Understanding the IEP

This entry will be the first in a multi-part series of blogs addressing the process of obtaining special education services and accommodations through your child’s school district.  This process can seem daunting to many parents and is unfortunately often filled with anxiety and frustration. My goal is to help parents to understand this process a little better. The first step is getting a handle on some of the lingo and jargon that is frequently used. This entry will focus on the term “IEP”.

IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. The purpose of an IEP is to provide a child, who has a disability, with a specialized education program that is dictated to his or her specific needs. IEP’s are a mandate of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that was first signed into law in 1990 and revised in 2004. Generally speaking, an IEP provides a roadmap for providing special education services to a child throughout the school year. Once a child is determined to be eligible for an IEP, the student’s school team, which consists of teachers, special educators, related personnel, a team chairperson, and parents, contribute to the writing of the IEP.

The actual IEP is a comprehensive document that is comprised of several parts. The first section contains the child’s history, including previous test results, teacher observations, and academic performance. The next section contains the child’s present levels of performance and lists any accommodations that may be necessary. Following the accommodations are goals that are measurable and specific. In order to work on these goals, the student is provided with services, which are dictated in the next section of the IEP on the “Service Delivery” page. Services can be provided on a consult level, within the classroom, or external to the general education classroom. Other information contained in the IEP includes: classroom placement, testing accommodations, transportation information, extended school year or school day, and additional information. Taken together, all of these portions create a specialized program that will help a child with a disability to be successful and adequately access their curriculum.

More information can also be found on various websites, including www.wrightslaw.com. My next blog post will look a little more closely at the IEP eligibility process.