Each public school child who receives special education and related services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Each IEP must be designed for one student and must be a truly individualized document. The IEP creates an opportunity for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel and students (when appropriate) to work together to improve educational results for children with disabilities. The IEP is the cornerstone of a quality education for each child with a disability.
To create an effective IEP, parents, teachers, other school staff and often the student must come together to look closely at the student’s unique needs. These individuals pool knowledge, experience and commitment to design an educational program that will help the student be involved in, and progress in, the general curriculum. The IEP guides the delivery of special education supports and services for the student with a disability.
General Steps In the Special Education Process
Child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services.
Child is evaluated.
Eligibility is decided.
Child is found eligible for services.
IEP meeting is scheduled.
IEP meeting is held and the IEP is written.
Services are provided.
Progress is measured and reported to parents.
IEP is reviewed.
Child is reevaluated.
Contents of the IEP
By law, the IEP must include certain information about the child and the educational program designed to meet his or her unique needs. This information covers topics such as current performance, annual goals, special education and related services, accommodations, participation in state and district-wide tests, needed transition services and measured progress.
The IEP Team Members
The team that writes a child’s Individualized Education Program includes the parent(s), regular education teacher(s), special education teacher(s), other individuals from the school and district and the student when appropriate.
A meeting to write the IEP must be held within 30 calendar days of deciding that the child is eligible for special education and related services. Each team member brings important information to the IEP meeting. Members share their information and work together to write the child’s Individualized Education Program. Each person’s information adds to the team’s understanding of the child and what services the child needs.
Writing the IEP
To help decide what special education and related services the student needs, generally the IEP team will begin by looking at the child’s evaluation results, such as classroom tests, individual tests given to establish the student’s eligibility, and observations by teachers, parents, paraprofessionals, related service providers, administrators and others. This information will help the team describe the student’s “present level of educational performance”—in other words, how the student is currently doing in school. Knowing how the student is currently performing in school will help the team develop annual goals to address those areas where the student has an identified educational need.
The IEP Team Must Also Discuss Specific Information About the Child. This Includes
the child’s strengths;
the parents’ ideas for enhancing their child’s education;
the results of recent evaluations or reevaluations; and
how the child has done on state and district-wide tests.
Depending on the needs of the child, the IEP team also needs to consider special factors, which include behavioral issues, limited proficiency in English, blindness or visual impairment, communication needs, deafness or difficulty hearing and assistive technology.
The Discussion of What the Child Needs Be Framed Around How to Help the Child
advance toward the annual goals;
be involved in and progress in the general curriculum;
participate in extracurricular and nonacademic activities; and
be educated with and participate with other children with disabilities and non-disabled children.
Based on the above discussion, the IEP team will then write the child’s IEP. This includes the services and supports the school will provide for the child. If the IEP team decides that a child needs a particular device or service (including an intervention, accommodation, or other program modification), the IEP team must write this information in the IEP.
After the IEP Is Written
When the IEP has been written, parents must receive a copy at no cost to themselves. Everyone who will be involved in implementing the IEP must have access to the document. This includes the child’s:
regular education teacher(s);
special education teacher(s);
related service provider(s) (for example, speech therapist); or
any other service provider (such as a paraprofessional) who will be responsible for a part of the child’s education.
Each of these individuals needs to know what his or her specific responsibilities are for carrying out the child’s IEP. This includes the specific accommodations, modifications and supports that the child must receive, according to the IEP.
Before the school can provide a child with special education and related services for the first time, the child’s parents must give their written permission.
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