On November 29, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed into law the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, later called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This was significant to the physical therapy profession because with it its passage physical therapist practice began moving increasingly into the public school systems.
As often happens, the law evolved over its 40-year history, incorporating provisions for transitions to adult living in 1984, introducing the Part C infant and toddler provisions in 1986, and officially becoming IDEA in 1990, among other changes. IDEA’s evolution — and at times, survival — was aided by APTA, and especially its Section on Pediatrics (later renamed the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy), which advocated for reauthorization and increased funding at various points, and helped legislators develop language changes that recognized the changing nature of the physical therapy profession, as well as the processes that needed to be put in place to ensure the cooperation and effectiveness of the team overseeing a child’s Individualized Education Plan.
APTA and the section have remained engaged with the federal government and continue to advocate for legislation, regulations, and policies that support the provision of public education for all children, regardless of the presence, nature, or severity of a disability.