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What is an IEP?

Learn the ins and outs of an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

By Jan Baumel, M.S.

You asked to have your child evaluated for special education services. Now it's time for the IEP meeting, but you're not sure what to expect. What's in an IEP? How can you prepare for the meeting?

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 (1) she's a child with a disability and (2) she requires special education and related services to benefit from the general education program.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law, requires certain information to be included in the IEP but doesn't specify how the IEP should look. Because states and local school systems may include additional information, forms differ from state to state and may vary between school systems within a state. 

IEP team members

The members of the multidisciplinary team who write your child's IEP include:

  • You, the parents, who have valuable insights and information about his strengths and needs and ideas for enhancing his education
  • General education teacher(s) who can share information about classroom expectations and your child's performance
  • A special education teacher who has training and experience in educating children with disabilities and in working with other educators to plan accommodations
  • An individual who can interpret the results of your child's evaluation and use results to help plan an appropriate instructional program
  • A representative of the school system who knows about special education services and has the authority to commit resources
  • Individuals with knowledge or special expertise about your child that 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

Jan Baumel, M.S., Licensed Educational Psychologist, spent 35 years in education as a teacher, school psychologist, and special education administrator before joining Schwab Learning. Today she is a consultant to local school districts and university field supervisor for student teachers.

Comments from readers

"how do i find a school that has IEP and Physical Therapist programs for kids around 7?? "
"@11.24.2008 You should definitely make the teachers respond to your child how you want them too. You are the parent and what you say goes. My son is diagnosed with MMR, PDD, and speech and language delay, and the school district knows that I do not play when it comes to my son. I am in control of my sons IEP meetings and what goals I want to be implemented in his learning disciplinary at his school. I make sure that the president of the school district, the president of special ed department, principal of school, special ed teacher, speech therapist, school psychologist and her supervisor, and many more are present at my sons IEP meeting each and every year. I also have a paid advocate and a free advocate present at the IEP meeting, as well as my own mother and this is all to show the school how important it is for my son to not be passed up and disregarded as he attends this school and any other school in the district. Get your son the help he needs ASAP. "
"See a qualified medical professional. I am 43..I just got on meds to help me focus. Had not read a book through since college. The anxiety alone is enough to deal with. Get your child the proper help to give him a new lease on life."
"If a child is approved for an IEP, does it mean the child will be in special ed. classed all day? Will the child be given the same EOG test as the other students?"
"My son has an IEP plan. I believe that the Teacher got frustrated and it is understandable my son is quite a had full. He is isolated in class with only 2 students I disagreed with this however, it still happen, because his talking and moving would disrupt the class. My son has been disagnoised with ADHD. I am not getting help from the school, they send him out of class all day, putting him in in-school suspension. Suspending him days at a time, no one has been able to help me with his academic they focus so much on his behavior. I feel that he is marked and not given a fair chance he is a good child, very respectful. He gets frustrated as well when he feels he is not treated like the other students. Please help me tell me what to do. He is in the six grade should be in seventh and it seems to me as if the teachers pick fights with him, it's like they provoke him to say he don't care. They are not trained to talk to him, of course it is not there problems and it is ! easy to just send him out of class or suspend him."
"Thank you---very helpful to me."