IDEA45: Happy Birthday IDEA!

George Sugai
IDEA-45 logo. IDEA 45. #IDEA45 Years. 1975-2020. Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

Happy Birthday, IDEA!

By George Sugai
Professor Emeritus, Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut


The 45th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is particularly meaningful to me and to students with disabilities for four main reasons.

First, my career as a special educator began in Aurora, Colorado in the Fall of 1974. Although we were definitely “attempting to figure things out,” we developed the district’s first IDEA-shaped resource rooms for elementary, middle, and high school students with emotional and behavioral disorders; we wrote many of the first IEPs; and we created and implemented some of the first behavior intervention plans. IDEA gave us the vision, expectation, accountability, and responsibility to greatly enhance our special education efforts. For the first time, the education of students with disabilities and their families became a protected right and a reality rather than an informal afterthought. In addition, special education became an integral component and priority in general education.

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IDEA45: The Personnel Who Deliver the Promise

Jane West
IDEA 45th Anniversary logo

The Personnel Who Deliver the Promise of IDEA into the Lives of Children and Families: A Reflection on the 45th Anniversary of IDEA

By Jane E. West, Ph.D.


I began my journey as a special educator in 1973. My first job was as a paraprofessional for students with emotional disturbance. The program was intended to transition students who had been in psychiatric hospitals back into public school. Our classroom was housed in a trailer on the playground of an elementary school in the Bronx.

Fresh out of college with a degree in literature, I was very keen on poetry. With the support of the teacher in charge of my class, I developed a curriculum on poetry. Much to my delight, the students were all in. They wrote some magnificent poems. Shortly after we finished the unit, the principal announced a school wide poetry contest. Elated, I met with him and provided the students’ work for submission to the contest. After looking at the poems briefly, he returned them to me saying, “There is no way those students could have written those poems.” I was devastated. 

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IDEA45: Supporting a Free Appropriate Public Education

Doug and Lynn Fuchs
IDEA 45th Anniversary logo

Forty-Five Years of IDEA-Funded Research Supporting a
“Free Appropriate Public Education”

By Douglas Fuchs and Lynn Fuchs, Vanderbilt University


On this 45th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), we reflect on the research that IDEA legislation (and its successive reauthorizations) has facilitated. More specifically, we discuss its focus, quality, and meaningfulness for children and youth with and without disabilities.

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Sharing My Story to Inspire Advocacy in Others

NOTE: October is Learning Disabilities (LD)/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness (ADHD) Month.

Michaela Hearst

By Michaela Hearst, an advocate, writer, and a social worker.

I was diagnosed with nonverbal learning disorder (NVLD) and learning disability not otherwise specified (LD-NOS) when I was 14 years old. I share my personal story with the hope it will inspire or help others.

Every experience I’ve undergone in the past has led me to where I am now.

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OSEP 2020 New Discretionary Grant Awards

In fiscal year 2020, OSERS’ Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) provided over $71.7 million to fund programs that help educate children and youth with disabilities to assist states, local districts and other organizations to improve results for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities ages birth through 21.

Please read about these programs below.

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Charting the Path to Every Child Reading

NOTE: October is Learning Disabilities (LD)/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness (ADHD) Month.

Amy and Olivia Traynor

Amy Traynor, OTR, M.A., ATP, National Center for Learning Disabilities Texas Parent Advisory Council Lead

“Livvy speak” is the endearing term coined for the innocent one-off names or descriptions spoken by my daughter, Olivia, when she was in preschool. We adored it and rarely corrected her.

As a pediatric occupational therapist (OT), I recognized that all children, even siblings, develop differently. It didn’t surprise me that she has done things differently than her brother and they have approached “life” differently from the other.

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Reservation, Risk, and Relief: Finding My Way to Advocacy

NOTE: October is Learning Disabilities (LD)/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness (ADHD) Month.

Lia Beatty

By Lia Beatty, Whitman College student

My self-advocacy is a choice. Not a choice I wanted to make, but one I had to make and continue to make every day.

The journey was provoked by a defining moment in my first year of college. A psychologist told me, referring to my recently diagnosed attention deficit disorder (ADD)—and not-yet identified dyslexia—that I would “just have to settle with being less than,” a feeling I had already felt for so long.

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The Unexpected Lesson COVID-19 Taught Me About LD & ADHD

NOTE: October is Learning Disabilities (LD)/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness (ADHD) Month.
Susan Reynolds

by Susan Reynolds, National Center for Learning Disabilities field organizer

Like many parents, I woke up on March 13 with a notification from my son’s school district: school was canceled for the day. As I read through the news that morning, I had a strange feeling wash over me. My instincts were telling me that schools were getting ready to close for in-person learning for an undetermined amount of time.

I remember saying to my husband, “I’m ADHD and so is our son, and we both have learning disabilities. I work from home, and now our son will be learning from home, too. We need to sit down and figure out a better schedule.”

We started to plan as best we could.

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Laying Educational Foundations

NOTE: October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Rebecca Newlon

Rebecca Newlon

By Chris and Rebecca Newlon

When Rebecca, my daughter who has Down syndrome, began kindergarten, I never dreamed that the day-to-day hammering out of details with her general education teacher would lay the foundation we would continue to utilize to this day now that Rebecca is a junior in high school.

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Impact Stories — Joe McFadden

Throughout June we will celebrate the graduating high school class of 2020. This final blog in the series highlights a student from a private high school in Maryland.


Congratulations Graduate! A Spotlight on Joe McFadden.

Joe McFadden

By Pauline Peticlerc and Joe McFadden

Joe was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old. He did not speak until age five, and we were told he may never learn to potty train. Fortunately, he was born with great fortitude and never let his disability stand in his way.

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