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IDEA Part B

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B requires schools to provide assessments and specialized instruction to people with disabilities ages 3 to 21.

Who is  Eligible

To be covered by the IDEA Part B, a student must:

  • Be between the ages of 3 and 21
  • Have a disability that gives rise to a need for special education. Examples may include:
    • Autism
    • Speech/language impairment, including apraxia
    • Intellectual disability
    • Deafness
    • Orthopedic impairment
  • Not have already graduated from high school
What is Covered  

Schools must provide services that are necessary to enable a child to get a free appropriate public education (IDEA). These can include:

  • Disability-related evaluations and screening, including communication assessments for students with communication-related disabilities 
  • Special education services, which may include specialized literacy and language instruction
  • Related services, such as:
    • Speech-language therapy
    • Physical therapy,
    • Occupational therapy
    • Assistive communication supports, such as AAC, and training for the student and family on how to use it
How Do You Request Services?

Age 3 through Kindergarten

Children aged 3 through Kindergarten-aged can be connected to services through one of two paths:

  1. If the child was already receiving services under IDEA Part C, the service coordinator should help develop a transition plan to help connect the child to IDEA Part B services once the child reaches age 3.
  2. If the child has not already been receiving services through the IDEA, the family should write a letter to the principal or special education coordinator for the local school district. The school must then develop a plan to evaluate the child and determine if the child is eligible for special education services. 

For more information, see Disability Rights California's Information on Preschool Education Services in its Special Education Rights and Responsibilities (SERR) manual. You may also want to refer to the National Center for Learning Disabilities' Parent Advocacy Brief on Preschool Services under the IDEA

Kindergarten through age 21

Public schools have an affirmative obligation to identify students who may be in need of special education services. Students may be referred for special education:

  • Because a teacher or other school employee suspects that the student has a disability
  • Because or student's parents or the student (if over 18) tell the school that the child has a disability
  • Because the parent (or the student, if over 18) asks the school or a staff member for an evaluation for special education services (this request can be oral or in writing)
  • Because some other service provider (such as a regional center, department of child services, foster parent, or social worker) tells the school or a staff member that the child has or may have a disability (however, the school cannot conduct an assessment or provide services without the parent or guardian's consent).  

For more information, see Disability Rights California's Information on Evaluations/Assessments in its Special Education Rights and Responsibilities (SERR) manual. 

Assessments

Once the student has requested or been referred for special education, the school district must complete an assessment to decide if the student is eligible for special education and related services. This may include a communication assessment. If the school district does not have staff capable of performing an adequate communication assessment, it must pay for a private assessment. 

Developing a Service Plan

If the school district finds the child eligible for special education and related services, it must hold a meeting to develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The IEP team must include anyone who has information relevant to the student's education, including the child's parents, teachers, service providers, and others who know the student well. If the student is old enough to participate in the planning process, the child must also be given a chance to participate. If the student is over age 18, he or she may have the right to decide whether or not to continue to include his or her parents in the IEP planning process. 

The service plan must identify the student's educational goals, including goals for developing communication-related skills. The plan must also identify the special education services and related services that the school district will provide to help the student reach those goals. These services may include: 

  • Specialized literacy and language instruction
  • Speech-language therapy
  • Physical therapy,
  • Occupational therapy
  • Assistive communication supports, such as AAC, and training for the student and family on how to use it
  • Transition planning and services to help the student live independently after graduating or aging out of the public school system.  
Advocating for Communication Supports

The school district must provide all the services that are necessary to provide the student with a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Wherever possible, this means the student must make progress in the general curriculum and be included to the maximum extent possible in the general classroom. FAPE also includes development of appropriate independent living and social skills. 

Communication supports are necessary for both of these goals. Students cannot make progress in the general curriculum without the ability to understand lessons, communicate what they know, and ask questions. They cannot become independent without the ability to communicate their needs, desires, and decisions. They cannot develop social skills without the ability to communicate with their classmates. Moreover, students often are excluded from the mainstream classroom when they are unable to communicate effectively. Instead, they are often segregated to special education classrooms. Families should know that an IEP that does not include necessary communication supports or that sets only minimal communication goals is probably not an adequate IEP. 

Students also may be entitled to communication supports outside the classroom and outside school. For example, a student who is learning to communicate using a speech-generating device will not make much progress if the speech-generating device is only available during the school day or only available during certain classes. The school may be required to let the student take the speech-generating device home. The school may also be required to train the student's parents in how to support the student's use of the device outside the classroom. 

Due Process Hearings

If the school does not conduct an assessment or does not agree to provide services that the family (or student, if age 18 or over) believe are necessary, the student or family may request a due process hearing. At the hearing, the family has the opportunity to present evidence and explain to a hearing officer why the assessment or services are necessary to provide the student with a Free Appropriate Public Education in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).  

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Students also may be entitled to communication supports in school under a law called the Rehabilitation Act. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act gives students the right to effective communication supports in schools and other public programs. These supports may include:

  • Interpreters
  • Access to AAC
  • Access to communication aides trained in the student's preferred method of communication.

Section 504 gives students some rights in addition to the IDEA. For example, Section 504 requires schools to give priority to the student's preferred method of communication. If, for example, the student is already proficient at a particular AAC method, the school usually must provide access to that specific AAC method and not attempt to substitute another method that the school prefers. If the school wants to propose another method, it must prove that the other method is equally effective for that student

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act does not cover instruction in how to use communication supports. If, for example, the student needs to be taught how to use an AAC device, that may be more appropriately addressed through the IDEA.

Section 504 can sometimes be addressed in the same meeting in which the school develops the IEP. In other cases, the family must make a request to the school's "Section 504 coordinator." The school administrator must provide families with information about how to contact the school's Section 504 coordinator. 

More Resources

Disability Rights California, Obtaining Assistive Technology Through Your Child’s School

Disability Rights California's Special Education Rights and Responsibilities (SERR) manual

National Center for Learning Disabilities, IDEA Parent Guide