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IEP Basics

It’s time for your child’s IEP meeting, but you’re not sure what to expect. What is an IEP? How can you prepare? Who will be there? How will this help your child become more successful in the classroom? Individualized education plan (IEP) meetings give you and your child’s school a chance to work together to design an educational plan for your child. The goals for your child are the core of the IEP. As a parent, you play an important role in developing these goals.

What is an IEP?

The individualized education program (IEP) is a legal document that is designed to meet your child’s individual learning needs. The IEP is created through a team effort and is reviewed every year. It guarantees the necessary supports and services to be provided to your child to help him or her be successful in school.

Who can have an IEP?

Before an IEP can be written, entitlement must be determined. By federal law, a team must determine 1) that the child is a child with a disability and 2) that he or she requires special education and related services to benefit from the general education program. Both of these requirements must be met for a child to be entitled for special education.

Who is part of the IEP team?

Team members include:

  • You, the parent, who has valuable insights and information about your child’s strengths and needs
  • General education teacher(s)
  • Special education teacher
  • Representative of the school who can commit resources
  • Others such as an AEA staff member, private provider or agency staff member hired by the family. You can also invite a friend or your FEP coordinator
  • Representatives from transition service agencies, when transition services are being discussed
  • Your child, when appropriate, and whenever transition is discussed

What are goals?

Goals represent what you and other IEP team members think your child will be able to do in a year’s time. Goals must be written so the teacher can monitor progress by using data. The specially designed instruction used to achieve the goals should be research-based.

The IEP team develops goals based on the student’s educational needs. Goals should help with progress in the general curriculum and may address other concerns, such as language development, behavior or social skills.

Who carries out these goals?

The type of goal written determines who will carry it out. It may be the special education teacher, general education teacher or support person such as a speech-language pathologist. Teams work together to help the student work on a goal.

The IEP team considers the way, to the maximum extent appropriate, to educate your child in the same setting as students without disabilities. Remember, special education is a set of services, not a specific place.

When can you expect progress reports on goals?

The IEP must include a description of how progress will be measured and when reports will be provided. Reports should be issued at least as often as those sent to parents of students without disabilities, usually three to four times a year.

As parent, you are a critical member of the IEP team, so if you have concerns about your child’s progress, talk with his or her teacher and, if you still have concerns, provide a written request for an IEP meeting.

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