:

● Autism
● Deaf-blindness
● Deafness
● Emotional Disturbance
● Hearing Impairment
● Intellectual Disability
● Multiple Disabilities
● Orthopedic Impairment
● Other health impairment (including ADHD)
● Specific Learning Disability (including dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia and other learning issues)
● Speech/Language Impairment
● Traumatic Brain Injury
● Visual Impairment, including blindness

Please note that having one of the thirteen disabilities does not automatically qualify a student for special education services under IDEA.

To be eligible for special education, a student must have a disability.

As a result of the disability, the student would need special education to make progress in school.

Two Steps To Obtaining Services Under IDEA;

STEP 1: Conducting An Evaluation.

The parent can request one at any time, and if the school thinks a student might have a disability, it must conduct a comprehensive evaluation. The evaluation will determine if the student has a disability and also provides information on what services/support the student would need.

STEP 2: Writing An IEP;

The second step in the process is writing an IEP (Individualized Education Program) which comes after the evaluation is complete.

The IEP is a legal document that specifically spells out a student’s educational goals, services, and supports the school will provide.

An eligibility meeting will be held to decide if the student qualifies for special education. If the student qualifies, the parent will work with the school team to develop the IEP. If the student does not qualify, the process stops and an IEP is not written.

IDEA recognizes the importance of parent involvement and that parents are influential advocates for their child. That is why the law allows parents to have a voice in the decision-making process of their son/daughter’s education.

As a parent, it is critical that you speak out and be that voice for your child!




Amanda Wagoner, MAT

Amanda Wagoner, MAT

Amanda Wagoner, MAT

Amanda Wagoner, MAT

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