The IEP is designed to meet your child’s special needs and prepare
him or her for future success.
The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the heart of the special education process. Its goal is to help prepare your child for a successful life after high school. To achieve this goal, your child must have opportunities to be involved and make progress in the same curriculum set for all children. That is why the IEP process emphasizes access to the general education curriculum. It also stresses the importance of shared decision making by you, your child, his or her teachers and administrators, along with other key individuals to support your child’s educational success. Together you set reasonable learning goals for your child and spell out the services that will be committed to help them meet their unique learning needs.
IEP meetings are held at least once
If your child has had an initial evaluation, and you have given your consent for special education services to be provided, the IEP meeting will be held within 30 days after your child is determined eligible for special education.
You can request an IEP meeting at
any time during the year.
If your child already has an IEP, then the annual IEP meeting is held on or before the anniversary date of his/her last meeting. Your school will notify you of a date, time, purpose and location for the meeting, as well as who will attend. The meeting should be convenient to both you and the people at school who will be attending the meeting. If the date or time set is not convenient for you, let the school know as soon as possible, so that other arrangements can be made.
The IEP lists all the services that
your child needs.
Everything that your child needs to benefit from education must be spelled out in the IEP. Included may be related services like speech therapy, audiology services, interpreting services, transportation, assistive technology services, recreation (including therapeutic recreation), counseling services, psychological services, physical therapy, medical services for diagnostic and evaluation purposes, occupational therapy, orientation and mobility services, social work services, rehabilitation counseling services designed to enable a child with a disability to receive FAPE. The IEP should also list any accommodations (for example, more time to complete an exam, special seating arrangements) and program modifications he or she requires, supports for school personnel, and assistive technology devices and services, if needed.
The IEP tells you how your child is doing and sets a plan to help
him/her learn for the next year.
Information required in the IEP includes:
- Your child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (referred to as the PLEP) in each area of need identified in the evaluation such as reading, math, self-help skills, communication and language skills, sensory and motor skills, social skills, vocational skills and behavior. PLEP also states how your child’s disability affects his or her progress in the general curriculum
- Annual goals addressing academic and functional needs for your child to meet within a year, including short-term instructional objectives or benchmarks
- The standard, methods and timelines used to measure progress toward each goal
- The special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided (type, frequency, location and how long they will be provided
- An explanation of the extent that your child will NOT participate with children without disabilities in regular education classes, in the general education curriculum and in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities
- Accommodations or modifications needed for regular education participation
- Positive ways to address your child’s behavior, if it affects his/her learning or the learning of other students
- Accommodations, if any needed for your child will take standardized assessments given to all students and, if an alternate assessment is needed, why that assessment is appropriate
- Extended school year services (ESY), if appropriate
- When and how your child’s progress toward IEP goals will be reported
- Transition planning and service needs beginning at age 14, or younger, and appropriate, measurable post-secondary goals beginning not later than the IEP in effect when your child is 16 (see PLANNING FOR TRANSITION)
- By age 17, a statement that at age 18, considered the age of majority, all rights will transfer to the student (see PLANNING FOR TRANSITION).
It’s important to plan for the IEP meeting.
To be an effective IEP team member, its’ always a good idea to prepare for the annual IEP meeting. You can ask your child’s special education teacher for any proposed goals and <objectives and current reports in advance of the meeting. Then make a list of everything you would like discussed. Since the IEP discussion usually involves some compromise, you’ll want to prioritize those requests for your child’s program that are most important to his or her success. If you are able to share your list with your child’s IEP team ahead of the meeting, it will help with communication and the efficient use of time.
The IEP team includes people who know your child and/or who know
how to meet his or her needs.
In addition to you, the IEP team must include the principal or someone able to act on his/her behalf to commit resources for your child, at least on of your child’s general education teachers, your child’s special education teacher, and related service providers, if needed. If your child is entering preschool from an early intervention program, ,you may ask the new school to invite someone from that program to the initial IEP meeting. Once your child is a teenager, and at a younger age if appropriate, your child should attend the IEP conference. The school must invite your child, if a purpose of teh meeting is the consideration of transition services. (See PLANNING FOR TRANSITION)
IEP team members may be excused from the meeting.
While your child’s principal or designee (the individual attending on his or her behalf) must be present at the IEP meeting, other members may be excused for all or part of the meeting with your agreement if:
- The team member’s area of teaching or related services is not being changed or discussed, or
- The team member’s area of teaching/related services is being changed or discussed, and he or she has given you and the IEP members written input for the development of the IEP prior to the meeting
In either situation, you and the principal must both agree to excuse the team member in writing before the meeting takes place.
Parents may bring someone with them to the IEP meeting.
You may invite others to the meeting who might help set goals and objectives for your child (for example, a close family friend, you child’s psychologist, an advocate, etc.). You should notify the principal that you plan to bring someone along. If you need a translator or a sign language interpreter, you should also notify the principal well before the meeting.
If your child needs an ESY (extended school year) program, it will be included in the IEP.
The decision on whether your child needs special education and related services during extended school breaks (like summer vacation) in his or her program is made at the IEP meeting. Generally, the guideline used to determine whether services during extended school breaks are part of your child’s program is based on 1) the nature and severity of his/her disability, 2) areas of learning that are key to your child becoming independent, 3) the extent that he/she will lose skills if not in school (regression), and 4) the amount of time needed to regain those skills (recoupment).
Beginning at age 14, your child’s IEP will include planning for life after high school.
In intermediate/middle school transition planning means choosing classes needed to prepare him/her to pursue his or her goals after he/she leaves school. At age 16, the IEP must also include goals and information about the services needed to transition successfully out of high school and into college, employment and/or living in the community. (see PLANNING FOR TRANSITION)
You can make minor changes to the IEP without a meeting.
IEP amendments (changes to the original document) without a meeting can only be made with your written consent. All IEP members must be informed of the changes and provide their input when it is appropriate. Once the IEP is revised, you will be given a copy of the new IEP that includes the changes that were made. Amendments without a meeting should not take the place of a full IEP team discussion when you are deciding on placement or when members of the team do not agree on the suggested changes.
You must be given a copy of the final IEP within 10 days of the meeting.
Your child’s teachers and other service providers should also have access to a copy of the IEP. Your child’s IEP coordinator is generally responsible for informing each teacher about his or her responsibilities to implement the IEP and any accommodations, modifications and supports that must be provided to your child.
Parents are key partners in the IEP process.
You are more knowledgeable of your child’s strengths and needs at home or in the community. Often a student’s behavior differs from what is seen in the classroom. You can also offer important information about what motivates your child, such as any special interests that can be used in the classroom to encourage learning. In order to maximize the partnership between home an school, teachers and principals are encouraged to plan ways of increasing your involvement in the IEP process. This is especially important because the IEP meeting can be stressful. Important decisions are being made about a child’s future by people who may not know each other and who are coming from very different backgrounds. All IEP members need to be encouraged to share information and ideas about how to address a student’s strengths and needs.