The education of children with disabilities is a top national priority. Our nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), sets high standards for their achievement and guides how special help and services are made available in schools to address their individual needs.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics 6.7 million children (13% of all public school students) with disabilities receive special education and related services in our schools each year. To learn more about these vital services, explore the topics below.

This information is from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY).


As a parent of a child who is or who may be receiving special education, you have certain rights which are guaranteed by a federal law called the “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)”. This law outlines a process which ensures that you have the opportunity and right to be involved as an equal member of the team that makes decisions about your child. This handout provides basic information on special education, child find/referral, evaluation (assessment), eligibility (classification), IEP meetings, transition, placement, annual review, due process rights, and resources.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Each public school child who receives special education and related services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Each IEP must be designed for one student and must be a truly individualized document. The IEP creates an opportunity for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel, and students (when appropriate) to work together to improve educational results for children with disabilities. The IEP is the cornerstone of a quality education for each child with a disability.

Definition from the Utah Department of Education website: view website

Rules and regulations based on IDEA vary from state to state. The Utah Parent Center has created a handbook called Parents as Partners in the IEP Process, fact sheets, and video just for parents! This information provides an overview, information, and suggestions of what you -a parent- can do to prepare to participate in and follow up on IEP meetings and for your important role as an equal member of the team that designs the individualized education or program to meet your child’s needs.

Click here to view the Parent Handbook: Parents as Partners in the IEP Process.

Utah State Rules and Regulations  

Quick Summary of Revised Rules and Regulations – October 2016

Utah State Board of Education –Special Education Laws and Regulations.

Each state must adopt rules and regulations to implement the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004.  

The following are info sheets to help you as you work as an effective member of the team at the school to ensure services for your child.

Transition to Adult Life

What is in store for youth with disabilities after they leave school? What will happen to your child when they no longer receive the educational services or accommodations which have been mandated by federal law? These questions are important to all parents of youth with special needs. Even though disabilities may vary greatly in their severity or impact, the need to plan for the future is very important for all students. A transition plan is a required part of a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) and should be developed and in place by their 16th birthday.

It is vitally important for families to realize that transition represents the process of moving from school to services provided to all eligible students under their IEP to services in adult programs that might or might not be available based on varying eligibility criteria and funding sources. Families who begin planning early will have more time to identify concerns, overcome challenges or barriers that arise and create opportunities which will help their students achieve their goals. Planning for the future early will alleviate disappointment and anxiety as students approach adulthood.

The Utah Parent Center has created a handbook and a series of information sheets that will help parents and their students to plan for a successful transition from school services to adult life.

Our Adult Services page includes more information that impacts transition planning.

Transition From School to Adult Life

Section 504: Resources

Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that applies to individuals with disabilities. It is a civil rights act that protects the civil rights of persons with disabilities. Section 504 is a nondiscrimination statute, prohibiting discrimination based solely on disability. Section 504 requires that no person with a disability can be excluded from or denied benefits of any program receiving federal financial assistance; this rule includes education.

Section 504: Equal Rights for All Students provides information and describes the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1983 with respect to preschool, elementary, and secondary school policies involving placement of children with disabilities.

Click below to view A Parent Guide to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

English Version

Spanish Version

Procedural Safeguards for Children with Disabilities and their Parents

This document provides parents with the required notice of the procedural safeguards available under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The items covered in the Procedural Safeguards include: confidentiality of information; discipline; due process; children with disabilities enrolled by their parents in private schools when free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) is an issue; and state complaint procedures. The Procedural Safeguards are provided in English, Arabic, Somali, Spanish, Tongan, Vietnamese and Navajo.

Utah State Board of Education Special Education Rights of Parents and Children Procedural Safeguards Notice (revised November 2016) and Annual Parent/Guardian Notices (Child Find, Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship, FERPA, and Medicaid).

Acronym Lists

As you begin to learn about the IEP process and other services and programs, you will hear many “acronyms” or letters that stand for (represent) a series of words. You will be introduced to the “Special Education Alphabet Soup”. Many services, organizations, programs, and laws are referred to by their acronyms.

Click here to view a document that will help you decipher the “alphabet soup”.

Glossary of Terms – Special Education

Once you begin the process of working with the school, you will be introduced to new words and new definitions of old words.

Click here for a glossary of special education terms.

Center for Parents Information & Resources offers information about school services for children ages 3-22.

Information Sheets from Center for Parent Information & Resources

10 Basic Steps in Special Education | Wondering how a child becomes eligible for special education and related services in school? Come here for NICHCY’s to-the-point overview of the 10 basic steps involved.

Key Terms to Know in Special Education | This page is like visiting a dictionary of important special education terms (such as the term “child with a disability”). Each definition comes directly from IDEA.

Parental Rights under IDEA | By law, parents of children with disabilities being served under IDEA have specific rights. Find out what those rights are.

Q & A Series on IDEA 2004 |

  • What is special education?
  • What are related services?
  • Who’s considered a “child with a disability?”

This Q&A is designed to answer these questions–looking in detail at the mandates and requirements of our nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as amended in 2004.

Special Education Services for Preschoolers with Disabilities | What services are available for preschoolers who are experiencing developmental delays? Where can you turn for help and support?

Evaluating Children for Disability | Before a child may receive special education for the first time, he or she must be evaluated fully and individually. The evaluation’s free! Find out all about the process here.

All About the IEP | Every child who receives special education services under IDEA must have an IEP—Individualized Education Program. Come here to learn all about IEPs —what the law requires, what information a typical IEP contains, how IEPs are developed, and why they’re so important.

Placement Issues | Placement is where a student with a disability receives his or her special education and related services. IDEA requires placement in the least restrictive environment (LRE), a setting that is based on the child’s IEP. Find out who decides placement and how they decide it.

Supports, Modifications, and Accommodations for Students | There are many powerful ways to support children with disabilities in regular classrooms and school activities. Adaptations and modifications, designed to fit a student’s needs, can make all the difference in the world!

Positive Behavior Supports, A Resource Collection| Are you looking for training materials, videos, Powerpoint slideshows, or webinars on positive behavior support for students with disabilities? You can connect with many such resources here!

Resolving Disputes Between Parents and Schools | When disagreements occur between the parents of a child with disability and the school, both can turn to IDEA’s dispute resolution options. Find out more about these options here.

Transition to Adulthood | Youth with disabilities need to plan ahead for their transition from high school. The law mandates it, in fact! Enter here if you’d like to connect with a wealth of materials and knowledge.

OSEP Ideas that Work

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) is dedicated to improving results for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities ages birth through 21. OSEP, directly and through its partners and grantees, develops a wide range of research-based products, publications, and resources to assist states, local district personnel, and families to improve results for students with disabilities.  The OSEP website is designed to provide easy access to information from research to practice initiatives funded by OSEP that address the provisions of IDEA and NCLB. This web site will include resources, links, and other important information that supports OSEP’s research to practice efforts.

Parent Materials

Tool Kits are complications of resources and information highlighting evidence-based and promising practices, skills and interventions in a particular area.  The Tool Kits are developed and complied to provide information to practitioners, families, and other stakeholders involved in improving outcomes for children with disabilities.

These Tool Kits were first produced between 2006 and 2008.  Periodically updated since their creation, some Tool Kits have now been placed in archival status.  The archives Tool Kits are available here as a resource for relevant tools and information.

New Tool Kits are being developed and will be added as they become available.

Building the Legacy: IDEA 2004

OSEP Website on IDEA

Welcome to the U.S. Department of Education’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) website, which brings together IDEA information and resources from the Department and our grantees.

Whether you are a student, parent, educator, service provider, or grantee, you are here because you care about children with disabilities and their families and want to find information and explore resources on infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.