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IDEA was originally enacted by Congress in 1975 to ensure that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education, just like other children. The law has been revised many times over the years.

The most recent amendments were passed by Congress in December 2004, with final regulations published in August 2006 (Part B for school-aged children) and in September 2011 (Part C, for babies and toddlers). The law has a long, detailed, and powerful history.

IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: History and Summary

Summaries of IDEA
If you’re looking for summaries of what the law requires (rather than its word-for-word statute or regulations) here is a brief summary from the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations.

Part C of IDEA – Services for babies and toddlers to the third birthday: Regulations for Part C of IDEA state must have a “comprehensive child find system” with the purpose of identifying, locating, and evaluating all infants and toddlers with disabilities birth to age three as early as possible. The system must be consistent with Part B and meet the additional requirements of 34 CFR §303.302. Summary of “comprehensive child find system”:

It targets primary referral sources including hospitals, including prenatal and postnatal care facilities, physicians, parents, child care programs and early learning programs, local education agencies and schools, public health facilities, social service agencies and other clinic and health care providers, public agencies and staff in the child welfare system, including child protective services and foster care, homeless family shelters and domestic violence shelters and agencies.

Part B of IDEA – Services for school-aged children, including preschoolers: The Child Find regulations for Part B of IDEA (34 CFR §300.111) requires a state to have policies and procedures to ensure that

Child find also must include:

Exact Words of IDEA Itself
Reading IDEA’s verbatim language can be a big help in understanding why local practices in schools and early childhood settings are as they are. Here is the place to connect with that language. Use the links below to explore the actual words of our nation’s special education law.

Access the entire IDEA law
PDF version | HTML version

Part C Regulations: Early Childhood Intervention for Babies and Toddlers
HTML version

Part B Regulations: Services for School-Aged Children
PDF version | HTML version

Guidance on IDEA from the U.S. Department of Education
The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education regularly provides guidance to the field on IDEA. All are intended to clarify elements of the law and its regulations and are an important part of understanding IDEA and how to implement it. To connect with this federal guidance, visit IDEA Guidance from the DOE.

Part B State Performance Plans (SPP) Letters and Annual Performance Report (APR) Letters
The reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), signed on December 3, 2004, required that, not later than one year after the date of enactment of the reauthorized IDEA, each state is required to have in place a performance plan evaluating the state’s implementation of Part B and describing how the state will improve such implementation. This plan is called the Part B State Performance Plan (SPP) and is required to be posted on the state’s website.

In addition, each state reports annually to the public on the performance of each of its local educational agencies according to the targets in its SPP. The state also reports annually to the Secretary on its performance in meeting its SPP targets. This report is called the Part B Annual Performance Report (APR), this report must also be posted on the state’s website.

Sources: Center for Parent Information and Resources, Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, United States Department of Education.

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