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Individualized Education Program (IEP)

What is it?

An IEP is a written document for a child with a disability that recognizes measurable goals and strategies to help that child be successful in school. The IEP has two general purposes: 1) to set reasonable learning goals for a child and 2) to state the services the school district will provide for the child. Developing the IEP is done by the child’s family members, teachers, child development experts, and school administrators. Its guiding mission, as determined by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), is to provide free and appropriate education in the least-restrictive environment possible. The IEP process is different from a medical focus as its outcomes are to make the child succeed in school.

Who is eligible?

There are two main ways in which children are recognized as possibly needing special education:

Child Findand by referral of parent or school personnel.

Public schools are mandated to conduct a “full and individual initial evaluation” before providing special education to a child with a disability. The purpose of an initial evaluation is to (1) determine if the child is a “child with a disability” who is entitled to receive special education services and (2) determine the educational needs of the child.

Keep in mind…

Within 30 calendar days after a child is determined eligible, a team of school professionals and the parents must meet to write the IEP for the child. The parent of the child with an IEP may invite anyone they deem necessary for the IEP’s success. This can include having someone there for emotional support, to take notes, or to be your (the parent’s) advocate.

What does an IEP need to contain?

The resulting IEP needs to contain specific information required by IDEA:

  • A statement of the child’s present level of academic achievement and functional performance. This includes how the child’s disability affects their involvement and progress in general education.
  • A statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals.
  • A description of how the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured and when periodic progress reports will be provided.
  • A statement of the special education and associated services and additional aids and services to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child.
  • A statement of the program modification or supports for the school personnel that
  • Will be provided to empower the child to advance suitably towards attaining the goals.
  • To be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities.
  • To be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children.
  • An explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will participate with nondisabled children in the general education curriculum and in nonacademic/extracurricular activities.
  • A statement of any individual accommodations that are required to measure the academic achievement and functional performance of the child on State and district-wide assessments.

Keep in mind…

  • If the IEP Team determines that the child must take an alternative assessment instead of a state-specific district-wide assessment, the IEP must include a statement of why the child cannot partake in the regular assessment and why the alternative assessment is appropriate for the child.
  • The projected beginning date of the services and amendments, and the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services and amendments
  • For students approaching the end of their secondary school education, the IEP must also include statements about “transition services” which are designed to help young adults with disabilities prepare for life after high school.

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