The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) of 1975 is a federal law. It is also known as Public Law 94–142. It requires public schools to provide appropriate educational services for all children with disabilities between ages 3 and 21. EAHCA has been strengthened and expanded over the years. It is now called the Individual with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). Funds are granted to states with special education programs that comply with federal guidelines. These guidelines outline only the minimum standards that states must meet in order to get the funds. After meeting these guidelines, states can be flexible in designing their own programs.
Some specific provisions of IDEA are related to:
Duration of services. Your child may be able to get services beyond the traditional school year.
Identifying and evaluating the disability. Your child must be officially evaluated for having a disability through certain testing procedures. Health, vision, hearing, social and emotional development, intelligence, communication skills, and academic performance are checked.
Free and appropriate education. The needs vary for each child with a disability but include education and related services. This is a comprehensive requirement that may include services such as transportation, psychological care, and physical therapy. But medical services are excluded. Some services are free. But this does not mean they are the best services available.
Least restrictive environment. Children with special needs are put in traditional classrooms whenever possible. This is not always feasible or appropriate. But attempts should be made to limit a child's isolation.
Individualized education program (IEP). Educational programs to fit specific needs are designed based on the child's disability. School personnel and parents meet to agree on goals and build a program to best help the child with available resources.
Early intervention services for infants and toddlers with physical, cognitive, communication, social or emotional, or adaptive developmental disabilities. This also may include infants or toddlers at risk for these developmental problems. It depends on the state.
Details about this law can be found on the website http://idea.ed.gov.
Medical Review:John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics