Basics & Overview of the IDEA

Forte Law Group focuses on special education law and empowering parents to advocate for their child’s rights.

Basics & Overview of the IDEA

By Jeff Forte, Esq.

Fairfield County Special Education Attorney Jeff Forte discusses the basics and general overview of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in this parent empowering tutorial video.


If you suspect your child may have a disability, then it is critical that you to become familiar with the special education acronym and legal term “IDEA.” IDEA stands for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It serves as the governing legal authority for all special-education and related services that a child with a disability receives throughout a child’s academic tenure within the public-school system.

The IDEA was originally enacted in 1975 by the U.S. Federal Congress. At that time, it was referred to as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Over the years since then, it has been reauthorized and is now referred to as what we now call it today the IDEA.

The basic premise of the IDEA is that it is a federal special education law which requires each state that receives federal education funding to comply with both the procedural and substantive requirements of the IDEA. When a parent knows or suspects that their child has a disability, the IDEA is the law that parents should become familiar with in order to more appropriately advocate for the special educational rights and related services of their child.

One of the most critical aspects of the IDEA that is important for parents to understand is just because your child has been clinically diagnosed with disability does not necessarily mean that your child is eligible to receive a special education and related services under the IDEA. Under the IDEA, there are three main requirements.

The first requirement is age – a child may be eligible to receive a special education between the ages of 3 through 21 years of age. The second requirement is disability – there are 13 disability categories that a child may be found eligible under the IDEA. The last requirement is the most important one – a child’s disability must “impact their access” to receiving an education in order to qualify for special education and related services. If a child is found eligible for special education, then the child is entitled to receive special education and relates services through the development an Individualized Education Program, or called an IEP.