Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

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“IDEA, (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) is a federal law in the United States that governs the way states and public agencies provide special education and also early interventions, related services to children with disabilities” (Danaher & Goode, 2004). It is made up of four parts, General provisions which include:” definitions of disabilities, Assistance to states for the education of handicapped children, Infants and toddlers with disabilities and also national assistance to improve the education of children with disabilities” (Danaher & Goode, 2004).

Six components of the original IDEA

The original 1975 IDEA act (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) consisted of six key components that symbolize the fundamental spirit and objective of IDEA and present the structure for the design of special education provided for students with disabilities. One is the component ‘Entitlements and Allocations’. The section provides a plan of how the program will be implemented, that is, making a decision on how many students should receive help from the program. The second component is ‘Eligibility’. This component sets rules for schools that have the IDEA program. This is done by setting dates in which the program has to take effect for all different age ranges.

The component further specifies that, “all children residing In the State who are handicapped, regardless of the severity of their handicap, and who are in need of special education and related services are identified, located, and evaluated” (Francis, Shaywitz, Stuebing, Shaywitz, & Fletcher, 1996). The responsibility of creating and implementing the students’ Individualized Education Program is sorely handed to the state. The state is also responsible for providing the best education and in the most natural environment possible without any discrimination.

The third component is Applications and is split into six classes. The first class gives a description on the uses and applications of money allocated to the program and details programs that are applicable and uses of excess money including provision of free and appropriate education for handicapped children, establishing goals, policies, procedures and opportunities and also materials needed to meet the goals that have been decided on.

The second class ensures that all money and materials acquired are paid for and all public property is used for the public’s benefit. “It also ensures State and local funding is used primarily, and that Federal funds are only used as a supplement to either of the previously mentioned types of funding” (Francis, Shaywitz, Stuebing, Shaywitz, & Fletcher, 1996).

The third class deals with the exchange of information. It demands that schools make available all information related to all handicapped students, and their educational accomplishments. Records of their students should also be available.

The fourth part of Application observes the documents pertaining to the application of the program. “It requires that all relating information to the application of the program must be made available to parents or guardians, and also members of the public, and also provides all evaluations and reports on the students” (Francis, Shaywitz, Stuebing, Shaywitz, & Fletcher, 1996).

Part five states that “local educational agencies are responsible for writing or revising each student’s IEP at the commencement of every academic year while part six assures that educational agencies provide every program, document, and service as detailed throughout the Applications section” (Sofie & Riccio, 2002).

Another component rarely named is Procedures and Safeguards.

“This section safeguards everyone involved in the IDEA program especially parents and students and also ensures that parents or guardians have the right to view the student’s records and obtain any independent opinions on them. In addition, the student is guaranteed rights even if the parent or guardian is unknown” (Francis, Shaywitz, Stuebing, Shaywitz, & Fletcher, 1996).

Children are also allowed to stay in a stagnant educational environment between assessment phases. This means that, schools cannot change the type of instruction or try to pull the program from a child without going through the evaluation process. Some procedural safeguards include inspecting the children’s educational records participating in disciplinary actions regarding the children, requesting reasonable attorney’s fees from courts for proceedings brought to IDEA among others.

The fifth component, Evaluation, evaluates of the students entering the program, with implementation of the program in order to best grant each one a free and appropriate education. A commissioner charged with this task also grants contracts, studies, investigations, and evaluations necessary in effective implementation.

Lastly, Payments the sixth component discusses the Commissioner of Education’s prescription for regulations, general procedures, and monitoring procedures. “The Commissioner is required to submit any of these proposals in writing for review by the Committee on Education and Labor of the House, Representatives, and the committee on Labor and Public Welfare of the Senate (Danaher & Goode, 2004)”. In addition, any changes in legislation by the Commissioner must be submitted and reviewed by both houses of congress.

Transformations of the IDEA

IDEA has undergone many changes throughout the years each of which provided a new piece of IDEA in order to provide students with the best education possible.

PL 99-457 (1986)

This section, known as the “Early Intervention Amendment,” Grants infants and their families an individualized family plan thereby allowing early intervention (Sofie & Riccio, 2002). This way the child in question gets the best education provided and prepares them for school life and the expectations of the educational system.

PL 101-476

It was formerly known as the “Education of the Handicapped Act,” but later changed to “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” It broadens the spectrum of education available to students by exchanging the word “handicapped” with the word “disabled.” In addition, the act reaffirms formerly stated requirements like the entitlement by all students to a free and appropriate education, through the use of an individualized education program and is backed by related services and due process procedures (Sofie & Riccio, 2002).

PL 105-17 (1997)

This amendment gave parents the right to participate in making education decisions for their disabled children a right which was not previously granted to parents. This gave parents the right to receive educational notifications concerning their children and also gave informed consent to education plans and programs. It also enabled parents participate in voluntary mediation when it was necessary (Sofie & Riccio, 2002).

IDEA 2004: PL 108-446

It came in 2004 with the resigning of the IDEA and ‘No Child Left behind Act’. Its first goal is to ensure that all disabled students get access to special education and that teachers are prepared with the ability and guidance necessary to provide the best education possible. Its second goal is to put into action tutoring programs for those disabled students who need extra help passing their classes (Sofie & Riccio, 2002).

IDEA guidelines and processes for referring a student with a suspected disability and evaluation for special education services

The first step is to identify the child as having a disability needing attention. In cases where a school professional is the source of referral, the parents must be contacted and be given request for evaluation. Before any assessments however, pre-referral interventions must be put into action. These interventions, which must be at least two, are “planned, systematic efforts by regular education staff to resolve apparent learning or behavioral problems” (Francis, Shaywitz, Stuebing, Shaywitz, & Fletcher, 1996). After the pre-referral interventions an assessment, which is an evaluation of the child that determines what services the child needs and the environment needed, is given.

The assessment entails the following. “Will the student be able to learn with his/her peers in a normal classroom? Or will they be required to be in a separate special education classroom? The evaluation is conducted by a multidisciplinary team that will then determine the child’s eligibility for the program” (Francis, Shaywitz, Stuebing, Shaywitz, & Fletcher, 1996). There are two other tests used to assess a child’s needs and abilities.

These are Standardized tests/ Norm-referenced which measures what the child has already learned and also predicts student potential and Criterion-referenced tests which provides measures of skills and tasks that the child is able to complete. It is essential in determining the kind of environment most beneficial to the student and also provides a measure of progress for the educators to follow through the student’s educational process.

After completion of the evaluation process, the multidisciplinary team sits down with the parents of the child in question and reviews the results. This team then determines whether child is eligible for the program’s services under IDEA. If he/she is eligible for IDEA services an IEP (Individualized Education Program) must be written.

The IEP team must meet to write this highly personalized document within 30 days of determining the child eligibility. After the IEP is approved by all, which should be shortly after being written, the child will begin receiving the appropriate and specified services. The child has then successfully made it through the referral process.

However, although the child has made it through the referral process there are still many responsibilities that the school and parents have in order to keep the child receiving the best education possible. Both the child’s progress and the child’s IEP must be reviewed annually. Necessary changes must be documented and approved in the same manner as the initial IEP. Yet this is still not the extent of the school responsibility toward the student. Further evaluations are needed at least every three years to determine the child continued eligibility under the program. If significant progress is made and is such progress that the child no longer needs IDEA services they can and will be taken off the program. Still, reevaluations are available and should the program need to be re-administered the process would be started again. Those children determined to still be eligible will continue on with the Individualized Education Program and continue to be reevaluated annually (Danaher & Goode, 2004).


IDEA defines children with disabilities as those who “suffer mental retardation, hearing impairments, speech, language or visual impairments, other health impairments or specific learning disabilities and who because of these conditions needs special education and other related services” (Danaher & Goode, 2004). Having a disability does not qualify one for special educational services under IDEA, rather, the disabilities have to be those that results the children to needing additional services offered by IDEA (Danaher & Goode, 2004).


Danaher, J., & Goode, S. (2004). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Web.

Francis, D. J., Shaywitz, S. E., Stuebing, K. K., Shaywitz, B., & Fletcher, J. M. (1996). Developmental lag versus deficit models of reading disability: individual growth curves analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology , 88, 3-17. Web.

Sofie, C. A., & Riccio, C. A. (2002). A comparison of multiple methods for the identification of children with reading disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities , 35, 234-244. Web.

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ChalkyPapers. "Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)." February 14, 2022.