Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The IDEA requires state and local education agencies that receive federal funding to provide all students with disabilities access to a free and appropriate education (FAPE).  School districts must identify, locate and evaluate students with disabilities to determine whether they are eligible for special education.  When student are entitled to special education districts must develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) to meet their unique needs.  In implementing a student’s IEP, districts are obligated to educate entitled students within their least restrictive environment (LRE) or alongside typical peers to the maximum extent appropriate.

Special Education

Special education is simply specially designed instruction, provided at no cost to parents, aimed at meeting the unique needs of entitled students. This requires school personnel to adapt the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction according to the functional abilities of a given student.  Although some students are provided alternate curriculum and specialized teaching methods, most receive specially designed instruction in the form of adjustments in the frequency, intensity, or duration of instruction, the amount of content covered, the explicitness of instruction, modifications or adaptations to instructional materials, the frequency of feedback, and/or prescribed motivational or reinforcement strategies.

Related Services

Related services are developmental, corrective, and other supports or services that are necessary for an entitled child to incur benefit from special education.  These may include:

  • Audiological Services
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • School Health Services
  • School Social Work Services
  • Speech Language Pathology
  • Transportation Services
  • Vision/Braille Services

Special Education Mandates

Child Find

States and districts are required to ensure that all children in need of special education are identified, evaluated, and entitled.

FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education)

 Free means at no cost to parents. Appropriateness is based on: (a) compliance with specific procedural requirements regarding the development/implementation of IEPs and (b) whether the IEP is “reasonably calculated” to confer “educational benefits.”

LRE Least Restrictive Environment

Presumes that student will be in the general classroom, with supports, from the outset unless it is determined that child cannot benefit from the general curriculum.

IEP Individualized Education Program

A written document, developed in collaboration between educators and parents, that describes the entitled child’s abilities and needs and explains the placement and services that will be provided to meet the child’s unique needs

Due Process

Procedures to guarantee parent involvement and challenge the school system when parents disapprove of decisions.


Improving educational results and functional outcomes for students with disabilities through a systematic approach to progress monitoring, intervention design and implementation, and data-based decision making.