All children and youth with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD)[i] must receive a free appropriate public education that includes fair evaluation, ambitious goals, challenging objectives, the right to progress, individualized supports and services, high quality instruction, and access to the general education curriculum in age-appropriate inclusive settings. These are essential for achieving the nation’s four policy goals of equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency (the four policy goals). Parents and families must be supported as essential partners in the education and transition to adult life of their sons and daughters.
Many students with IDD remain segregated in self-contained classrooms or separate schools, with few or no opportunities for academic achievement or social engagement in inclusive settings. Students with IDD frequently do not have appropriately ambitious[ii] and personalized goals, challenging objectives, high quality instruction, individualized transition planning, and related services and supports necessary to engage as full members of their school learning communities. Consequently, many students with IDD leave school unprepared for further education, employment, and independent living in the community.
Many schools have policies and practices that push youth with IDD out of school and into the juvenile justice system (known as the “school to prison pipeline”). Further, many of those in detention facilities with qualifying disabilities are not provided special education and related services.
Many parents, families, and students themselves are excluded from systemic participation as essential partners in the evaluation of the student’s strengths and limitations, as well as the development and implementation of their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
Administrators, educators, and support staff too often lack sufficient training and knowledge about the legal rights, learning needs, and abilities of these students. School districts struggle to identify, recruit, and retain qualified special education personnel. Paraprofessionals providing support in inclusive classrooms are often poorly paid and do not always receive or seek professional development relevant to students’ learning needs.
Outdated, inaccurate beliefs about students with IDD persist, leading to low expectations, segregated classrooms, inappropriate disciplinary practices, and diminished accountability for these students. In some communities, an unexamined sole focus on student performance has led to an erroneous conclusion that students with IDD are “bringing down” test scores and are to blame when schools and school systems do not achieve adequate progress.
To ensure students with IDD receive the education to which they are legally entitled, all those involved in the education of these students must work to fully implement our nation’s civil rights and education laws and accomplish the following actions.
All Means All: Zero Reject
Non-Discriminatory and Comprehensive Eligibility Evaluations and Appropriate Assessments
High Expectations and Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
Autonomy, Self-Determination, and Decision-Making Supports
Inclusion and the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
Safe and Supportive Education Environments
Family and Student Participation
Lifelong Education, Transition, and Post-Secondary Education
System Capacity Development, Funding, Oversight, and Accountability
Board of Directors, American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
February 14, 2018
Board of Directors, The Arc of the United States
April 22, 2018
Chapters of The Arc
November 9, 2018
Intellectual Disability (ID) is a lifelong condition where significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior emerge during the developmental period (before adulthood).
Developmental Disabilities (DD), first defined in 1975 federal legislation now known as “The DD Act,”, are a group of lifelong conditions that emerge during the developmental period and result in some level of functional limitation in learning, language, communication, cognition, behavior, socialization, or mobility. The most common DD conditions are intellectual disability, Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, fetal alcohol syndrome, and fragile X syndrome.
The acronym “IDD” is used to describe a group that includes either people with both ID and another DD or a group that includes people with ID or another DD. The supports that people with IDD need to meet their goals vary in intensity from intermittent to pervasive.
[ii] In March 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1 clarifying the test for determining whether school districts have met their obligation to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The Court ruled that a child’s educational program must be “appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances,” a more demanding standard than the “merely more than de minimis” test applied by the Tenth Circuit.
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