An introduction to special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

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Special Education refers to services offered to students with learning disabilities. These students need special modifications to their educational programs to suit their unique capabilities and learning pace. They could be given remedial classes, a differently paced curriculum, or adaptations to their workload as determined by teachers, parents, and physicians working together and developing an Individualized Education Program or IEP.

To ensure that special needs children receive free, appropriate education just like any other child, the government created the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The law, created in 1975, mandates that the proper authorities provide intervention, special education, and any related services to children with disabilities. IDEA has been revised several times since 1975, with the latest revisions and amendments undertaken in August 2006 to include related pieces of legislation like the No Child Left Behind Act and the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.

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IDEA is divided into four parts, as detailed by the American Psychological Association:

Part A – Basic foundation of the Act; it includes the definition of terms, general provisions, Congress findings and the purpose of the Act.

Part B – Educational guidelines for students aged 3 to 21 years old, as well as provisions for schools on what to do to receive financial support from the government. This also includes parent and student rights.

Part C – Early intervention for infants and toddlers with disabilities. This part explains what states have to do to assist younger children (from birth to 2 years old) with developmental delays and their families.

Part D – National activities to improve the education of children with disabilities. Examples of these activities are seminars for parents, training for teachers, and grants to improve education.

Through proper support from the government, educational institutions, and his or her family, a child with learning disability can cope with the challenges to learning, change his or her capacity to take on education, and lead a happy life.

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