Educational services for children with disabilities are mandated from birth to 21 under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act  (IDEA), which ensures that all children with disabilities have available to them a “free appropriate public education” that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.

Infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities ages 0-3 are eligible for Early Intervention Services under the IDEA. Learn more about Early Intervention.

Starting at age three, Individualized Education Programs (IEP) are developed for children.  An IEP is a written statement of the educational program designed to meet a child’s individual needs. The IEP focuses on long term goals and objectives which are determined by an assessment and evaluation. A multidisciplinary team, including the child’s parents, develops the IEP. If a child needs a related service (e.g., occupational therapy, language therapy) to receive a free appropriate public education, it must be provided at no cost to the parents.

Each state has at least one federally funded Parent Training and Information Center that provides information, training, and advocacy to parents concerning their child’s right to a free appropriate public education.

Learn the 10 Basic Steps in Special Education, more about the IDEA and other educational issues related to children with disabilities at the National Dissemination Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities.

Other Helpful Resources

Department of Education’s IDEA Site
This site was created to provide a “one-stop shop” for resources related to IDEA and its implementing regulations.

Parent’s Guide to Developing Your Child’s IEP
A parent’s guide to creating a plan for a child’s education, known as the Individualized Education Program, or IEP.

A searchable website providing information on special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities.

Family Center on Technology and Disability
The Center provides assistive and instructional technology resources of interest to families of children with disabilities.

National Center on Dispute Resolution in Special Education
CADRE works to increase the capacity to resolve special education disputes through mediation. CADRE works with state and local education and early intervention systems, parent centers, families and educators to improve programs and results for children with disabilities.