IDEA/Special Education

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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law requiring all schools to serve the educational needs of students with disabilities who are eligible under the criteria of the act. In order to determine special needs children schools participate in evaluation processes. However, IDEA has been created to serve specific needs, and not every child with learning disabilities, or attention issues qualify for the program. One of the aims of the program is early intervention for special needs children with the focus on getting them the specific care they need to flourish. 

Early Intervention

The longer a child goes inside the education system while needing more specific care the more they will fall behind in their own development capacities. First passed in 1975, IDEA has been amended and improved many times as the needs of children with disabilities have changed and grown (Lee). Children with special needs need detailed and individually designed care to find their own personal best. The early intervention process helps toddlers and babies with the following development:

physical (reaching, rolling, crawling, and walking);

cognitive (thinking, learning, solving problems);

communication (talking, listening, understanding);

social/emotional (playing, feeling secure and happy); and

self-help (eating, dressing). (Center for Parent Information and Resources)

An integrative plan of services is available under the IDEA program which utilizes assistive technologies with medical, nursing, psychological, and physical therapy to provide a firm foundation of development for special needs children. Understanding that the child’s needs cannot be separated from the needs of the family’s “Services may also be provided to address the needs and priorities of the child’s family. Family-directed services are meant to help family members understand the special needs of their child and how to enhance his or her development” (Center for Parent Information and Resources). Every state has this program, and are working coordinated to find the best way to improve the quality of life and odds of success of this growing demographic. 

Children who will qualify for early intervention must have a developmental delay, such as:

Cognitive development

Physical development, including vision and hearing

Communication development

Social or emotional development

Adaptive development. (Center for Parent Information and Resources)

Process of IDEA Certification

The process of IDEA certification is detailed, and takes time to ensure that the neediest children are those who first receive the supportive services. This process begins very early in life to make the most of intervention techniques and technologies:

Step One: Child Find

Each state is required by IDEA to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities in the state who need special education and related services.

Step 2: Child is evaluated.

Does the child have a disability that requires the provision of special education and related services?

What are the child’s specific educational needs?

What special education services and related services, then, are appropriate for addressing those needs?

Step 3: Eligibility is decided.

A group of qualified professionals and the parents look at the child’s evaluation results.  This is best performed by the first grade. Together, they decide if the child is a “child with a disability,” as defined by IDEA. If the parents do not agree with the eligibility decision, they may ask for a hearing to challenge the decision.

Step 4: Child is found eligible for services.

Within 30 calendar days after a child is determined eligible, a team of school professionals and the parents must meet to write an individualized education program (IEP) for the child.

Step 5: IEP (individualized education program) meeting is scheduled.

contact the participants, including the parents; schedule the meeting at a time and place agreeable to parents and the school; tell the parents the purpose, time, and location of the meeting; tell the parents that they may invite people to the meeting who have knowledge or special expertise about the child.

Step 6: IEP meeting is held and the IEP is written.

The IEP team gathers to talk about the child’s needs and write the student’s IEP. Parents and the student (when appropriate) are full participating members of the team.

Step 7: After the IEP is written, services are provided.

The school makes sure that the child’s IEP is carried out as it was written.

Step 8: Progress is measured and reported to parents.

Step 9: IEP is reviewed.

Step 10: Child is reevaluated. (Center for Parent Information and Resources)

This process was created by special needs specialists working with educators as well as policy makers to create a comprehensive plan. There are many types of disabilities which IDEA seeks to aid with:




Emotional disturbance

Hearing impairment

Intellectual disability

Multiple disabilities

Orthopedic impairment

Other health impairment (including ADHD)

Specific learning disability (including dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia, among others)

Speech or language impairment

Traumatic brain injury

Visual impairment, including blindness. (Lee)

(Figure omitted for preview. Available via download).

The number of children with developmental disabilities continues to grow, forcing legislatures to amend the act to meet the demands of the nations youth. So far they have risen to the challenge, and, in 2013–14, the number of children and youth ages 3–21 receiving special education services was 6.5 million, or about 13 percent of all public school students. Among students receiving special education services, 35 percent had specific learning disabilities. (NCES)

(Figure omitted for preview. Available via download).


The IDEA special education act goes a long way towards supporting this at-risk demographic. The program’s early intervention strategies help identify those children in need, and set them up with the individual education plan they need to maximize their development capacity. Toxicity in the environment continues to contribute to the raising number of children who have various developmental and learning disabilities. With the detailed and compassionate focus of IDEA these children will have the best chance of developmental health and social integration.


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Works Cited

Center for Parent Information and Resources. “10 Basic Steps in Special Education.”, 2016. Retrieved from:

Lee, Andrew M.I. “How IDEA Protects You and Your Child.”, 2016. Retrieved from:

NCES. “Children and Youth With Disabilities.” National Center for Education Statistics, May 2016. Retrieved from: