Developing and Implementing the
Parents of a child with special education needs should learn how
to use the IEP process as an effective tool to obtain appropriate
special education and related services for the child. Each IEP must
be a truly individualized document designed for one student. See
IEP Check List For Parents at the end of this chapter.
What is an Individualized Education Program (IEP)
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is:
- A written record of the decisions reached at the IEP meeting.
- A commitment to services needed to meet a student’s special
- A communication tool for parents and school personnel.
Who are members of the IEP team?
IDEA requires that the IEP team be made of, at least, the following:
(1) Parents of the student
(2) At least one special education teacher
(3) A representative of the school with the authority to commit
(4) A person who can interpret evaluation data
(5) At least one regular education teacher as appropriate
(6) The student when it is appropriate
(7) Representatives of any other agencies that may be responsible
for paying for or providing transition services (if the student
is 16 years or, if appropriate, younger)
(8) Others invited by the school district or parents
An IEP team member may fill more than one of the positions if properly
qualified. For example, the school system representative may also
be the person who can interpret the child’s evaluation results.
What is the IEP meeting?
An IEP meeting is a meeting in which all decisions regarding the
provision of special education and related services are made.
What is the role of parents in the IEP process?
Parents are equal members of the IEP team and assist in identifying
and stating the child’s needs clearly on the IEP and selecting
appropriate services and placement. They know their child very well
and can talk about their child’s strengths and needs as well
as their ideas for enhancing their child’s education. They
can share insights about how their child learns, the child’s
interests, and other things that only a parent would know. They
can listen to the ideas of others about what their child needs to
work on at school and share their suggestions. They can also report
on whether the skills the child is learning at school are being
used at home. Parents may ask that the IEP meeting be postponed
until a later date if the team cannot agree. If the child’s
placement is decided by a different group than the IEP team, the
parents must be part of that group as well.
If the parents have a limited proficiency in English or are deaf,
they may need an interpreter in order to understand and be understood.
Therefore, if parents need an interpreter for a meeting to discuss
their child’s evaluation, eligibility for special education,
or IEP, they should let the school know ahead of time. Telling the
school in advance allows the school to make arrangements for an
interpreter so that parents can participate fully in the meeting.
What are the requirements related to scheduling
an IEP meeting?
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. The school staff has the responsibility to:
- Contact the participants, including the parents.
- Notify parents early enough to make sure they have an opportunity
- Schedule the meeting at a time and place agreeable to parents
and the school
- Tell the parents the purpose, time, and location of the meeting.
- Tell the parents who will be attending.
- Tell the parents that they may invite people to the meeting
who have knowledge of or special expertise about the child.
What are the required contents of the IEP?
The IDEA requires certain types of information to be included in
every child’s IEP. Other information may be required depending
on the specific needs of the student. Each child’s IEP is
different and is prepared for one child only. It describes the individualized
education program designed to meet one child’s needs.
Also, some states and local school systems often include additional
information in IEPs not required by IDEA, in order to document that
they have met certain aspects of federal or state law. Because of
the flexibility that states and school systems have to design their
own IEP forms, IEPs may look different from school system to school
system or state to state.
IDEA requires that all IEPs contain the following information regarding
the child with a disability:
- Present levels of educational performance — The
IEP must state how the child is currently doing in school. This
information usually comes from classroom tests and assignments,
individual tests given to decide eligibility for services or during
reevaluation, and observations made by parents, teachers, related
service providers, and other school staff. The statement also
explains how the child’s disability affects his or her involvement
and progress in the general curriculum.
- Measurable annual goals — These are goals that
the child can reasonable accomplish in a year. The goals are broken
down into short-term objectives or benchmarks. Goals may be academic,
address social or behavioral needs, related to physical needs,
or address other educational needs. The goals must be measurable,
meaning that it must be possible to measure whether the student
has achieved the goals.
- Special education and related services — The IEP
must list the special education and related services to be provided
to the child or on behalf of the child. This includes supplementary
aids and services that the child needs. It also includes modifications
(changes) to the program or supports for school personnel, such
as training or professional development that will be provided
to assist the child.
- Participation with non-disabled children — The
student should be educated with non-disabled peers to the maximum
extent appropriate. The IEP must explain the extent, if any, to
which the child will not participate with non-disabled children
in the regular class and other school activities.
- Plan for delivering services and modifications —
The IEP must state when services will begin, how often
they will be provided, where they will be provided, who
will provide them, and how long they will last.
- Measuring and reporting progress — The IEP must
state how the child’s progress will be measured and how
parents will be informed of that progress.
- The degree of access to general curriculum, including the
amount of time spent participating in general education.
What are special considerations which must be documented?
Academic and Non-academic activities — If the IEP
team decides that a child needs a particular device, support, or
service (often called an intervention, accommodation,
or other program modification), the IEP team must include
this information in the written IEP. This requirement covers not
only all activities during the school day, but extracurricular services
and activities that other students receive free as part of their
education. This includes counseling services (if the school provides
them for others), athletics, transportation, health services, recreational
activities, and special interest groups or clubs sponsored by the
school. Any referrals to agencies providing services and the employment
of students must also be accessible by all students.
Assistive technology devices or services — The IEP
team must always consider the child’s need for assistive
technology devices or services. If a child needs such devices
or services, they must be listed in the IEP and the school must
make sure that the devices and services are made available to the
child at no cost to the child or the child’s parents. In some
cases, the school may purchase assistive technology devices for
use in the home or outside the school.
Participation in state and district-wide tests — Most
states and districts give achievement tests to children in certain
grades or age groups. The IEP must state what accommodations and
modifications the child will need to take the tests. If a test is
not appropriate for the child, the IEP must state why the test is
not appropriate and how the child will be tested instead. (Please
see Chapter 8 — State and District-Wide Assessment Programs)
Transition planning — Beginning when the student is
age 14 (or younger, if appropriate), the IEP must
address the school courses the student needs to take to reach his
or her post-school goals. Beginning when the child is age
16 (or younger, if appropriate) the IEP must state what
transition services are needed to help the child prepare for leaving
Transition services will be different for each student. Transition
services must take into account the student’s interests and
preferences. Evaluation of career interests, aptitudes, skills and
training may be considered.
Students and parents should always be included in IEP meetings
where transition is discussed. Other participants might include
school vocational or counseling staff or representatives from agencies
outside the school that provide services. Some examples of transition
services are activities that lead to postsecondary education, vocational
training, vocational rehabilitation, integrated employment (including
supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services,
independent living, or community participation.
Age of majority — Some states transfer rights to a
youth when he or she reaches a certain age called the “age
of majority.” Beginning at least one year before the child
reaches the age of majority, the IEP must include a statement that
the student has been told of any rights that will transfer to him
or her at the age of majority. (This statement would be needed only
in states that transfer rights at the age of majority.)
Behavioral assessment and plans — If the child’s
behavior interferes with his or her learning or the learning of
others, the IEP team will consider assessments, strategies and supports
to address the child’s behavior and to help the student learn
how to control or manage his or her behavior.
Extended school year services (EYS) — EYS refers to
the provision of special education services during times when school
is not in session (typically during the summer). Guidelines for
extended year services are determined by the state. Every identified
child must be considered annually for EYS. Most states have guidelines
that include only those children that are very severe and will lose
significant learning and not gain it back if not provided extended
year services. Transportation must be provided by the district if
the child qualifies.
English Language Learners — If the child has limited
proficiency in English, the IEP team will consider the child’s
language needs as these needs relate to his or her IEP.
Braille instruction — If the 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 the child does not need this instruction.
Communication needs — If the child has communication
needs, the IEP team must consider these needs. If the child
is deaf or hard of hearing, the IEP team will consider his or her
language and communication needs. This includes the child’s
opportunities to communicate directly with classmates and school
staff in his or her usual method of communication (for example,
Teacher support — If school staff need additional
training in order to adequately assist the student, such training
should be documented in the IEP as a support.
What are related services?
Related services are all the services needed for a child
with a disability to benefit from his specialized instruction. They
are not the actual instruction, but can be thought of as non-educational
services necessary to make the educational services accessible and
effective. Related services include, but are not limited to:
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Orientation and mobility services
- Psychological services
- Social work services
- Recreation, including therapeutic recreation
- Rehabilitation services
- Rehabilitation counseling
- Speech, language, and audiology services
- Medical services for diagnosis and evaluation
- School health services
- Parent counseling and training
What happens after the IEP is written?
Services contained in the IEP are provided.
The school has the responsibility of making sure that the services
contained in the child’s IEP are delivered as written. Parents
are given a copy of the IEP. Each of the child’s teachers
and service providers has access to the IEP and knows his or her
specific responsibilities for carrying out the IEP. This includes
the accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided
to the child, in keeping with the IEP.
Progress is measured and reported to parents.
The child’s progress toward the annual goals is measured,
as stated in the IEP. His or her parents are regularly informed
of their child’s progress and whether that progress is enough
for the child to achieve the goals by the end of the year. These
progress reports must be given to parents at least as often as parents
are informed of their nondisabled children’s progress.
IEP is reviewed annually.
The child’s IEP is reviewed by the IEP team at least once
a year, or more often if the parents or school ask for a review.
The IEP is revised if necessary. Parents, as team members, must
be invited to attend these meetings. Parents can make suggestions
for changes, can agree or disagree with the IEP goals, and agree
or disagree with the placement.
If the parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they should
express their concerns to the other members of the IEP team and
try to work out an agreement. If they still disagree, parents can
ask for mediation, or the school may offer mediation. Parents may
file a complaint with the state education agency and may request
a due process hearing, at which time mediation must be available.
Excerpted from the LDA ADVOCACY HANDBOOK: A Parent’s Guide
for Special Education available to LDA members for free downloading in the Members Only section or available for $12.00 from LDA.