The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that was put in place to delineate the rights and regulations of the learners with disabilities in the United States (National resource centre on AD/HDIDEA, n.d). Under this act, all the children are warranted an access to a free and appropriate education, least restrictive learning environment, early interventions and extended school year. The law has guidelines on how schools should provide or deny access to these services. (National resource centre on AD/HDIDEA, n.d). IDEA provides funds to enable the children go to school so as to ensure that every disabled child receives a free appropriate education. IDEA was born following the passing of the Education for the Handicapped children in 1975 (P.L.94-142). The act has gone through a number of amendments to include the education for infants and the toddlers (P.L.99-457) and attorneys fees (P.L. 99-373). Its name was then changed to Individuals with Education Disabilities Act in 1990 (P.L.101-476).
Six key components of the original 1975 IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)
The components of IDEA 1975 included an access to a free appropriate public education to the disabled learners and an Individualized Educational Program for all the special education learners. The IEP outlined the special needs of each of the learners; it also advocated for the inclusion of learning aids in the classes for the disabled learners. The act also contained procedures for the correct placement of learners in the schools; this included the evaluation procedures to assess the learner’s eligibility for the special education services. It also provided for a financial assistance for the disabled learners to enhance their education.
The key components of the IDEA reauthorizations: P.L. 99-457 (1986), P.L. 101-476, P.L. 105-17 (1997). IDEA 2004: P.L. 108-44
The P.L. 99-457 (1986) provided for the inclusion of infants and toddlers education in the special education program. P.L. 101-476 was passed to change the name of the act from the Education for the Handicapped children’s Act to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1990, while the P.L. 105-17 (1997 was passed so as to allow for a major amendment of the original act of 1975. IDEA provides protocols that govern the funding for special education services and it also defines the principles that govern the provision of the special education services. These principles include FAPE, which stands for a free appropriate public education to all the children. The states and the schools therefore normally assess the children between the ages of three and twenty one so as to determine those that have disabilities and are eligible for the services. The other is IEP which stands for Individual Education Program. This normally outlines the specific special needs both educational and non educational for each of the children in the special education program. The parents are always expected to be part of the learning process for their children. The other principle demands that the disabled children to be allowed to attend the same schools with the normal children.
IDEA has been able to fund special education programs for millions of children. The disabilities that have been funded include children with specific learning disabilities, language impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, visual and hearing impairment and mental retardation among others. IDEA normally operates by giving grants to states programs, preschools, families and their infants. In 2004 the act was reauthorized and was then given the name Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act P.L. (108-446).This newly amended version includes a language that assist the learners with disabilities in learning since it is provided in the format each one of them needs it. It also allow for the provision of funds to organizations in order for them to provide teaching materials to the institutions; it advocates for the use of long term objectives for students who will be assessed using homogenous methods as provided by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2003. It advocates for the inclusion of the special education professionals from the special education team, it also makes it compulsory for all the members of the IEP group to attend all the meetings in person and to use technologies such as teleconferencing and videoconferencing among other means in their presentations. Any child found guilty of going against the school’s code of conduct may be disciplined by having him transferred to a different educational centre according to the IDEA 2004 (American Foundation for the Blind, 2009).
This enacted law included changes that would improve the provision of technological accessories in the classrooms so as to assist the learners with disabilities. This bill contains the administrative procedures, procedures for distributions and consumption of the funds, procedures for the provision of grants for education and early initiatives to help the infants and the toddlers, while the last portion of the bill provides competitive grants to the providers of the special education services so as to make them improve the quality of the services that they provide. The competitive grants could be awarded to state personnel in order to enhance training of personnel in special education and also to encourage the regular teachers to include technology in their classes thus assisting the learners with disabilities. The funds may also be used to assess the pre service and the in-service of the special education personnel training in the utilization of the new technologies. The grants are also used in the research so as to be able to come up with new ideas on how the children can be effectively educated, supported and if possible, find early interventions for their complications.
The mandated IDEA guidelines and processes for referring a student with a suspected disability for evaluation for special education services
After a child has been positively identified as being disabled, there is need to have the learners referred to the schools that best suit their needs. The first step is the initial referral to special education; the recommendation of the individual for special education services requires that each of the children undergo a screening process. This will help in determining the special needs for each of the children, before the referral; the learners with learning disabilities should be allowed to access the support services available in the school which may include remedial classes and tuitions. The services are normally accessed through Independent School District and the Student Assistance Teams. If the learner continues to have problems in learning even after the modifications have been made, the special education personnel may therefore need to provide documentation of these Pre-referral interventions and then refer the learner for a complete and individual evaluation. This may be done by the school, the parents of the learner, physicians or community agencies (Cm, 2002).
Individuals viable for the referrals are normally between the ages of 21 and below and the referral is normally considered when the disability becomes a hindrance to learning. Students who are not yet enrolled may also be referred, but those who have transferred from another district may not have to undergo referral in order for them to receive the special education services (Cm, 2002).The group that does the screening is established by the school unless the district policy states otherwise. The special education workers may participate in the process by helping in collecting data regarding the learners with disabilities in the campus that have not been given a referral. Such learners may include the children who have not joined the kindergarten, learners having more than one disability, learners who are new to the district and are disabled or those learners who are sick and have been admitted in hospitals. The general education teacher will then come in to assess the learner’s difficulty in learning with the learning support services that have been provided. He or she will therefore study, consider and make a documentation of the issues concerning learning difficulties and if possible provide suggestions for possible ways of helping the learner. If the alternatives have not been successful, then the learner would then be considered for a referral and the relevant documents will be prepared to enhance this. A full account of the learner’s evaluation for use in the provision of special needs will then be completed; this evaluation is normally done after the authorization by the child’s parents. It is normally conducted using the mode of communication that the learner is best in by a multidisciplinary team of experts to assess the learner’s viability for special education program. This procedure will involve the use of norm and criterion referenced tests to assess the performance of the learner in relation to others and the skills he has been able to gain in the content learnt respectively. The data will then be sent to special needs personnel for further approval (Aefsky, 2000, pp. 5-10). Once the evaluation is done, the appropriate educator will then be informed about the report. The person who does the diagnosis will then informs the head of the school about the completion of the report and that it is ready for the Individual Education Program committee for analysis. This will help in determining if the child has delayed skills that may prevent him or her from learning at the same pace as others and as a result the need for an individualized educational program; this has been provided for by the amendment to the IDEA. The learners who have been transferred from other schools in other districts need not have any referrals since the data concerning their evaluation will be contained in the transfer letter (Cm, 2002).The disabled learners normally have a number of services available for them, this range of services is known as a cascade of service delivery options; they normally range from the least restrictive environment, a general classroom environment to the most restrictive environment such as a health facility.
IDEA is an act that was put in place so as to enhance the education of the learners with disabilities. Since its formation, it has undergone various amendments so as to include the education of infants and toddlers as well as to provide for the individualized educational programs for learners with delayed learning skills. Idea has helped a large number of disabled children to acquire education and it may be important that the parents and the society at large provide support for it so as to have the quality of the education improved.
Aefsky, F. (2000). Making decisions about diverse learners: a guide for educators. New York, Eye on Education Inc.
American Foundation for the Blind. (2009).The individuals with disabilities education act: Comparison of key provisions of IDEA 1997 and IDEA 2004. Web.
Cm. (2002). Referral process. Web.
National resource centre on AD/HDIDEA. (n.d). The Individual with disabilities education act. 2009. Web.