Most recently amended in 2004, IDEA is a law that is designed to make sure
that students are receiving a proper and “appropriate” public education, regardless of special needs or disability. IDEA is unique in that is distinctly defined what exactly a disability was.
IDEA defines a disability as any disability that might cause a disruption in
the child’s learning process. These include mental retardation, learning disabilities, speech, hearing or visual impairments
or autism (Wikipedia.org). IDEA is in place to make sure that all children attending public school are able to get the best
education possible, by identifying their specific needs and meeting them.
A child’s specific needs are addressed by creating an Individualized
Education Plan or IEP for short. An IEP is defined as a, “written description of an appropriate instructional program
for a student with special needs” (Wikipedia). It is used as a guideline as to what can help the student receive an
equal education, and how to implement these beneficial techniques.
An Individualized Education Plan is created for a student by a series of specialists,
usually including parents, school social workers and the child’s teacher, in order to create a personal plan for the
child’s schooling. A typical IEP will include subjects impact by the child’s disability, current performance in
the classroom, parental concerns and what accommodations are being made in the classroom for the student (Wikipedia). Generally,
there are seven steps that need to take place before a child can have their own Individualized Education Plan. These seven
steps, as defined by Wikipedia, are pre-referral, referral, evaluation, eligibility, development of an IEP, implementation
of an IEP, as well as an annual review.
A pre-referral is a step in the IEP process which can help identify a special
needs child. A pre-referral is a basic review of the child’s behavior and school work, as well as discussion as how
to solve any problems the child might be having. This is a good time for teachers to bring up concerns with parents, without
labeling the child. This preliminary review of a child can help identify whether or not they are a special needs child, and
how to implement a plan to help them do well in school (Wikipedia).
After making decisions in a pre-referral, the next step in creating an IEP
is the referral. If it is determined that a child has needs beyond the average classroom, a referral is made. It is important
to note that in order for a referral to be made, the teacher must have pressing concerns or the student must exhibit a significant
academic or behavioral problem for the IEP to continue. This is important because the services provided through IDEA are only
necessary to a child should they actually have a learning or physical disability, to avoid being held back in their schooling
After being referred to special education, a child is then evaluated. An evaluation
can provide useful information to parents, teachers and the child. The idea behind an evaluation is to assess what exactly
the child is struggling with, and identify reasons for their struggling. After a through evaluation has been completed, a
child can move on o the eligibility step in the IEP process, to see exactly what services they are qualified to receive (Wikipedia).
During an eligibility hearing, all members of the Individualized Education
Plan are present; parents, school social workers and teachers. Everyone who was involved in the creation of the IEP evaluated
what the referral and evaluation have found, and make decisions based on this information (Wikipedia).
The most important step in creating an IEP is the development stage. It is
in this stage of creating a child’s IEP that a guideline is set up for the child’s education. In the developmental
process, a rough draft is drawn up. This rough draft often includes the child’s current class standing, short-term goals
for the child to reach (usually within the span on one year), the exact special needs services that the child requires, the
length of time the child is expected to require special services, mention as to how the child is progressing, as well as specifically
outlining the least restrictive environment the child will be placed in (Wikipedia).
It has also been proven helpful to word the IEP in a positive instead of negative manner. This provides a goal for
the child instead of another rule to follow. Positive reinforcement can be key in helping a child maintain their positive
attitude. The child’s parents are also involved in this process, seeing the IEP along every step of the way, bring up
questions and concerns, should their be any.
The final step in creating an IEP for a child is the annual review. An annual
review is designed to help both parents and teachers keep up to date on the child’s progress within their classroom.
This scheduled yearly review of the child’s Individualized Education Plan is highly suggested, but often it is advisable
to make changes to an IEP as soon as certain warning signs become available. For example, if the child is clearly struggling
in their class, it is advisable for the teacher to get in contact with the child’s parents so a revision can be made
An important note about a child’s IEP is that it can be changed. An IEP
is designed to help the child, parents and teachers and ensure the child is receiving the best education possible. A system
of checks and balances is in place, and is required to have a parental signature before any of the IEP changes go into effect
in the classroom. Parents are also allowed thirty days to review or make changes to the IEP (Wikipedia). Therefore, if a parent
or teacher believes an IEP may be outdated or ineffective, a meeting may be called to review and make any necessary changes.
This type of open communication between school officials and parents maintains constant contact, and is helpful should any
questions or concerns arise in either party.
The primary goal in creating and
maintaining a child’s Individualized Education Plan always puts the child’s education first, and therefore any
changes in the child’s progress should come to the attention of the IEP board at once, should any changes be necessary.
It’s not only students who are feeling the
positive growth effects of IDEA either. The statistics are astounding.
*Nearly one million children who would have previously
been educated in separate learning institutions have saved approximately ten-thousand dollars per child, by attending a public
*Children currently being educated under IDEA are
twice as likely as their predecessors to be employed, and nearly half of all adults with disabilities have completed college
It is clear that in this day and age, our government is doing everything possible
to ensure the best education possible for our youth. With such programs as IDEA in effect, the results have been extensive
and impressive. With more special needs children than ever growing up and completing college, it is clear that the benefits
of a system such as IDEA are vast and numerous.
IDEA section by section:
General Overview of changes made in 1997:
Step by step breakdown to IEPs: