What are the 13 eligibility categories under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)? Understanding the Federal statutes, eligibility vs diagnosis in the educational model. Labels vs eligibility concepts explored.
Julie Swanson, a Special Education Advocate, and Jennifer Laviano, a Special Education Attorney, discuss Your Special Education Rights according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
IDEA was first passed in 1975. (At that time, it was called the Education for All Handicapped Children Act.) The primary purposes of IDEA are:
To provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to children with disabilities. IDEA requires schools to find and evaluate students suspected of having disabilities, at no cost to families. This is called Child Find. Once kids are found to have a qualifying disability, schools must provide them with special education and related services (like speech therapy and counseling) to meet their unique needs. The goal is to help students make progress in school. Read more about what is and isn’t covered under FAPE.
To give parents or legal guardians a voice in their child’s education. Under IDEA, you have a say in the decisions the school makes about your child. At every point in the process, the law gives you specific rights and protections. These are called procedural safeguards. For example, one safeguard is that the school must get your consent before providing services to your child.
IDEA covers kids from birth through high school graduation or age 21 (whichever comes first). It provides early intervention services up to age 3, and special education for older kids in public school, which includes charter schools. (Find out how IDEA affects students in private school.)
Services Under IDEA: Who’s Eligible
Not every child is eligible for special education under IDEA, and having a diagnosis doesn’t guarantee eligibility. To qualify, your child must have a disability that falls under one of the 13 categories IDEA covers. They are:
-Other health impairment (includes ADHD)
-Specific learning disability (includes dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and other learning differences)
-Speech or language impairment
-Traumatic brain injury
-Visual impairment, including blindness
However, having one of these disabilities doesn’t automatically qualify a child under IDEA. To be eligible, a student must:
1. Have a disability and, as a result of that disability…
2. Need special education to make progress in school
If, for instance, a student has ADHD and is doing well in school, the student might not be covered by IDEA. Sometimes schools and parents disagree over whether a child is covered. When that happens, IDEA provides options for resolving the dispute.
Special education is the practice of educating students in a way that addresses their individual differences and needs. Ideally, this process involves the individually planned and systematically monitored arrangement of teaching procedures, adapted equipment and materials, and accessible settings.
Special education includes learning disabilities, communication disorders, emotional and behavioral disorders, physical disabilities, and developmental disabilities (such as autistic spectrum disorders including autism and Asperger syndrome and intellectual disability) and many other disabilities. Students with these kinds of disabilities are likely to benefit from additional educational services such as different approaches to teaching, the use of technology, a specifically adapted teaching area, or a resource room.
Intellectual giftedness is a difference in learning and can also benefit from specialized teaching techniques or different educational programs, but the term “special education” is generally used to specifically indicate instruction of students with disabilities. Gifted education is handled separately.
Whereas special education is designed specifically for students with learning disabilities, remedial education can be designed for any students, with or without special needs; the defining trait is simply that they have reached a point of unpreparedness, regardless of why.
In most developed countries, educators modify teaching methods and environments so that the maximum number of students are served in general education environments. Therefore, special education in developed countries is often regarded as a service rather than a place. Integration can reduce social stigmas and improve academic achievement for many students.
The opposite of special education is general education. General education is the standard curriculum presented without special teaching methods or supports. Students receiving special education services can sometimes enroll in a General education setting to learn along with students without disabilities.