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 The Government Center: Disability Rights

Knowing IDEA

One law you need to know about is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004). It says that you have the right to:

  • A free, appropriate, public education
  • Special education and related services designed to meet your unique needs and that prepares you for education after high school, employment, and independent living
  • Have education that is based on your unique interests, strengths, and preferences
  • Get an education along with your friends and peers who don't have a disability
  • Have assessments, tests, and evaluations that help teachers understand your disability and how it affects your ability to learn, work, and pursue future goals
  • Have an Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • Be invited to your IEP meeting to develop your individualized program
  • Have your parents or legal guardian be a part of the team
  • By the age of 16, start planning for your transition from high school to a career, living on your own, and postsecondary education
  • Invite other agencies that may be working with you after high school to your IEP meeting
  • Disagree with the IEP plan that people write and ask that the goals on your IEP reflect what you want to do after high school
  • Have a mediator work with you, your family, and the school to ensure your IEP reflects the goals you want to pursue and that the supports are in place to ensure that it happens

IDEA also ensures that your Individualized Education Program (IEP):

  • Is based on your strengths, interests, preferences, and needs.
  • Explains why you are not included in whole-school activities (if you're not) and also why you are not included in state testing for all students (if you're not).
  • Lists all the supports (accommodations) that you need to do well in school.

Finally, IDEA says that at age 18 (also called the age of majority):

  • You take over! The law says that you are in charge at the age of majority (this age is not the same age in every state, so check out what your state's age of majority is or if your state has one).
  • You can still invite your parents to your IEP meeting, but YOU are the one that will sign the IEP as well as other paperwork.

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Last updated on December 5, 2018

National Center on Secondary Education and Transition University of Minnesota IDEAs That Work - Office of Special Education Programs

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