The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that applies to students between 3 and 22 years old that attend a public educational institution. In order to qualify for IDEA, your child must have a medically identified disability that negatively affects his or her learning.
For example, if you have a son that suffers from autism, emotional disturbance, blindness, deafness or any other covered disability, then he may qualify for special education services under IDEA. Furthermore, every school district in the country has a legal duty to help children with disabilities that affect their education.
If you have a child that has a learning disability, he or she has the right to certain services provided by the public school system. Read further to find out more about IDEA and your child's right to an education.
Free Appropriate Education (FAPE) provides that any child with a disability in the United States has the right to free special education services. However, this does not mean that the school district has a duty to provide only the very best education. It simply means that the district must provide "appropriate" education for your child.
IDEA dictates that the school must perform an assessment of your child to determine whether or not he or she has a disability that affects learning. This assessment generally involves multiple tests and measures and must be conducted within 60 days of your providing consent.
If you disagree with the results of the assessment, you have the right to ask for a free Independent Education Evaluation. In addition, the district cannot perform the initial assessment without your fully informed consent. Keep in mind that consenting to the evaluation does not mean that you consent to the district placing your child in a special education program.
If your child meets the requirements for special education and you choose to move forward with placement, the district must place your child in the least restrictive environment (LRE) that meets his or her educational requirements. The LRE typically depends on your child's specific abilities and disabilities as determined in the evaluation.
In addition to providing an appropriate learning environment, IDEA also requires that the district provide your child with a plan for when he or she transitions from public school into adulthood. Typically, the school will begin preparing your child for this transition when he or she turns 16. The plan could include applying for and attending college, strategies for independent living, and vocational work skills.
If your child has a disability that hinders one's learning, you may be entitled to certain services from the public school district. Take the time to familiarize yourself with your child's rights and what you should expect from the school system in terms of education.