Understanding an IEP

IEP Basics

Mother helping her child with the homeworks

An IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, may be an important piece for students diagnosed with a learning disability. This post is to help you determine if you should explore setting up an IEP for your student. Below are some common questions regarding IEPs.

What is an IEP?

An IEP is a comprehensive education plan for students diagnosed with a specific disability. IEP’s are required by law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IEP may provide classroom modifications for your student based on his or her diagnosed disability.

An IEP will contain:

  • A description of the student’s current academic performance and standing
  • Results of the most recent evaluation
  • Specific special education needs or other resources the school will provide
  • Accommodations and modifications
  • Stated academic goals for the student
  • A plan to evaluate the student’s progress
  • The expected participation rate in general education classes
  • A transition plan to address post-high school success
  • The date the IEP will go into effect

What are Modifications and Accommodations?

Modifications – changes to the actual content that is being given. For instance, a student with dyslexia may only have 3 answer choices on a multiple choice exam while other students have 5 answer choices.

Accommodations – changes in the way a student is taught or evaluated. Students are still given the same assessments as their peers. However, they may receive assistance in completing tasks such as extended time or a reduced-distraction testing environment.

Who Qualifies for an IEP?

IDEA recognizes 13 categories, including learning disabilities and ADHD, which allow students to qualify for an IEP. However, having a disability by itself is not the only factor. There are 2 other components that make these students eligible:

  • Evaluation – students must undergo an evaluation to determine the extent of the disability and recommendations to remediate. Public schools are required to provide this service, although parents can also seek an evaluation from an outside source.
  • Decision – once an evaluation has been completed, the IEP team will decide if the student qualifies for an IEP.

Who is the IEP Team?

The IEP team makes decisions in the student’s best interest. The team will typically include:

  • Parent
  • Teacher
  • Special education teacher
  • School psychologist
  • School resource representative
  • Student once he/she is 16
  • An outside consultant (friend, tutor, pastor, etc.)

What Happens in an IEP Meeting?

You should request an IEP meeting as soon as you suspect your student is struggling with a disability. Ideally the first meeting will take place before the school year starts. The first IEP meeting can be a confusing and overwhelming process for parents who are new to it. However, it is a very systematic meeting in which the IEP team discusses the student’s difficulties and develops a plan to meet the needs of the student.

The meeting will take place at the school. It is common to discuss the student’s specific needs, including any physical or intellectual limitations, goals for the school year, how to evaluate the IEP’s effectiveness, the use of modifications and accommodations, and general thoughts on how to improve the student’s education.

As the parent, you are the best advocate for your student. Make sure you are vocal about your student’s needs. Some schools provide excellent IEP services while others require parents to be highly persistent. Don’t be shy; this is your opportunity to get the most appropriate assistance for your student!