The IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, is a federal law that governs all special education services in the United States. IDEA provides some federal funding to state and local education agencies to guarantee special education and related services for those students who meet the criteria for eligibility in a number of diverse categories of disability. Section 504 is different from IDEA, in that Section 504 is a civil rights statute, rather than a federal programmatic statute. Therefore, the federal government does not provide additional funding for students. Section 504 requires that schools, public or private, who receive federal financial assistance for educational purpose, and not discriminate against children with handicaps.
Under the IDEA guidelines, state that school districts are required to identify and evaluate children assumed of having a disability. For the IDEA many school districts use a parent handbook as a method for identifying students that are in need of services. Section 504 does require school district personal to locate and identify students in their school district suspected of having a disability who attend public schools, private schools, or state agencies.
For a student to be eligible for services under IDEA that student must meet the criteria for eligibility in one or more of the 13 categories of disabilities identified in the law. These categories are autism, specific learning disability, speech or language impairments, emotional disturbance, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment, hearing impairment, deafness, mental retardation, deaf-blindness, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, and any other health impairment. In each of these categories, there is a specific criteria specifying the presence of the disabling condition. ADD or ADHD is not a discrete category under IDEA, but a student wit ADD or ADHD may be severed under IDEA if one of the following rules apply, the student disorders causes them to have learning or emotional disabilities, or the student meets the criteria for other health impairments.