What is the idea behind IDEA?

What is the idea behind IDEA? For those of you living elsewhere in the world this Federal Law won’t concern you much but for those of us living in America who have kids with disabilities, it is a pretty important law. I have to admit that even though I have a kid with a disability I didn’t realise this law existed till Betsy DeVos displayed confusion and a great lack of knowledge about this federal law during her confirmation hearing for education secretary. I decided to find out more about this Federal Law, after all, it is incredibly important to us.

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) came from the Education of Handicapped Children’s Act passed in 1975. Over time amendments to the law were passed. It is designed to ensure that children with disabilities be granted a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment. This means that kids with disabilities join regular classrooms with their peers if they are so able.

IDEA ensures:

  • Children with a identified disability receive a special education and related services to address their individual needs.
  • Children with disabilities are prepared for employment and independent living.
  • Children with disabilities and their families are protected under the law.

Children who have the following disabilities, disorders, and impairments generally qualify although not every child with learning and attention issues will qualify for special education:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Autism
  • Hearing impairment
  • Visual impairment
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Developmental delays or cognitive challenges
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Physical disabilities
  • Traumatic brain injury

Thanks to Part C of IDEA Nash was able to get services from birth until he turns 3 years of age through Early Childhood Intervention. My husband asked me the other day if I found these services useful. I would say 100% yes. Being able to talk to someone outside the friendship and family circle who can provide unbiased feedback on Nash’s development and who has many resources at their fingertips has been instrumental for me. If I have fears I can talk about those, if I have questions about organisations his VI teacher can answer them and most important any questions about preschool and elementary can be answered. We have been very lucky with our services and the information they have provided, some are not so lucky. In the last year, there was some press about Texas and whether it had been denying services to children with disabilities based on a cap that  the Texas Education Service Agency had imposed. NPR did a piece called Texas May Be Denying Tens Of Thousands Of Children Special Education back in 2016 that talked about this issue. It is my understanding that the Texas Education Service Agency has eliminated the cap as of March of this year. Luckily Nash is not in public education yet so we have not experienced any of this, I cannot imagine how frustrating this has been for parents and children across Texas.





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