What is an IEP?
The IEP, Individualized Education Program, is a written document that's developed for each public school child who is eligible for special education. The IEP is created through a team effort and reviewed at least once a year. Before an IEP can be written, your child must be eligible for special education. By federal law, a multidisciplinary team must determine that your child 1) has a disability and 2) requires special education and related services to benefit from the general education program.
The members of the multidisciplinary team who develop your child's IEP include:
Contents of the IEP
- You, the parents, have valuable insights and information about your child's strengths and needs
- General education teacher(s)
- A special education teacher who has training and experience in educating children with disabilities
- An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of the assessment results
- A representative of the school district who knows about special education services and has the authority to commit resources
- Individuals who have knowledge or special expertise about your child who are invited by you and/or the school district
- Representatives from transition services agencies, when such services are being discussed
- Your child, when appropriate, and whenever transition is discussed
The IEP guarantees the necessary supports and services that are agreed upon for your child. At the least, the IEP must contain the following information:
- Present Levels of Educational Performance
- Special Education and Related Services
- The extent, if any, to which your child will not participate with nondisabled peers in the regular class and other school activities
- Whether your child will take state and district-wide tests, with or without accommodations, or have an alternative assessment
- When services begin, where and how often they'll be provided
- Necessary transition services (age 16)
- Special Factors depending on your child's needs:
- Behavior management supports and strategies
- Language needs as related to the IEP if an English Learner
- Communication needs
- Assistive technology devices or services required in order to receive FAPE
- Necessary accommodations in the general education classroom
Your Role at the IEP Meeting
Here are some ideas that may help you reduce your anxiety, increase your participation and facilitate the process:
- Communicate regularly with school staff so you both have a mutual understanding of your child's needs
- Prepare your thoughts before the meeting by writing down the important points you want to make about your child.
- Take someone with you to serve as your support system. If you decide to bring a friend or advocate, inform the school so they are aware of whom you're bringing
- Ask questions if you don't understand the terms being used. If necessary, arrange to meet with individuals after the meeting to review their reports
- Try to stay focused and positive
- Remember you can sign in attendance, but you don't have to agree to the goals or services at the meeting. You can take the IEP documents home to review, get input, and return later.
What Happens Next
Written parent permission is required before the IEP can be implemented. If you agree with only parts of the IEP, let the school know so services can begin for your child.
The IEP is reviewed at least once a year. However, if you or the teacher believe that your child isn't making progress or has achieved the goals sooner than expected, a meeting may be scheduled to revise the IEP. If you believe an IEP meeting is needed, put your request in writing and send it to the school.
Work collaboratively with the staff responsible for your child's IEP and ask what you can do to reinforce skills at home.