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An Overview of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act

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Every child deserves a quality education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensures that all children with special needs have access to a “free appropriate public education” and they have the necessary tools to meet their educational goals.

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The act governs how states and public agencies, including the Department of Defense, provide early intervention, special education and related services to eligible children with disabilities, ages birth through 21. Department of Defense Instruction/Manual 1342.12 “Provisions of Early Intervention and Special Education Services to Eligible DoD Dependents” published on June 17, 2015 interprets IDEA for the Department of Defense. Here is an overview of the provisions:

What’s the history of the act?

  • Children with special needs weren’t always granted access to public education in every state. That changed in 1975, when Congress established the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Today, no child can be denied a public education because of a disability.
  • Legislators passed the most recent amendments in December 2004. Final regulations were published in August 2006 (Part B, for school-age children) and September 2011 (Part C, for babies and toddlers).

What do the four parts of the act do for parents and children?

The act is comprised of four parts and has been revised through the years.

  • Part A outlines the law’s general provisions.
  • Part B ensures children and youth, ages 3 to 21, receive special education and related services.
  • Part C covers early intervention services for infants and toddlers under age 3 and their families.
  • Part D addresses federal support, from grants to resources, for the education of children with disabilities.

What are the act’s guiding principles?

Guiding principles of both IDEA and DOD Directive 1342.12 are:

  • Free appropriate public education. This principle makes sure every child, regardless of disability, has the right to attend a public school and receive an education tailored to achieve his or her highest potential.
  • Appropriate evaluation. The testing process is regulated so children receive the best individualized education placement and services.
  • The individualized education program. This written document is created for every child in the public school system who’s eligible for special education. It’s drafted by an interdisciplinary team and reviewed every year.
  • Least restrictive environment. This principle requires that students with disabilities share the same setting, as much as possible while still meeting their needs, with students who do not have disabilities.
  • Parent and teacher participation. This principle establishes the importance of parents and teachers working together to achieve their children’s educational goals. Included are working as a team on a child’s individualized education program and least restrictive environment details.
  • Procedural safeguards. These are in place to protect the rights of families with special needs. Procedural safeguards make sure public school doors are always open to children with disabilities and that schools are prepared to accommodate them academically. Parents have the right to review their children’s records, attend team meetings, have a say in where their children are placed and more.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is in place to open classroom doors to every child and help all students to be their best academically. The Exceptional Family Member Program provides family support, education and much more. Locate the program near you by visiting MilitaryINSTALLATIONS. Your installation’s School Liaison Program is another helpful resource. Your school liaison works with parents, the military community and local school systems to address common education challenges of military families.

You can find helpful resources and tools in the education section on EFMP & Me. There, you can get more information on the IDEA and create customized checklists for your family to help guide you through. For more information about IDEA, listen to the Education Special Needs and Early Intervention Services episode of the Office of Special Needs EFMP podcast series.

You can also call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or use live chat to schedule an appointment with a special needs consultant. OCONUS/International? View calling options. Appointments are available seven days a week.

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