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Individualized Education Plan

IEP stands for an individualized education program or individualized education plan. It is a plan or program created for students to ensure that they receive specialized instruction and related services due to a qualifying disability.

What is an IEP, and what does it stand for?

IEP stands for an individualized education program or individualized education plan. A plan or program created for students to ensure that they receive specialized instruction and related services due to a qualifying disability. Specially designed instruction is provided support to bridge the gaps between what the student is currently able to do and what is required by the general education curriculum.

​Who needs an individualized education program?

A Special Education case manager or teacher must develop an IEP for each student who qualifies for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). A team of professionals determines the student's eligibility through an evaluation process. If the student is found eligible, the team will develop an IEP that outlines the student's strengths, weaknesses, and needs. The IEP is reviewed and updated at least once a year.

 

Who qualifies for an IEP?

Qualification for an IEP means that a struggling student needs support due to an adversely affecting disability in one of the following 13 categories:

  1. ​Specific learning disability (SLD)

  2. Other health impairment

  3. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

  4. Emotional disturbance

  5. Speech or language impairment

  6. Visual impairment, including blindness

  7. Deafness

  8. Hearing impairment

  9. Deaf-blindness

  10. Orthopedic impairment

  11. Intellectual disability

  12. Traumatic brain injury

  13. Multiple disabilities

 

​Public schools are required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to provide special education services to all qualifying students.

 

What is better for a student, a 504 or IEP?

The question is not which one is better but which one meets the student's needs. A student who has a disability that requires specially designed instruction to achieve the same academic requirements as their peers would fall under an IEP or individualized education plan. A student who has a disability that requires accommodation but not specially designed instruction would be considered a candidate for a 504 plan. For more information, see our section on IEP vs 504 plans

 

What are the student benefits of having an IEP?

The benefits of having an IEP are that the student's individual needs are considered when planning their education and have a team of people working together to support them. An IEP can help students make progress in their learning and feel included in their school community.

 

An IEP can also serve as a balance for students with behavioral issues directly related to their disability. Is the function of the behavior related to the student's disability? This is a common question that, if answered yes, can ensure that a student with ADHD will never be treated as a behavior issue child with multiple writeups and suspensions when the function of the behavior is a result of a disability. An IEP can work as a shield that allows the IEP team to work with the student and family to support this child's differences rather than punish behavior that is not wholly within their control.

 

What are some of the challenges students with an IEP face?

  1. Some of the challenges students with an IEP face include:

  2. The IEP process can be confusing and overwhelming for parents and students.

  3. It can be difficult to get all of the services and supports outlined in the IEP.

  4. Not all teachers are familiar with the IEP process or how to best support students with an IEP.

  5. Some schools do not have enough resources to provide all of the services and supports that are outlined in the IEP.

  6. Being placed in a less challenging curriculum can result in boredom and disengagement, missing out on extracurricular activities.

 

What is the difference between an IEP and a 504 plan?

IEPs are created for students who need specially designed instruction to achieve the same academic requirements as their peers. A 504 plan is for students with a disability that requires accommodation but not specially designed instruction. For more information, see our section on IEP vs 504

 

What are the responsibilities of the school?

The school's responsibilities under an IEP are to provide the resources and support that the student needs to meet their individual goals. This may include things like specialized teaching, therapy, or access to technology. The school must also ensure that the student's rights are respected and that they are included in the education process.

What are the rights of the student?

The student's rights under an IEP are that they have the right to be treated fairly and equally, receive the resources and support they need, and be involved in decisions about their education. The student also has the right to challenge any decisions that they feel are unfair or discriminatory.

How do you get an IEP?

If you think your child may have a disability that adversely affects their education, you can request an evaluation from your school district. The evaluation process will involve a team of professionals who will assess the child's needs and determine if they qualify for special education services. If the child is found eligible, the team will develop an IEP that outlines the child's strengths, weaknesses, and needs. The IEP is reviewed and updated at least once a year.

What's an IEP meeting?

An IEP meeting is a meeting opportunity for teachers, parents, related service providers, school administrators, and students to work together to develop a plan to improve the learning of students with disabilities. IEP meetings are scheduled annually for review, but the team can meet at any interval necessary to meet the student's needs. For example, if a student achieves an IEP goal before the annual review, a mid-year review can be scheduled to create new goals and discuss present performance levels and academic strengths. Mid-year meetings can also be called when the parents have concerns or new information regarding the student's disability to share with the team.

Who attends an IEP meeting?

An IEP meeting is a meeting opportunity for teachers, parents, related service providers, school administrators, and students to work together to develop a plan to improve the learning of students with disabilities. IEP meetings are scheduled annually for review, but the team can meet at any interval necessary to meet the student's needs. For example, if a student achieves an IEP goal before the annual review, a mid-year review can be scheduled to create new goals and discuss present performance levels and academic strengths. Mid-year meetings can also be called when the parents have concerns or new information regarding the student's disability to share with the team.

 

​IEP meeting attendees

Student - Students can lead the conversation by sharing how the past year has gone and what supports have been most helpful to their learning. What was necessary, and what do they think might need to be changed. Students have a unique view of how their goal is progressing and what they are most proud of. Remember that the student is the "I" in IEP.

​Parents or Guardians - Parents have the most extended and most insightful view into the student's daily life. Details about the life history and family culture are a large part of what makes a student successful. Parents will know what has been successful in the past, which leads to guiding the future.

​Special Education Case Manager - The Special Education Case Manager (SECM) is the school representative who is tasked with ensuring that all required team members are present and that the meeting stays on track. The SECM will also be responsible for maintaining the student's records and meeting all deadlines.

​General Education Teacher - General education teachers bring information about the curriculum and content standards invaluable to the present levels of performance report and goal development process. 

Related Services - Provides information from a non-academic perspective related to the student's disability and impact on school life.  Examples include school psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, etc.

​Principal or Administrator - May provide valuable information about district initiatives that may impact students' IEP.

What happens during an IEP meeting?

During an IEP meeting, the team will review the child's progress and discuss any changes that need to be made to the IEP. The team will also develop goals for the child's next year of schooling. The meeting is an opportunity for parents to ask questions and provide input on their child's education.

How can parents prepare for an IEP meeting?

Parents need to understand their child's disability and the available services. Parents should also be familiar with the IEP process and what to expect at an IEP meeting. Parents can prepare for an IEP meeting by gathering information about their child's educational progress and any changes since the last IEP meeting. Parents should also be prepared to discuss their child's strengths and weaknesses and their goals for their child's education.

Some parents choose to bring an advocate or attorney to an IEP meeting. An advocate can help parents navigate the IEP process and ensure their child's rights are protected. Parents should also bring any relevant documentation, such as progress reports or evaluations, to the IEP meeting.

What should be included in an IEP

4 things an IEP must include:

  1. - The student's present levels of academic achievement and functional performance

  2. - Annual goals, including short-term instructional objectives or benchmarks

  3. - The special education and related services to be provided to the student, and

  4. - An explanation of the extent, if any, to which the student will not participate with nondisabled students in the general education classroom

 

The IEP must also include a statement of the student's transition service needs. Transition services are designed to help students move from school to post-school activities, such as college, vocational training, or a job.

 

How often are IEPs reviewed and updated?

IEPs must be reviewed at least once a year to ensure that the student's needs are being met and that the IEP is still appropriate. The IEP may be revised at any time if the student's needs change or if there is new information about the student's disability. Parents should always be involved in the review and revision process.

 

Who implements the IEP?

The IEP is implemented by the student's teachers and related service providers. Therefore, parents need to remain involved in their child's education and monitor the implementation of the IEP. Parents should talk to their child's teachers and service providers regularly to ensure that the IEP is being followed and that their child is making progress.

What if parents don't agree with the IEP?

If parents do not agree with the IEP, they have the right to request a due process hearing. A due process hearing is a legal proceeding in which a panel of impartial experts will review the IEP and decide whether it is appropriate. Parents should contact an attorney or advocate if they consider a due process hearing.

 

What if the student is not making progress?

If the student is not making progress, the IEP team may revise the IEP to add new goals or services. The team may also place the student in a different educational setting.

 

References

Americans Disabilities Act - Students with Disabilities and the IEP Process

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - Overview of the IEP Process

Department of Education - The Individualized Education Program (IEP)

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities - Parent's Guide to the Individualized Education Program.