Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

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The motivating principle behind IDEA was to ensure an equal opportunity for all children. In order to affect that idea, we have to find a balance between all children’s needs. In 1975, came the passage of the federal Education of All Handicapped Children Act, now revised as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 1990). For handicapped children, the law was long overdue. The designers of IDEA saw themselves as progressive reformers, designing fairer, more responsive schools. The lawmakers were attempting to rectify two historical injustices. First, public schools were not serving many of the country’s eight million handicapped children, with as many as one million children not attending school. Second, a disproportionate number of minority children were being referred to as educable mentally retarded. Combining free speech and due process would guarantee that school officials would make less arbitrary and frivolous educational decisions they reasoned. IDEA envisioned more than just installing wheelchair ramps and updating testing procedures. Certainly the breadth of the act struck absolute terror in the hearts of school administrators. It called for not only specially designed instruction for each child but also for related services designed to meet unique needs, including: transportation, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychological counseling, and social work services. In order to avoid inappropriate placements, a full and individual evaluation from a multi-disciplinary team would be given in the child’s native language. To avoid cultural bias, there would be no single procedure serving as the only criterion for placement. Each child was to receive an Individualized Education Plan...

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