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How to Read an IEP: Acronyms and Language

How to Read an IEP - Acronyms and LanguageLearning the Language of Special EducationAs parents of children with special needs we pride ourselves on being experts. Unfortunately, too often we are expected to be experts in the field of public education, special education, and research-based educational best practices, written in a language that we do not fully understand. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA 2004) ensures that parents are equal members of their children’s IEP teams and with that comes an implied responsibility. Our children’s right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and meaningful educational benefit rests upon our willingness to embrace the uncomfortable and learn everything that we can about this special education Holy Grail—the IEP—and the special education acronyms inherent in building this document.

IEP Terms: Special Education Acronyms












Learning to read and to understand your child’s IEP is imperative to the health and well-being of his or her education. The purpose of an IEP is to prepare your child for “further education, employment, and independent living.” A child with an IEP has a right to learn and master grade-level benchmarks in reading, written expression, math, and all academic subjects. The first step toward understanding your child’s IEP is to learn about the contents of this educational document, including special education jargon that will indeed be foreign.

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