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Educational Rights for Children With Disabilities

Educational Rights for Children With Disabilities

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) of 1975, also known as Public Law 94–142, is a federal law that requires public schools to provide appropriate educational services for all children with disabilities between ages 3 and 21. EAHCA was strengthened and expanded with the passage of the 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Funds are granted to individual states with special education programs that comply with federal guidelines. These guidelines outline only the minimum standards that states must meet in order to get the funds. After meeting these guidelines, states are allowed flexibility in designing their own programs.

Some specific provisions of IDEA are related to:

  • Duration of services. Your child may be eligible for services beyond the 180 days of a traditional school year.
  • Identifying and evaluating the disability. Your child must be officially evaluated for having a disability through specific testing procedures. Health, vision, hearing, social and emotional development, intelligence, communication skills, and academic performance must all be included during this evaluation.
  • Free and appropriate education. The needs vary for each child with a disability but include education and related services. This is a comprehensive requirement that may include services such as transportation, psychological care, and physical therapy. But medical services are excluded from this provision. Although some services are free, this does not mean they are the best services available. Some services beyond those minimally required may be available on a sliding price scale based on family income.
  • Least restrictive environment. Children with special needs are mainstreamed into traditional classrooms with normally developing children whenever possible. Although this is not always feasible or appropriate, attempts should be made to limit a child's isolation.
  • Individualized education program (IEP). Educational programs to fit specific needs are designed based upon the evaluation of a child's disability. Meetings are held with school personnel and parents to identify goals and establish a program to best help the child with available resources.
  • Early intervention services for infants and toddlers with physical, cognitive, communication, social or emotional, or adaptive developmental disabilities. This also may include infants or toddlers at risk for these developmental problems, depending on the state.

Detailed documentation of this law is available on the following Web site: www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/Policy/IDEA.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Fred Volkmar, MD - Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Last Revised April 3, 2012

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