Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

In 1975, President Ford signed into law The Education for All Handicapped Children Act, now known as the “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” (IDEA), legislation which transformed the educational opportunities and outcomes for children and youth with disabilities.

IDEA, which serves children from birth through age 21 (or older at state discretion), mandates the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE), and seeks to create a system that builds on students’ strengths and addresses individual needs. Today, over six million children and youth directly benefit from IDEA’s early intervention, preschool and special education programs via the IDEA Grants to States Program for school-aged children (Part B), the Preschool Program (Part B, Section 619), and the IDEA Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities Program (Part C).

Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (SISP) are integral to the implementation of IDEA. Indeed, one of the purposes of IDEA is to, “ensure all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education, defined as specialized instruction and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.  Providing a wide variety of school-based prevention and intervention services, SISP enable students with disabilities to access the general education curriculum in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and support all students in becoming effective learners and productive citizens.

NASISP has had continual involvement in all aspects of IDEA. The last reauthorization of the law occurred in 2004 and was signed by George W. Bush.  NASISP submitted recommendations for the reauthorization of IDEA and subsequent regulations. NASISP is also involved in ongoing efforts to improve IDEA’s implementation and to improve the provision of related services, currently known under ESSA as SISP.  Such efforts include:


Many NASISP organizations have their own issues and recommendations, as well as summary information. We encourage you to visit their respective websites for more information on any specific practice or professional issues.