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Frequently Asked Questions
About Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)
This article will
answer many questions about your child's IEP. To
learn more about IEPs, visit the IEP
For more resources, including IEP
checklists, please visit Fetaweb.com
My child has been found eligible for special education.
What happens next?
next step is to write what is known as an Individualized Education Program—usually
called an IEP. After a child is found eligible, a meeting must be held
within 30 days to develop to the IEP.
is an Individualized Education Program?
Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written statement of the educational
program designed to meet a child's individual needs. Every child who receives
special education services must have an IEP.
type of information is included in an IEP?
has two general purposes:
to set reasonable learning goals for your child; and
(2) to state the services that the school district will provide
for your child.
to the IDEA, your child's IEP must include specific statements about your
child. These are listed below. Take a moment to read over this list. This
will be the information included in your child's IEP.
IEP will contain the following statements:
Present levels of academic achievement and functional performance.
This statement describes how your child is currently doing in school.
This includes information about how your child's disability affects
his or her involvement and progress in the general curriculum.
The IEP must state annual goals, including academic and functional goals, for your child, meaning what you and
the school team think he or she can reasonably accomplish in a year.
The goals must relate to meeting the needs
that result from your child's disability. They must also help your
son or daughter be involved in and progress in the general curriculum.
The IEP must state how school personnel will measure your child's
progress toward the annual goals.
It must also state how and when you, as parents, will be informed regularly
of your child's progress and whether that progress is enough to
enable your child to achieve his or her goals by the end of the year.
d. Special education and related services to be provided.
The IEP must list the special education and related services to be
provided to your child to make progress in the general curriculum and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities. This includes supplementary aids and services
(such as a communication device). It also includes changes to the
program or supports for school personnel that will be provided for
Participation with nondisabled children.
How much of the school day will your child be educated separately
from nondisabled children or not participate in extracurricular or
other nonacademic activities such as lunch or clubs? The IEP must
include an explanation that answers this question.
Participation in state and district-wide assessments.
Your state and district probably give tests of student achievement
to children in certain grades or age groups. In order to participate
in these tests, your child may need individual modifications or changes
in how the tests are administered. The IEP team must decide what modifications
your child needs and list them in the IEP. If your child will not
be taking these tests but will take an alternate assessment, the IEP must include a statement as to why
the tests are not appropriate for your child and how your child will
be tested instead.
Dates and location.
The IEP must state
when services and modifications will begin;
(b) how often they will be provided;
(c) where they will be provided; and
(d) how long they will last.
No later than when your child is 16, the IEP must include measurable postsecondary goals related to training, education, employment, and (when appropriate) independent living skills. Also included are the transition services needed to help your child reach those goals, including what your child should study.
Participation in the General Curriculum
It is very
important that children with disabilities participate in the general
curriculum as much as possible. That is, they should learn the same
curriculum as nondisabled children, for example, reading, math, science,
social studies, and physical education, just as nondisabled children
do. In some cases, this curriculum may need to be adapted for your child
to learn, but it should not be omitted altogether. Participation in
extracurricular activities and other nonacademic activities is also
important. Your child's IEP needs to be written with this in mind.
what special education services will help your child participate in
the general curriculum—in other words, to study what other students
are studying? What special education services or supports will help
your child take part in extracurricular activities such as school clubs
or sports? When your child's IEP is developed, an important part of
the discussion will be how to help your child take part in regular classes
and activities in the school.
develops my child's IEP?
people come together to develop your child's IEP. This group is called
the IEP team and includes many of the individuals wo were involved
in your child's evaluation. Team members will include:
you, the parents;
these people will work as a team to develop your child's IEP.
b. at least one regular education teacher, if your child is (or
may be) participating in the regular education environment;
c. at least one of your child's special education teachers or
special education providers;
d. a representative of the public agency (school system) who
(a) is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of special education,
(b) knows about the general curriculum; and
(c) knows about the resources the school system has available;
e. an individual who can interpret the evaluation results and
talk about what instruction may be necessary for your child;
f. your child, when appropriate;
g. representatives from any other agencies that may be responsible
for paying for or providing transition services (if your child is 16
years or, if appropriate, younger); and
h. other individuals (invited by you or the school) who have knowledge
or special expertise about your child. For example, you may wish
to invite a relative who is close to the child or a child care provider.
I can help develop my child's IEP?
absolutely. The law is very clear that parents have the right to participate
in developing their child's IEP. In fact, your input is invaluable.
You know your child so very well, and the school needs to know your insights
should I do before the IEP meeting?
staff will try to schedule the IEP meeting at a time that is convenient
for all team members to attend. If the school suggests a time that is
impossible for you, explain your schedule and needs. It's important
that you attend this meeting and share your ideas about your child's
needs and strengths. Often, another time or date can be arranged. However,
if you cannot agree on a time or date, the school may hold the IEP meeting
without you. In this event, the school must keep you informed, for example,
by phone or mail.
purpose of the IEP meeting is to develop your child's Individualized Education
Program. You can prepare for this meeting by:
happens during an IEP meeting?
making a list of your child's strengths and weaknesses,
It is a good
idea to write down what you think your child can accomplish during the
school year. It also helps to make notes about what you would like to
say during the meeting.
b. talking to teachers and/or therapists and getting their thoughts
about your child,
c. visiting your child's class and perhaps other classes that may be
helpful to him or her, and
d. talking to your child about his or her feelings toward school.
the IEP meeting, the different members of the IEP team share their thoughts
and suggestions. If this is the first IEP meeting after your child's evaluation,
the team may go over the evaluation results, so your child's strengths
and needs will be clear. These results will help the team decide what
special help your child needs in school.
that you are a very important part of the IEP team. You know your child
better than anyone. Don't be shy about speaking up, even though there
may be a lot of other people at the meeting. Share what you know about
your child and what you wish others to know.
various team members (including you, the parent) have shared their thoughts
and concerns about your child, the group will have a better idea of
your child's strengths and needs. This will allow the team to discuss
and decide on:
the educational and other goals that are appropriate for your child;
b. the type of special education services your child needs.
What are related services?
IEP team will also talk about the related services your child may need
to benefit from his or her special education. The IDEA lists many related
services that schools must provide if eligible children need them. The
related services listed in IDEA are presented between the dashed lines
below. Examples of related services include:
occupational therapy which can help a child develop or regain
movement that he or she may have lost due to injury or illness; and
Services as listed in IDEA
b. speech therapy (called speech-language pathology) which can
help children who have trouble speaking.
does not include every related service a child might need or that a school
system may offer.
b. Speech-language pathology
c. Audiology services
d. Psychological services
e. interpreting services
f. Physical therapy
g. Occupational therapy
h. Recreation (including therapeutic recreation)
i. Early identification and assessment of disabilities in children
j. Counseling services (including rehabilitation counseling)
k. Orientation & mobility services
l. Medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes
m. School health services
n. Social work services in schools
o. Parent counseling & training
are special factors?
on the needs of your child, the IEP team may also discuss the special
factors listed below:
If your child's behavior's interferes with his or her learning or
the learning of others: The IEP team will talk about strategies
and supports to address your child's behavior.
your child has limited proficiency in English: The IEP team will
talk about your child's language needs as these needs relate to his
or her IEP.
your child is blind or visually impaired: The IEP team must provide
for instruction in Braille or the use of Braille, unless it determines
after an appropriate evaluation that your child does not need this
your child has communication needs: The IEP team must consider
your child is deaf or hard of hearing: The IEP team will consider
your child's language and communication needs. This includes your
child's opportunities to communicate directly with classmates and
school staff in his or her usual method of communication (for example,
is assistive technology?
is my child’s placement decided?
team will also talk about whether your child needs any assistive technology
devices or services.
Assistive technology devices can help many children do certain activities
or tasks. Examples of these devices are:
technology services include evaluating your child to see if he or
she could benefit from using an assistive device. These services also
include providing the devices and training your child (or your family
or the professionals who work with your child) to use the device.
devices that make the words bigger on the computer screen or that
"read" the typed words aloud—which can help children who do not
b. electronic talking boards—which can help students who have trouble
c. computers and special programs for the computer—which can help
students with all kinds of disabilities learn more easily.
can see, there are a lot of important matters to talk about in an IEP
meeting. You may feel very emotional during the meeting, as everyone
talks about your child's needs. Try to keep in mind that the other team
members are all there to help your child. If you hear something about
your child which surprises you, or which is different from the way you
see your child, bring this to the attention of the other members of
the team. In order to design a good program for your child, it is important
to work closely with the other team members and share your feelings
about your child's educational needs.
free to ask questions and offer opinions and suggestions.
on the above discussions, the IEP team will then write your child's IEP.
This includes the services and supports the school will provide for your
child. It will also include the location where particular services will
placement (where the IEP will be carried out) will be determined every
year, must be based on your child's IEP, and must be as close as
possible to your child's home.
decision is made by a group of persons, including you the parent,
and others knowledgeable about your child, the meaning of the evaluation
data, and the placement options. In some states, the IEP team makes
the placement decision. In other states, the placement decision is made
by another group of people.
cases, you as parents have the right to be members of the group that
makes decisions on the educational placement of your child.
What placement options do I have?
on the needs of your child and the services to be provided, your child's
IEP could be carried out:
of these placements is best suited for your child?
in regular classes,
b. in special classes (where all the students are receiving special
c. in special schools,
d. at home,
e. in hospitals and institutions, and
f. in other settings.
he or she be educated in the regular classroom, with supplementary aids
and services? (The IDEA prefers this placement.) If not, then the placement
group will look at other placements for your child.
my child's IEP be changed?
the school system can provide your child with special education for
the first time, you, as parents, must give your written consent.
At least once a year a meeting must be scheduled with you to review your
child's progress and develop your child's next IEP. The meeting will be
similar to the IEP meeting described above. The team will talk about:
your child's progress toward the goals in the current IEP,
IEP meeting allows you and the school to review your child's educational
program and change it as necessary.
b. what new goals should be added, and
c. whether any changes need to be made to the special education and
related services your child receives.
don't have to wait for this annual review. You (or any other team
member) may ask to have your child's IEP reviewed or revised at any
you may feel that your child is not making good progress toward his
or her annual goals. Or you may want to write new goals, because your
son or daughter has made such great progress!
principal of the school, or the special education director or your child's
teacher, and express your concerns. If necessary, they will call the
IEP team together to talk about changing your child's IEP.
and answers are from "Briefing Paper: Questions Often Asked About Special
Education Services" published by the National Information Center for
Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)
publishes many articles about special education. We suggest that you visit
the NICHCY site for more information
about special education, disabilities, IEPs, letter writing, and other
are available to answer questions and provide help.
National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities
P.O. Box 1492
Washington, DC 20013