What is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)?

By Connecticut Special Education Lawyer, Jeffrey L. Forte, Esq. | Forte Law Group LLC 

One of the most important laws for parents of a child with a disability to know when dealing with their child’s right to receiving special education is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”).

 United States Congress enacted the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, otherwise known as the IDEA, on November 29, 1975. This groundbreaking federal legislation obligates all local boards of education and schools across the country to protect the rights of special education students in accordance with the provisions of the IDEA.

The IDEA requires that “all children with disabilities have available a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.”[i]

Let’s breakdown and analyze a few select terms within the above reference language of the IDEA:

  • “All Children”: Notably, the language with the IDEA stating “all children” federally mandates that the law be equally applied to all children with disabilities. The IDEA cannot be applied selectively to some children with disabilities and not others.
  • “Special Education and Related Services”: The IDEA emphasizes the right to both “special education” and to “related services.” Special education emphasizes academics while related services may include services relating to education, such as speech and language, physical therapy, occupational therapy, assistive technology, behavioral supports, psychological supports, and the like.
  • “Designed to Meet Their Unique Needs”: The IDEA legally requires that a child with a disability have a special education program that is individualized and specifically tailored to address the child’s particular deficits, challenges, and opportunities. In other words, a school district must design a program for the particular child.
  • “Prepare Them For Further Education, Employment and Independent Living”: The IDEA requires school districts to continue to educate, train, treat and develop children with disabilities in to productive thriving members of our communities by educating our children with the skills and talents that will further serve their future needs and interests to the greatest extend possible.

For those readers that want a more deeper dive on the IDEA, visit https://sites.ed.gov/idea/ or you can also see my video blog on the IDEA here, http://www.fortelawgroup.com/basics-overview-idea/.

Jeffrey L. Forte, Esq. is a special education attorney and certified child advocate. His firm, Forte Law Group, represents families that have a child with a disability and helps parents protect the educational rights of all children. www.fortelawgroup.com