Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

To read about the creation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, click here.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a Federal Law about developmental services available for children 0-3 years old (this section of the law is also known as Part C – Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities), and educational services for children 3-21 years old (this section of the law is known as Part B – Assistance for Education of All Children with Disabilities). This is not a TRICARE or Department of Defense program, but is available to all citizens of the United States.

Part C of the IDEA Law requires the local authority to provide a free evaluation when a parent calls and states they have a concern for their child’s development. The evaluation must be multidisciplinary, that is the evaluation must be conducted by professionals from at least two different disciplines. Disciplines commonly used may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, special education, social work, nursing, psychology, and pediatrics. The evaluation must be free to the family; and must provide a report of the child’s strengths and weaknesses. The evaluation does not provide a diagnosis, but established what services (i.e. physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, etc.) may be of benefit for the child. The evaluation also must provide recommendations for services. In a few states services are free, in most states there is partial of full cost for services.

If services are recommended, the Early Intervention Services agency and the family develop an Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP). The IFSP describes the child’s strengths and weakness as well as family concerns. The Plan lists services to be provided to include who will provide the services, where, how often, and how long. Services are preferably to be provided in a natural environment; that is a place and setting that is routine for the child. Examples of natural environments include the home, the child’s day care and play group. A variety of activities are designed to assist and encourage the child’s development; and most importantly assist the parents and child’s care takers learn activities to assist the child’s development until the next visit.


Part C
Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities of the IDEA Law describes the IFSP process for children 0-3 years old. You can read about it at:

1. Center for Parent Information and Research (CPIR) previously National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY):

  • Click on “Babies and Toddlers”
  • Then click on “Overview of Early Intervention”

2. National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC):

  • In the drop down list under Topic Pages select  “The IFSP Process”


Part B

Assistance for Education of All Children with Disabilities of the IDEA Law describes the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for children 3-21 years old. You can read about it at:

1. National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY):

2. National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC):

  • In the list under Topic Pages select “IEP”
  • Then under OSEP resources related to IEPs and the IEP process, select “Topic Briefs on IEP”