Through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; which was renewed in 2004) (DOE, 2005), children with long-term health conditions receive a variety of services. The original legislation underlying these programs called for assuring "the free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment." The two main IDEA programs include early in tervention services and special education. Early intervention services cover children from birth to 3 years of age, at which point eligible children enter the special education system. Early intervention services typically provide in-home services for very young children. These services are mainly directed toward strengthening parents' skills to provide treatments or stimulation for their children. These services also include group programs for older children (1- and 2-year-olds). States vary in their eligibility requirements for early intervention services; for example, some states include children at risk of a developmental disability, whereas others require documentation of developmental delay before they provide services.

Special education services are directed toward ameliorating health and developmental conditions that may interfere with the child's ability to learn. Some services are directly educational, that is, children are placed in a specialized classroom part time or full time to maximize their educational development. Other services may be directed to the treatment of problems that may interfere with the child's ability to participate in regular or specialized classrooms; for example, speech and language services and physical and occupational therapy are provided. Other services that are provided may include social work or psychological counseling.

Early intervention and special education services may therefore greatly aid children and youth with chronic conditions, but they also account for substantial public expenditures.

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