What is an IEP and why would my child need one?

Students Studying

You are involved in your child’s education, you ensure homework gets done, attend field trips and help prepare for tests, but what happens if your child struggles despite their, and your, best efforts? Students who have trouble learning or live with a disability can receive help through an IEP (Individualized Education Plan).

What is an IEP?

Simply put, an IEP is a custom created learning plan that addresses a student’s learning abilities and needs and establishes annual goals. IEPs began with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975 (IDEA) to ensure that students with disabilities receive a proper education and are given the tools to allow them to thrive. The IEP takes into account three main areas of education, general education curriculum, extracurricular activities and nonacademic activities.

Why would my child need an IEP?

IEPs are created for children who struggle with five specific issues that hinder learning. These issues include blindness or visual impairment, communications problems (including deafness), limited English proficiency, a need for assistive technology, and behavior that inhibits learning.

There are many reasons students may need an IEP, however the following are the most common reasons that students need an IEP:

  • Learning disability
  • ADD or ADHD
  • Emotional disorders
  • An Autism or Asperger’s diagnosis
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Visual or hearing impairment
  • Developmental delay

If you feel that your child is in need of an IEP, schedule a meeting with his/her teacher to discuss about your concerns and your child’s academic progress. Teachers may also reach out to parents if they feel a child would benefit from an IEP. If it is determined that the student’s education is suffering, then an evaluation will be scheduled to confirm whether your child qualifies for help and which of the five issues need to be addressed.

How is an IEP created?

Each IEP is written by an “IEP team”, which is made up of parents, teachers, educational advocates, school administrators and the student themselves. Once the team members have been confirmed, a meeting will be scheduled within 30 days. During this meeting the student’s performance will be evaluated, accommodations and modifications will be considered to help the child improve, and annual goals will be identified. Once the IEP has been written, it will be followed for an entire school year. Each year the IEP will be re-evaluated and compared to the annual goals to verify how it is helping the student.

A completed IEP includes:

  • The student’s current academic performance and achievements
  • Academic and non-academic annual goals and a description of how the student’s progress will be measured
  • Special education and related services
  • Supplementary aids and services
  • Program and instructional modifications
  • Accommodations
  • State and district test results

For more information on IEPs, how they are implemented and your rights as a parent, see the US Department of Education’s Guide to the IEP or contact us with questions.