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Age Eligibility and Student Coverage under IDEA

written by: Barbara • edited by: Amanda Grove • updated: 7/12/2012

So who's covered under IDEA anyway? What is the age eligibility requirement for IDEA coverage? There are many questions regarding the age of students covered under IDEA. In this article, you will find those answers to those questions and many more, so read on.

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    Age Eligibility Rules and IDEA

    Federal funding eligibility for states providing special education programs for students under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) must operate within the legal constraints of the law in defining age eligibility criteria. If a student meets the definition of "disabled" under the IDEA criteria, students between the ages of 3 - 21 years old must be provided funding for IEPs (Individual Education Programs) support and resources in school communities.

    Age Eligibility and IDEA

    Students 3-5: Schools who receive funding under IDEA for students in this age range must provide IEPs for all eligible students who meet the legal requirements. Students who have developmental delays can also receive special education services if they meet the legal criteria and need coverage for educational support.

    Students 6-18: When students in this age range present physical, cognitive, developmental, or other defined criteria for IEP coverage, IDEA funding will be allocated to school Districts, schools for student support in the classroom. Schools are mandated by state law to provide the appropriate coverage as defined under the legal guidelines for students meeting disability status under IDEA.

    Students 18-21: Typically when students reach 18 years of age, they are transitioning into a Vocational school, College, Public Service Option, or Employment. Students at 18 are typically beyond the high school experience. Eligibility for IDEA becomes a spirited discussion for state lawmakers when students are still in the high school environment securing credits for graduation. Given that IDEA laws state that eligible special education students can be funded until the age of 21 years old, if students qualify and meet eligibility legal requirements, then funding for students in the age range is a given as long as students have not graduated from high school.

    Age eligibility rules and IDEA are clear in the eyes of the law and in the expectations of eligibility requirements for students 3-21 in school communities.