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Chapter 7: IEPs — Developing Your Child's Education Plan

IEP Education - Special Education Plan

Who is this for?

This chapter is for parents whose child has been formally evaluated for special education services and has already been found eligible to receive special education and related services as required by IDEA.

Why is this important?

The Individualized Education Program (or IEP) lays out the school's commitment to provide special education and related services to eligible students. Each eligible student must have an IEP in effect before he or she can receive special education and related services.


What can parents do?

IDEA makes it clear that parents are full and equal members of the IEP team. They should be involved to ensure that special education services are helping their child make adequate progress in the general education curriculum.


IDEA Words and Terms to Know

  • Individualized Education Program (IEP)

    A written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed and revised according to the requirements of IDEA.

  • General education curriculum

    The body of knowledge and range of skills that all students throughout a state are expected to master

  • Least restrictive environment

    To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are to be educated with children who are not disabled. Special classes, separate schooling, or other ways of removing children with disabilities from the regular educational environment should only occur when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily with the use of supplementary aids and services.

  • Specially designed instruction

    Ways that special education professionals adapt the content, methodology (approaches to teaching certain grade level content), or the delivery of instruction to address the unique needs that result from the child’s disability. Specially designed instruction should also ensure that the eligible child has access to the general curriculum so that he or she can meet the educational standards of the school district that apply to all children.

  • Related services

    Supportive services that are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. Related services include transportation, developmental and corrective services, speech-language pathology and audiology services, interpreting services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation (including therapeutic recreation), counseling services (including rehabilitation counseling), orientation and mobility services, and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes. Related services also include school health services, school nurse services designed to enable a child with a disability to receive a free appropriate public education as described in the child’s IEP, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training.

  • Supplemental aids and services

    Aids, services and other supports that are provided in regular education classes or other education-related settings that enable children with disabilities to be educated alongside nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate. Examples of supplemental aids and services might be assistive technologies such as a computer or adapted physical education.

  • Accommodations

    Accommodations are tools and procedures that provide equal access to instruction and assessment for students with disabilities. Designed to “level the playing field” for students with disabilities, accommodations are generally grouped into the following categories:

    • Presentation (e.g., repeat directions, read aloud, use of larger bubbles on answer sheets, etc.)
    • Response (e.g., mark answers in book, use reference aids, point, use of computer, etc.)
    • Timing/Scheduling (e.g., extended time, frequent breaks, etc.)
    • Setting (e.g., study carrel, special lighting, separate room, etc.)


In the previous chapter you learned about the Eligibility Determination process — the decision about whether your child qualifies for special education services under IDEA following an initial evaluation. If your child is eligible for special education services, the next step is to develop his or her Individualized Education Program, also known as an IEP.


Your child's IEP lays out the school's commitment of special education and related services to be provided by the school district. An IEP must be developed within 30 days of eligibility determination and then must be reviewed annually as long as the student continues to be eligible for services. Special education and related services cannot begin until an IEP has been developed.


As noted throughout this chapter, IDEA 2004 made several significant changes to the Individualized Education Program, both in terms of who should participate and what should be included in this important process.


Scheduling the IEP Meeting

School districts are required to take steps to ensure that one or both of the child's parents are present at each IEP meeting. These steps include:


  • Providing notice of the meeting early enough to ensure that parents have an opportunity to attend
  • Scheduling the meeting at a mutually agreed upon time and place.


Alternative ways of meeting, such as conference calls and video conferencing, should be made available to parents as a way of ensuring participation. While a face-to-face meeting involving at least one parent is most desirable, an alternative meeting format can provide an opportunity for both parents to participate.


Meeting Notice

The school must provide you with a written notice of every proposed IEP meeting. The meeting notice must state the purpose of the meeting, the time and location of the meeting and who will attend. The notice must also inform you of your right to bring other individuals to the IEP meeting.


For meetings to develop IEPs for students turning age 16 (or older) during the time in which the IEP will be in effect, the notice must also:


  • Indicate that the meeting will include consideration of postsecondary (after high school) goals and transition services
  • Indicate that the student will be invited to attend the meeting
  • List any other agency (such as rehabilitative services) that will be invited to attend.


Information about the transition services required in IEPs is covered in Chapter 8.


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