Perhaps as a parent of a special needs student, one may have heard of IDEA or the IEP. While these terms can fly back and forth in special needs circles or at meetings with educators, without a clear understanding of what they are, parents cannot best use them for the benefit of their children. The IEP is an Individualized Educational Plan and is one of the provisions of IDEA, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, enacted by Congress in 1975. The act protects the rights of special education students and ensures that they receive both the proper education and the correct amount of freedom that they deserve throughout elementary, junior high and high school. This, in turn, prepares them for the most successful adulthood possible.
Qualifying for IDEA Services
In order to qualify for the services provided under IDEA, the child must have one of the 13 approved mental or physical disabilities. Some of those that are included are autism, orthopedic impairments, language impairments, blindness, deafness and intellectual disability. It must be shown that the student needs special education help in order to progress and succeed in school.
The Benefits of IDEA
The purpose of IDEA is multi-fold. However, to break it down into its basic components, the law exists to protect the freedoms of special needs students and to allow parents to advocate actively for their children’s education. It states that special education students have a right to free public education just as all other children in the United States do. In addition, these children have the right to the highest quality of public education in the least restrictive environment.