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  • Writer's pictureAimee

Key Laws to Know: IDEA

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. §1400 et seq., is the preeminent federal law governing services to students with disabilities.  The law itself, its implementing regulations at 34 C.F.R. Part 300, and a wide body of case law provide schools with a roadmap for how to provide a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) to eligible students.  Students are eligible for protection under IDEA if they have one of thirteen (13) identified disabilities and, as a result, require specially designed instruction.

Qualifying disabilities, as defined by law, include:

1)      Autism

2)      Deaf-blindness

3)      Deafness

4)      Emotional disturbance

5)      Hearing impairment

6)      Intellectual disability

7)      Multiple disabilities

8)      Orthopedic impairment

9)      Other health impairment

10)  Specific learning disability

11)  Speech or language impairment

12)  Traumatic brain injury

13)  Visual impairment including blindness.

The IDEA was signed into law in 1975 as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, but the law was reauthorized in 2004 under its current name.

IDEA entitles qualified students to “specially designed instruction” and related services in the form of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). "Specially designed instruction" is instruction that is adapted in terms of its content, methodology, or delivery as appropriate to the student's needs. Specially designed instruction must meet the unique needs of the student that result from their disability and ensure access to the general education curriculum. "Related services" are supportive services required for a student to benefit from special education, such as speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling services, social work services, or school nursing services.

State Educational Agencies (SEAs) are tasked with implementing IDEA at the state level.  In Pennsylvania, the regulations relevant to IDEA protections are found in Chapter 14 of the Pennsylvania’s State Board of Education Regulations, 22 Pa. Code Chapter 14: 22 Pa. Code Chapter 14. Special Education Services And Programs (

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