On November 29, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed into law the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142). This week we celebrate the 35th anniversary of IDEA.
"Today, in America, we recognize that people with disabilities – like all people – have unique abilities, talents, and aptitudes. And that America is better, fairer, and richer when we make full use of those gifts.” - Senator Tom Harkin
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation; it governs special education programs. It was originally enacted by Congress in 1975, while President Gerald Ford was in office.
IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities.
From IDEA, we have brought educational tools to our children such as the right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), individualized education plans (IEPs), least restrictive environments (LRE), highly qualified teachers, scientifically based research, and many other directives and guidelines that enable school districts, parents and students to work together to put the highest standards of learning within reach! Children with disabilities have benefitted from specialized instruction and strategies, children without disabilities have benefitted from general education practices that recognize that every child has a unique learning style that should be recognized and taught to.
From Susan Bruce (see www.wrightslaw.com)
Susan is the mother of three children with learning disabilities.
After spending years researching and learning about IDEA and about her children's disabilities, Susan has spent the last two years applying all she has learned. She's now a "force to be reckoned with" when advocating for children.
She is currently working for her state Parent and Training Information Center. She is the Region 3 Regional Education Coordinator for PRO*Parents of South Carolina, Inc.
“In this year of the 35th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Act, I am thankful.
• I am thankful this law allows me to advocate for better opportunities for my kids.
• I am thankful this law allows me to advocate for a more equitable education for my kids.
• I am thankful that my kids are on a high school diploma track. If not for the IDEA, they wouldn’t be.
• I am thankful for a journey, without which I would not have become what I am.
• Most of all, I am thankful for organizations like Wrightslaw and parent training and information centers who empower parents on a daily basis to do all this!
I want to challenge ALL parents of kids with disabilities to stand up and take action.
Utilize every possible resource. Make yourself an expert on your child and the IDEA. Create a better outcome for your kid. No one has more to lose than you do, with the exception of our kids.
I ask myself a thought-provoking question. I consider my journey and everything that brought me to this point in time. Did I, by not meeting my full potential, really reach my full potential? I am doing what I love. Perhaps, my full potential is to be gauged by my kids reaching theirs!”
For more information on IDEA, see