Can the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Help My Child?
Q: What does the IDEA law do?
A: It guarantees the right to a free and appropriate education to students with disabilities, ages three to twenty-one. It includes early intervention provisions that are targeted at infants and toddlers. The IDEA provides federal funding to states and local school districts to help pay the costs of special education and related services such as speech and language therapy and physical therapy.
Q: How is this done?
A: The IDEA accomplishes this through an individualized education program (IEP) for the child.
Q: What factors are considered when developing an IEP for a child?
A: The educational team must consider specific factors when developing the child's IEP. These factors include behavioral issues and the child's specific communication needs. For example, is the child blind or visually impaired? Is the child deaf or hearing-impaired? Is the child proficient in English? In addition, the IEP should specify the special education and appropriate behavior interventions and strategies for the child. It should also determine which supplementary aids and services might be needed for the child.
Q: Who is included on the IEP team?
A: Included on the IEP team are: the child's teacher; a general education teacher; the child's parents, subject to certain limited exceptions; the child, if appropriate; a local agency representative who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of special education; and, at the discretion of either the parents or the agency, other individuals.
Q: Will I know whether my child will participate in regular school activities?
A: The IDEA requires that the IEP provide an explanation of the extent to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in academic, nonacademic and extra curricular activities. In this way, the 1997 amendments to this law strengthened the "least restrictive environment policy."
Q: Are the IDEA regulations friendly to parents?
A: Parent participation in eligibility and placement decisions is encouraged by the regulations.
Q: What if I disagree with the proposed IEP for my child?
A: The IDEA requires states to provide and pay for a voluntary mediation system for parents and schools. This mediation system includes a qualified and impartial mediator. This measure is directed at reducing litigation costs and the adversarial posturing that sometimes occurs between school and parents of students with disabilities. In addition, the parents can request a due process hearing and a review from the state educational agency, if applicable. A decision of the state educational agency can be appealed in either state or federal court.
Q: Where can I get more information on the IDEA?
The Office of Special Education Programs
U.S. Department of Education
330 C Street, S.W. (Room 3086)
Washington, D.C. 20202
Contact a qualified education attorney to help you navigate education rights and laws.