The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a Federal Law about developmental services available for children 0-3 years old (Part C – Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities), and educational services for children 3-21 years old (Part B – Assistance for Education of All Children with Disabilities).
Part C of the IDEA Law describes the IFSP process for children 0-3 years old. It requires the local authority to provide a free evaluation when a parent calls and states that 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 result in 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 most states there is a partial cost for services, however a few states offer the services for free.
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 daycare and playgroup. A variety of activities are designed to assist and encourage the child’s development; and most importantly assist the parents and child’s caretakers learn activities to assist the child’s development until the next visit.
Part B of the IDEA Law describes the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for children 3-21 years old. To learn more about the IEP process, click here.