The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, is America’s federal law governing special education. It requires public schools to provide disabled students with a free education that’s specially designed to meet their needs.

To better understand IDEA, it helps to understand what kinds of disabilities qualify a student for IDEA support.

According to IDEA, a child with a disability is a child who has:
· an intellectual disability
· a hearing impairment
· a speech or language impairment
· a visual impairment
· a serious emotional disturbance
· an orthopedic impairment
· autism
· a traumatic brain injury
· other health impairment
· a specific learning disability
· deaf-blindness
· multiple disabilities

Before a student is qualified for IDEA, he or she must be evaluated according to §§300.304 through 300.3. If the evaluation reveals that the child needs special education, then her or she qualifies for IDEA as a disabled student. However, sometimes a student’s evaluation reveals that while he or she needs related services, the student is not disabled. Those students don’t fall under IDEA.

IDEA supports individuals from birth through age 22, but at Missouri Parent, we’re most concerned with how IDEA impacts K-12 public education. According to the Center for Parent Information and Resources, IDEA helps schools understand standards of achievement for students with disabilities:

“Our nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), sets high standards for their achievement and guides how special help and services are made available in schools to address their individual needs.”

IDEA standards are the minimum expectation of public school systems, though. States and districts can —and often do — exceed those expectations by offering exemplary educational services. In Missouri, students are integrated into their local school’s classrooms wherever possible. Students with sever disabilities can attend a Missouri state school. You can read more about state schools here.

IDEA was passed in 1975 as the Education for All Handicapped Children’s Act, and has been revised and reauthorized through the years. Its current iteration is known as IDEA 2004.

If you’d like to learn more about Missouri’s educational programs for disabled students, we recommend these posts:

Missouri School for the Deaf (MSD)
What are Missouri State Schools?
The Missouri School for the Blind (MSB)
The Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled (MSSD)

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