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Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

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Updated June 17, 2014

Caucasian student working in class
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Definition: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was established by the government to ensure that children with disabilities have instruction that meets their unique needs. The IDEA is the federal law that requires public schools to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education to children with disabilities.

IDEA regulations require schools to conduct activities to find and diagnose children with specific learning disabilities(SLDs) from ages 3 to 21. The IDEA also requires schools to provide a complete educational evaluation to children to determine if they need special education services.

What does an IDEA Special Education Program Include?

For eligible students, schools must develop an Individual Education Program (IEP) that acts as a kind of educational map of the child's needs and sets goals for improvement. The IEP includes a description of Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) that will be provided to help the child reach his educational goals. If the child also needs related services to reach goals, the IEP describes what those will include. IEPs contain specific parts and must be reviewed and revised at least annually. The IDEA requires that students with disabilities be re-evaluated every three years.

What are IDEA Requirements for Special Education Placements?

To the greatest extent appropriate, students are to be placed, or educated, with their non-disabled peers in the Least Restrictive Environment. However, if a child needs more intensive services, and a smaller class would be most appropriate, schools are required to provide that. In rare situations where students must be served in special schools, at home, or in hospitals, schools must continue to provide educational services.

Back to Special Education and Learning Disability Terms

Also Known As: IDEA, special education, special ed., sped, remedial instruction, remedial teaching,

Examples:
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that schools provide special education to students with disabilities who qualify for those services.

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