The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

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On November 19, 1975 Congress passed the first federal special Woman pushing child with disabilities in wheelchaireducation law. That law, called the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) or Public Law 94-142, established the right of school-aged students with disabilities to receive what Congress called a “free appropriate public education” or, as it’s known, FAPE. In 1996, the EHA was amended and the right to a free appropriate public education was extended to preschool-aged children with disabilities ages three through five.

In 1990 the EHA was amended again and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA. IDEA was amended and changed again in 1992, 1997 and 2004. Though still commonly known as IDEA, the name of the 2004 legislation is actually The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 or IDEIA. NOTE: IDEA and IDEIA are used interchangeably and refer to the same law.

IDEA is important because it provides the minimum requirements each state must meet in order to receive federal special education funds. State laws and regulations may exceed the federal requirements. However, no state law or regulation can take away a right given to children and families under the federal law.

The IDEA is divided into 4 parts:

Part A – General Provisions, Definitions and Other Issues

Part B - Assistance for Education of All Children with Disabilities

Part C – Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities

Part D – National Activities to Improve Education of Children with Disabilities

If you are a parent of a school-aged child, you will find most of the information of interest to you in Part B. If your child is under three, you will want to become familiar with the requirements of Part C. In Texas, the Early Childhood Intervention program, or ECI, is responsible for the provision of Part C services.

You can find the regulations for IDEA 2004 here. Please note that this is a large PDF document and may take some time to download. 

The first 9 pages summarize the major Changes in the regulation. The next 196 pages provide Analysis of the Comments received regarding the proposed changes to the regulations and can provide parents with some good explanations on the intent of the law. An analysis of the Costs and Benefits of the major changes begins on page 205. The actual regulations start on Page 215 of the document (Pg. 46753 of the Federal Register).

Resources For Learning More About IDEA

•  The Legal Framework for the Child-Centered Special Education Process

This online document was developed by Education Service Center Region 18.   It is predominately for use by school districts as a resource for ARD committees in developing student IEPs. However, since it contains a summary of the federal and state requirements for special education by topic, it is also a useful resource for parents.

•  Special Education Rules Side-by-Side

This document, produced by TEA, contains current federal regulations, state laws, and state rules for special education in an easy to use side-by-side format. This is a very useful document for parents. You can keep up with rule changes by being added to the Texas Administrative Code Updates Rules ListServe:

•  Parent Manual: “2016 IDEA Manual” or

Disability Rights Texas and the Arc of Texas produce a manual for parents that explains in simple language the major requirements of the IDEA. The manual also contains sample letters and guides to help parents through the special education process.

•  Office of Special Education Programs

This federal agency, known as OSEP, is a division of the U.S. Department of Education. They have a variety of functions designed to provide leadership and support for improving educational results of students with disabilities. Their website also includes many useful Links to other resources useful to parents.

•  Center for Parent Information

Also, Technical Assistance documents in a question and answer format on IDEA are available at the OSEP website at:

•  New IDEA 2004 website: Building the Legacy: IDEA 2004

They provide a vast amount of information about IDEA, as well as other disability-related issues. Their documents are easy to read and can be easily downloaded from their website.