What is IDEA? - All Children Learn

“People with disabilities deserve a great life – just like everyone else.” We hear this often, and it’s a statement that pulls on anyone’s heartstrings with concern for fundamental civil rights and fellow humanity.

IDEA, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, is a law that mandates all states to provide free and appropriate public education for children with disabilities. It also ensures these children will receive special education and related services they need to have a comfortable and fair learning experience. 

Every parent desires to provide their child with an appropriately ambitious education to prepare them for a successful future; finding help is often challenging when they require additional assistance. In fact, before the 1970s, children with special needs cohabitating in the classroom side by side with their peers was not even a thought. 

The situation shifted for the better when then-President Gerald Ford, on November 29, 1975, signed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142), now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). As a result, classrooms have become more welcoming and inclusive for children of all abilities, and it has led to productive adults who contribute to their communities.

Important Elements of IDEA

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) 

IDEA is set-up to ensure that the education provided to children with special needs is offered at no additional cost to the family. This includes necessary funding for early intervention or other special education required services and the proven scientific methods needed for achieving results based on the individual’s diagnosis.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

IDEA also requires that they receive any special education and related services needed to have a comfortable and fair learning experience. One that seeks to incorporate them as much as possible within the same social setting as their same-age developing peers.

The Right to a Mediation or Due Process

IDEA also provides that parents have access to a mediation process between the parents and school district, which they can use in addition to or instead of filing for a due process hearing if it is needed. 

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