Definition: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities.



  • Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth-2) and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C.
  • Children and youth (ages 3-21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B.


IDEIA includes 4 parts

Part A: Outlines the purpose of IDEIA and describes the terms that are used in the document

Part B: Explains the requirements for public school education for children 3-21 years old

Part C: Explains requirements for families with infants and toddlers, birth to age 2

Part D: Outlines resources and national initiatives to improve special education 



Six Key Principles 

Zero Reject : Schools cannot reject students who have disabilities
Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): Every child with a disability has the right to a free public education. The IDEA discusses the importance of providing special education for students with disabilities and appropriate services that are related to their specific needs   
Nondiscriminatory Evaluation: Schools must use an evaluation method that does not discriminate. This means that the evaluation is not biased in terms of language, culture, and student background.
Due Process Safeguards: Students and parents rights should be protected
Shared Decision Making: Parents and families should be included in all aspects of the evaluation and identification of students with disabilities. They should be included in the decisions that are are made regarding their children.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): The IDEA says that students with disabilities must be educated in a setting with students without disabilities to the maximum extent that is appropriate. There is a continuum of services that give a large range of options for students with disabilities can be educated and they must be placed in a setting that is the least restrictive.


How to find the least restrictive environment?


What is an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?

The purpose of an IEP is to provide a special education services to students that meet their special needs of a student with disabilities. The IEP includes:


  • Present levels of educational performance
  • Measurable annual goals
  • Special education and related services that will be provided
  • Accommodations and modifications
  • Extent to which the child will not participate with students that do not have disabilities
  • Special education and related services
  • Projected date for the beginning of services
  • Description of how progress will be monitored
  • Transition plan





Before IDEA: Children were denied access to educational special services and opportunities.

1971/1972: Landmark Lawsuits ‘71 & ‘72 (PA ARC vs. Commonwealth  & Mills v. Board of Education)
  • Students classified as “exceptional” which includes those with mental and learning disabilities as well as behavior issues.

How many children with special needs were not receiving services?

  • 2.5 million students were receiving a “substandard education"
  • 1.75 million students weren’t in school

1975: Education for the Handicapped Act  - Public Law 94-142

  • Required all states that accepted money from the federal government were required to provide equal access to education for children with disabilities.

1976: Public Law 99-457 amendment to the All Handicapped Children Act.

  • Mandated individual states to provide services for families and children from birth.

1986: IDEA - revisions made

  • Parents of children with disabilities were allowed more say in their child’s IEP.

1990: IDEA - revisions made

  • Public Law 101-476 -- called for changes to Public Law 94-142
  • Traumatic Brain injury and autism were added as a new disability category.
  • Also included that part of a child’s IEP there must be a plan developed to help the student transition to postsecondary life.

1997: IDEA - revisions made

  • The Education for all Handicapped Children’s Act was renamed to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

2004: IDEA - revisions made

  • Early Intervention
  • Greater accountability
  • Improved educational outcomes
  • Raised standards for instructors with special education classes
  • 15% of funds shifted toward special education funds toward general education



Impact on Schools


According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are several noticeable impacts that IDEA has on today’s schools. Children with disabilities are receiving the services they needs and teachers are becoming more educated on strategies and methods of including students with disabilities in the classroom.



More young children with disabilities receive high-quality early interventions that prevent or reduce the future need for services.
The U.S Department of Education states there is an increase in early detection and intervention services for children with disabilities. There are also significant amount of improvements for teachers to meet students needs and to create the best learning environment for each student.
More children with disabilities are not only attending neighborhood schools but also are receiving access to the general education curriculum and learning a wide variety of academic skills.
This means that children with disabilities are educated in general education classrooms for a portion of the day depending on their needs. The U.S Department of Education states, “95% of all students with disabilities were educated in their local neighborhood schools.”
More youths with disabilities graduate from high school.
”There has been a 16-point increase in the percentage of students with disabilities graduating from high school since school year 1996-97.” Teachers are becoming more knowledgeable in teaching students with disabilities and there are a variety of resources that support and engage these students in the classroom.
More youths with disabilities are enrolled in postsecondary programs.
More and more students with disabilities are continuing their education for two-year and four-year colleges.
More young adults with disabilities are employed.


There is a positive increase in the number of youth with disabilities who have obtained a paying job.


Strategies/Accommodations for Teachers: 


Inclusive Environment

  • Building a caring community
    • Student's voices should be heard
    • Value opinions and viewpoints of all students
    • Allow time for discussion
    • Dedicate time for peer communication
    • Allow activities for collaboration

Differentiated Instruction

  • Adapt to student's specific needs
  • Visual accommodations
  • Educational accommodations
  • Provide modifications for assignments and assessments

Communicate with student and family

  • Clear lines of communication
  • Frequently communicating with children's parents/ caregivers
  • Be accessible
  • Provide families with resources

Classroom Layout

  • Easily accessible for all students (wheelchair accessible)
  • Easy access to supplies and resources
  • All students can see and hear instruction
  • Areas for one-on-one instruction
  • Safe, quiet areas or corners 


Adaptations for Students with Disabilities

  • Make sure your students are in the classroom for key times
  • Coordinate with the specialists who work with the students to find the best times
  • Adapt effective classroom management strategies
  • Discuss specialized behavior supports for the students with disabilities
  • Look for opportunities to recognize success both socially and academically
  • Establish relationships with students
  • Have frequent conversations with the students
  • Have frequent communications with parents and other professionals
  • Make expectations for students known and give them clear steps to achieve success
  • Differentiate instruction and make adaptations for students with disabilities
  • Differentiate assignments to reduce frustration
  • Teach important skills such as note taking, test taking, and organizational
  • Adapt instructional materials such as textbooks
  • Use technology to enhance learning
  • Monitor students’ understanding by asking them to demonstrate or repeat key ideas
  • Provide one-on -on time and brief “check ins”
  • Pair students with peers to model behavior, academics, and for social support
  • Involve students in different grouping types such as mixed ability grouping and same ability grouping
  • Break down materials into smaller segments
  • Create a procedure for monitoring progress
  • Modify assessments
  • Adapt grading criteria





Work Cited

(This article by the American Psychological Association discusses the different sections of the IDEIA and what each part of the act means)

(This article discusses and explains in depth Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D that are included in the IDEIA)

(This article gives a very thorough history of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It explains what special education looked like before this act and the improvements that have been made through this act) 

(This is an article that is written for educators to provide for them a guide to teaching students with disabilities and how to create an inclusive classroom with modifications and accomodations)

 ( This article by the U.S. Department of education explains the national impact that the IDEA has and the progress  that has been made educating students with disabilities)

(This article discusses the history of the IDEA and important dates that have been influential for the education of students with disabilities)
(This article goes in to depth about what an IEP is. It explains the different parts included in an IEP, who is eligible for an IEP, who are the members of the IEP team and more) 
Inclusion and Adaptations for Mild/Moderate and Gifted Needs: Early Childhood Department of Educational Psychology, Miami University - Readings for EDP 495E Dr. Katherine Mezher