IDEA was originally enacted by Congress in 1975 to ensure that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education, just like other children. The law has been revised many times over the years.

In Spanish | En español – Sobre la Ley IDEA

The most recent amendments were passed by Congress in December 2004, with final regulations published in August 2006 (Part B for school-aged children) and in September 2011 (Part C, for babies and toddlers). So, in one sense, the law is very new, even as it has a long, detailed, and powerful history.

Summaries of IDEA

If you’re looking for summaries of what the law requires (rather than its word-for-word statute or regulations), try the Center for Parent Information and Resources’ website:

Services for babies and toddlers to the third birthday (Part C of IDEA):

Services for school-aged children, including preschoolers (Part B of IDEA):

Exact Words of IDEA Itself

To read IDEA’s verbatim language can be a big help in understanding why local practices in schools and early childhood settings are as they are. Here is the place to connect with that language. Use the links below to explore the actual words of our nation’s special education law.

Access the entire IDEA law
PDF version | HTML version

Part B Regulations: Services for School-Aged Children
PDF version | HTML version

Part C Regulations: Early Childhood Intervention for Babies and Toddlers
HTML version

Guidance on IDEA from the U.S. Department of Education

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education regularly provides guidance to the field on IDEA. All are intended to clarify elements of the law and its regulations, and are an important part of understanding IDEA and how to implement it. To connect with this federal guidance, visit our page IDEA Guidance from the DOE.

Part B State Performance Plans (SPP) Letters and Annual Performance Report (APR) Letters

The reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), signed on December 3, 2004, required that, not later than one year after the date of enactment of the reauthorized IDEA, each state is required to have in place a performance plan evaluating the state’s implementation of Part B and describing how the state will improve such implementation. This plan is called the Part B State Performance Plan (SPP) and is required to be posted on the state’s website.

In addition, each state reports annually to the public on the performance of each of its local educational agencies according to the targets in its SPP. The state also reports annually to the Secretary on its performance in meeting its SPP targets. This report is called the Part B Annual Performance Report (APR), this report must also be posted on the state’s website.

IDEA, The Manual for Parents and Students about Special Education Services in Texas

IDEA, The Manual for Parents and Students about Special Education Services in Texas, a free publication from the Arc of Texas and Disability Rights Texas, is an invaluable resource for families trying to understand the Texas special education system and is available online in both English and Spanish.

Adapted from an article by the Center for Parent Information and Resources