Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

What is IDEA?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that requires states to provide a "free, appropriate public education" to children with disabilities so they can be educated to the greatest extent possible along with all other children. Qualifying children are entitled to special education and related services at no cost to their parents/guardians.

Who is covered?

To receive services under IDEA, a child with diabetes must show that he or she needs special education and related services in order to benefit from an education. An evaluation of the child must show that, because of the child's diabetes (or other qualifying disability), the child has limited strength, vitality, or alertness that adversely affects the child's educational performance. Simply put, the diabetes must make it more difficult for the child to learn.

For example, it is often difficult to learn when blood sugar levels are either too high or too low. If a child with diabetes is having difficulty managing his or her blood sugar level, this may hurt how well the child does in school. Academic progress might also suffer if a child with diabetes misses a significant amount of classroom instruction each day in order to attend to diabetes care tasks.

What help does a child receive under IDEA?

Special Education

Special education means adapting what is taught and how it is taught in order to address the child's unique needs. The child must have access to the same general curriculum (or coursework) so that the child can meet the same educational standards (tests and other measurements used to pass children from grade to grade) that apply to all children in that school district. For example, a child with diabetes might need a tutor or a classroom aide to help the child catch up with missed schoolwork.

Related Services

Related services include such things as school health services. For example, a child with diabetes requires that there be trained staff available at all times who are knowledgeable about diabetes and the child's specific plan for diabetes care. Such staff must know how to recognize and treat high and low blood sugar levels. Younger children may require assistance in blood glucose checking and administering insulin.

Least Restrictive Environment

IDEA requires that children with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This means that, to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who do not have disabilities.

Parents/Guardians' rights under IDEA

One reason some parents/guardians like IDEA is that the law offers parents/guardians numerous protections. These include:

  • Parent/guardian consent before evaluation (or the district must request a due process hearing from the state education agency).
  • Parent/guardian involvement including inspecting and reviewing all of their child's education records and participating in meetings about their child.
  • Notice to parents/guardians of decisions and plans before the district puts the proposed actions into effect.

Process under IDE

  • Determine eligibility
  • Prepare a IEP
  • If problems, then:
    • Educate
    • Negotiate
    • Due process procedures through school district
    • Due process appeals through the state education agency (mediation and due process hearing)
    • Administrative complaint process
    • Federal court (must exhaust administrative remedies first)

State Rules

States are permitted to establish laws, guidelines and policies as long as they don't conflict with the requirements of federal law. Therefore, it is necessary to be familiar with the rules that apply in your state.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Under IDEA, a student is entitled to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

An Individualized Education Program or "IEP" is the document that sets out what the school is going to do to meet the child's individual educational needs. There are a lot of specific rules about developing an IEP, reviewing it (which must be done at least once a year), and what an IEP must contain.

Developing an IEP

The IEP must be developed with input from the child's parents/guardians, at least one regular education teacher, at least one of the child's special education teachers or providers, a representative of the school district who is qualified, knowledgeable, and authorized to commit the district to the delivery of resources to the child, a qualified professional who can interpret the evaluation of the child, others at the discretion of the parent or the school district, and, where appropriate, the child with a disability. This is the child's IEP Team.

Contents of an IEP

An IEP must contain a number of specific provisions including:

  • A statement of the child's present levels of performance, including how the child's disability affects involvement and progress in the general curriculum;
  • A statement of measurable annual goals, including benchmarks or short-term objectives;
  • A statement of the special education and supplementary aids and services to be provided;
  • A statement of program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided;
  • A statement of any modifications needed for the child to participate in district-wide tests or other assessments; and
  • A statement of how the child's progress toward the annual goals will be measured and how parents/guardians will be regularly informed of progress toward goals.

Specifically, with regard to diabetes, the IEP will contain the same types of related aids and services discussed under Section 504 Plans.

Diabetes Medical Management Plan

Medical orders from the child's treating healthcare team, as described under Section 504, are also needed for a child with an IEP.

  • Last Reviewed: September 20, 2013
  • Last Edited: October 30, 2013