The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law under the US Department of Education that defines how state laws and government agencies can assist disabled children with their education. The law was ratified in 1990 and reapproved in 1997. Generally, IDEA provides educational assistance to children who experienced a disability from birth until the age of, at most, 21.
The purpose behind the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is to ensure that every citizen obtains the right to a “free appropriate public education" (FAPE). A disability should not hinder anyone from enjoying the right that is due him. Depending on the situation, IDEA can also offer special educational services, probably in cases where transportation and mobility are not feasible. The act can also give parents further privileges and responsibilities with an increased participation and protection for their disabled child.
Aside from the age limitation, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act includes 13 qualifying disabilities before accepting a child’s eligibility for the assistance. Several disabilities include mental retardation, hearing and visual impairment, traumatic brain injury, and serious emotional disturbance. These disabilities would have to show negative or harmful effects to a child’s learning ability before any assistance can be granted. IDEA’s forms of services and special education vary according to the needs of the disabled child.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act can help a child as early as a sign of a possible disability emerges. A team of multidisciplinary doctors can immediately conduct an examination free of charge. If a child is found to have a qualifying disability, an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is created to suit his needs. At a minimum of every three years, the disabled child goes through routine evaluations for follow-ups. Placement change, or moving one grade higher, will also require a revision of the child’s IEP.
Other services that IDEA can provide are speech, physical, and occupational therapy. In special cases, alterations of curriculum and one-on-one educational settings can also be done. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act can also supply certain assistive technology (AT) such as text-to-speech and touch typing software, alternative communication devices, and even wheelchairs, if needed. IDEA not only grants disabled children their rights to education, but also helps them prepare for future activities, such as employment, tertiary education, and a life of independence. In 2006, over 6 million disabled children were given educational assistance by IDEA.