The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights observed that for more than 20 years (1975 to 1997), the EHA/IDEA remained largely unchanged..

Child sitting at a table
Photo courtesy Ann Marsden.
  • Between 1979 and 1994, a series of amendments to the EHA refined and increased the number of discretionary programs in personnel preparation, research, demonstration and technical assistance.
  • Amendments were offered in 1986 (P.L. 99-457) which added a mandate for preschool programs for age 3-5 and planning for early intervention programs for infants and toddlers with disabilities.
  • In 1990, the EHA/94-142 was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (P. L. 101-476) and amended. In addition to changing terminology from "handicap" to "disability", it mandated transition services and added autism and traumatic brain injury to the eligibility list.

Throughout the history of the IDEA, one of the biggest challenges has been compliance. The intent of P. L. 94-142 was bolstered in 1994 when the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs issued policy guidelines stating that school districts cannot use the lack of adequate personnel or resources as an excuse for failing to make a free and appropriate education available, in the least restrictive environment, to students with disabilities. This guideline, however, is similar to the 1972 court ruling that said much the same thing.