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It is important for all teachers to understand the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and how it impacts students with disabilities.

This lesson discusses the six main principles of IDEA and how they are implemented in the classroom.

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Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Have you ever had the experience of being the only person in a classroom who had trouble doing something or understanding a certain concept? How would you feel if every day in school you faced the same kind of difficulty, while everyone else seemed to find the work easier than you? What kind of support and teaching would you need to keep trying?The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that was passed to help and support students who face this situation every day.The current version of the law was passed in 2004, but it’s based on a law that was first created in 1975 known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. It revolutionized the education of children with disabilities, which in 2001, was more than six million children.

Individualized Education Program

The IDEA requires that public schools provide specialized services to all children with disabilities (from birth to age 21) for the purpose of granting equal access to education.

A specific part of the law mandates public schools to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each student who is found to have an eligible disability.An IEP is a document that is drawn up and agreed upon by teachers, parents, specialists and (if possible) the student. The document describes the present achievement level of the student, then specifies goals for the school year as well as any special support needed to achieve those goals. In other lessons, we will discuss learning disabilities in more depth and how to use an IEP in the classroom. The focus of this lesson is the law itself.

Let’s visit Cornerstone Elementary to see an example of the IDEA in action. Meet Susie. Susie is a bright, energetic third-grader who loves school. Susie has a hearing impairment.

She’s not deaf, but her hearing is poor enough that it affects her educational performance, as she has trouble hearing any of her teachers. Susie would qualify for special assistance under the IDEA. Her IEP would include information about her hearing impairment, such as the most recent hearing test results, and would also outline multiple goals and services agreed upon by her parents and teachers.

Least Restrictive Environment

Students with disabilities may need visual aids to support their learning.
Least Restrictive Environment

Although Susie might meet with a specialist once or twice a week, most of her time would still be spent in the classroom with all of her fellow students.

This is because another aspect of the IDEA is the requirement that a student with a disability be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) possible. In other words, a student like Susie, who has a disability, should have the opportunity to be educated with her non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible. Susie should have the opportunity to interact with her peers and have the same access to educational experiences as everyone else. Susie may just need additional resources, such as visual aids, to optimize her learning.Individualized Education Programs and Least Restrictive Environment are the two most well-known principles of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. However, there are four additional main principles that you should be aware of.

They are:

  1. Free Appropriate Public Education
  2. Appropriate Evaluation
  3. Parent and Student Participation in Decision Making
  4. Procedural Safeguards

Let’s go through each of these separately.

Free Appropriate Public Education

Free Appropriate Public Education means that each child with a disability is entitled to a free public education, just like other children who do not have a disability. The appropriate part is referring to the need to determine how to best provide that education with respect to each child’s needs.

So, in the case of Susie, she is receiving the same public school education as other children who do not have a hearing impairment. Susie just needs some additional help to make her education appropriate for her.

Appropriate Evaluation

Appropriate Evaluation refers to the requirement that each child suspected of having a disability receive an assessment that is nondiscriminatory and unbiased to determine if the child is eligible for additional support under IDEA. Susie took several hearing tests in the first grade after a recommendation from her teachers was received by her parents. After her test results were examined, she was found to be eligible for additional support under IDEA, and her parents and teachers agreed that she needed some extra assistance to optimize her learning.

Parent and Student Participation

Parent and Student Participation in Decision Making refers to the requirement that parents (and the student if possible) play a vital role in creating the IEP and that parental consent is required before evaluation or special education placement. Susie’s parents had to agree to the testing before it was completed and was also a vital part of deciding what kind of assistance Susie would receive in class.

Procedural Safeguards

Finally, Procedural Safeguards refers to a specific set of rules that exist to protect the rights and privacy of the student and parents. Susie’s parents have full access to her school records, and they are always notified before any change is made to Susie’s accommodations.

Lesson Summary

In summary, the 2004 version of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that public schools provide specialized services to children who have disabilities that affect their educational performance, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.There are six main principles included in the act. The first is the requirement of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each student with a disability. The second is the requirement that each student be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) possible. The third and fourth principles are that each student with a disability receives a free appropriate public education and an appropriate evaluation. The fifth is the requirement to include parents and students in decision making, and the final principle is procedural safeguards, which protects the rights and privacy of the student and his or her parents.

Lesson Objectives

After watching this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Explain the purpose and history of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • List and paraphrase the six principles of IDEA

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