Eldred, age 26

your legal rights

Since 1975 in the United States, Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) has been the legal right of every school-aged child. This mandatory law was called PL94-142. It is now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and has been amended several times to add new provisions and regulations.   Although this is a federal law, how it is implemented varies from state to state, but a general guideline is provided below.

The Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities (Part C of IDEA), provides services for children ages birth through two.   Infants and Toddlers who are eligible for early intervention (EI) services will have an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) which guides specific services.  The IFSP is a document which outlines the child’s abilities, parental concerns, specific goals for the child, and the services the child is to receive. 

If you are concerned about your infant’s or toddler’s development, you may contact your state’s program and refer your child for a multidisciplinary evaluation.  Referring your child, and having her evaluated, is free of charge to the family.  Children with developmental delays or established conditions are served under IDEA Part C.  A child is considered to be developmentally delayed if she is considerably behind other children her age in one or more areas of development.  Established conditions include, but are not limited to, severe prematurity, autism, genetic disorders such as down’s syndrome, and those with vision impairments or hearing loss. 

Children between the ages of three and twenty-one are also eligible for services under Part B of IDEA.  These intervention services are generally provided by the public school system.  If you child is eligible for services, then her services will be implemented according to her Individual Education Plan (IEP).  Similar to the IFSP, an IEP outlines your child’s abilities, parental concerns, specific goals for the child, and services the child is eligible to receive.  You, as the parent, are an integral part of developing your child’s IEP.

Categories of individuals served under IDEA Part B include, but are not limited to, non-specified developmental delays, autism, traumatic brain injury, and other specific learning disabilities. 

Other laws in the United States protect people with disabilities against discrimination. Two of them, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ensure the civil rights of all people with disabilities.

These web sites offer specific, jargon-free explanations of the latest amendments to IDEA, and also answer other legal questions.