What is an IEP?

An IEP, or individualized education program, is a legal document that spells out educational objectives for a child who has a disability. According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), all children who receive special education services must have an individualized education plan. Read on to learn more about these types of plans, what they can include, and how they can benefit children who have special needs.

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What Is Included in an Individualized Education Plan?

Your child’s IEP must include a statement indicating his or her present level of performance (PLOP); in other words, how they are currently performing in school. In addition, it spells out annual education goals and what support services, as well as modifications and accommodations, the school will provide to help him or her reach those goals. These may include changes to curriculum, assistive technology, additional time on tests, classroom accommodations, or additional staff such as a teacher’s aide. It also includes a plan for how your child’s progress will be measured, as well as a plan for transition into life after high school.

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How Is an Individualized Education Plan Created?

The creation of this document is a joint effort between the student and his or her parents, at least one general education teacher, at least one special education teacher, a school district representative, and school psychologist. After the initial meeting, the plan will be created and provided to the parents, at which point they must sign the plan, giving consent for the school to provide special education services. Parents have 10 days to review and may choose to either sign or request changes to the plan during that time period. After a plan is approved, this team is required to meet once a year, though parents may request additional meetings to discuss progress or concerns at any time. During each meeting, the team will discuss progress toward goals, the child’s strengths and weaknesses, how well modifications are helping to support progress, results of any recent evaluations, and any other concerns the team may have.

Who Qualifies for an Individualized Education Plan?

Just struggling in school is not enough to qualify a student to receive special education services. He or she must be diagnosed with a specific disability, including autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, intellectual disability, orthopedic impairment, ADHD, learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment, or any combination thereof, and need special education services to progress in school as a direct result of that disability. If you feel your child may benefit from an individualized education plan and he or she has a diagnosed disability, the first step is to request an evaluation by the school psychologist.

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To learn more about special education services and how they may help your child succeed in school, the nonprofit umbrella Understood is an excellent resource. You can also consult the United States Department of Education to learn more about the IEP process.