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Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) - "The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children."-

What is considered a disability under IDEA? 

Sec. 300.8 Child with a disability

Statute/Regs Main » Regulations » Part B » Subpart A » Section 300.8

300.8 Child with a disability.

(a) General.

(1) Child with a disability means a child evaluated in accordance with §§300.304 through 300.311 as having an intellectual disability, a hearing impairment (including deafness), a speech or language impairment, a visual impairment (including blindness), a serious emotional disturbance (referred to in this part as “emotional disturbance”), an orthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, an other health impairment, a specific learning disability, deaf-blindness, or multiple disabilities, and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.

Initial Evaluation (I suggest requests be sent in writing to show it was made and when it was received) - (b) Request for initial evaluation. Consistent with the consent requirements in §300.300, either a parent of a child or a public agency may initiate a request for an initial evaluation to determine if the child is a child with a disability.

Subpart D — Evaluations, Eligibility Determinations, Individualized Education Programs, and Educational Placements

​Subpart E — Procedural Safeguards Due Process Procedures for Parents and Children

Procedural Safeguards - IDEA 2004 - The procedural safeguards notice must include a full explanation of all of the procedural safeguards available - Rights as a parent.

Sec. 300.502 Independent educational evaluation (I highly recommend an independent evaluation. We paid out of pocket for ours, but there are safeguards that ensure an independent evaluation at public expense. Read this section for details)

Part 303 (Part C)— Early Intervention Program For Infants And Toddlers With Disabilities -​om

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Hidden Disabilities - Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects the rights of persons with handicaps in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Section 504 protects the rights not only of individuals with visible disabilities but also those with disabilities that may not be apparent.

The ED Section 504 regulation defines an "individual with handicaps" as any person who (i) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, (ii) has a record of such an impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment. The regulation further defines a physical or mental impairment as (A) any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genitourinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or (B) any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. The definition does not set forth a list of specific diseases and conditions that constitute physical or mental impairments because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of any such list.

FAQ about 504 - - I have listed a few questions and answers from the Department of Education website. To view, additional questions click on the link above.

Q 20: May school districts consider "mitigating measures" used by a student in determining whether the student has a disability under Section 504?  .....No.  As of January 1, 2009, school districts, in determining whether a student has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits that student in a major life activity, must not consider the ameliorating effects of any mitigating measures that student is using.

Q 23. Can a medical diagnosis suffice as an evaluation for the purpose of providing FAPE?

No. A physician's medical diagnosis may be considered among other sources in evaluating a student with an impairment or believed to have an impairment which substantially limits a major life activity. Other sources to be considered, along with the medical diagnosis, include aptitude and achievement tests, teacher recommendations, physical condition, social and cultural background, and adaptive behavior.  As noted in FAQ 22, the Section 504 regulations require school districts to draw upon a variety of sources in interpreting evaluation data and making placement decisions.

Q 32. A student has a disability referenced in the IDEA, but does not require special education services. Is such a student eligible for services under Section 504?

The student may be eligible for services under Section 504. The school district must determine whether the student has an impairment which substantially limits his or her ability to learn or another major life activity and, if so, make an individualized determination of the child's educational needs for regular or special education or related aids or services. For example, such a student may receive adjustments in the regular classroom.

Q 35. If a student is eligible for services under both the IDEA and Section 504, must a school district develop both an individualized education program (IEP) under the IDEA and a Section 504 plan under Section 504?

No. If a student is eligible under IDEA, he or she must have an IEP. Under the Section 504 regulations, one way to meet Section 504 requirements for a free appropriate public education is to implement an IEP.

Department of Education

"OSEP policy documents provide information, guidance and clarification regarding implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) through two types of issuances:"

  • Policy Support Documents

  • Policy Letters

Below are a few letters from the DOE; a full list can be found at

  • Letter to Anonymous - IEP Team Meetings; Evaluations and Reevaluations. 

  • Letter to Zirkel -  Independent Educational Evaluations 

  • Letter to Eiserman - Early Intervention Services (EIS)

  • Dear Colleague Letter - Access by Students with Disabilities to Accelerated Programs 

Laws and Guidance -

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