What is an IEP

As a parent I know the confusion that comes with your first IEP.  I had never even heard of an IEP before my son was diagnosed with Autism.  The more you can learn about IEP’s the better you can advocate for your child.  You can check out the FAQ section on our website here with any more questions – www.iepanswers.com/faq/

An IEP or Individualized Education Program is a legally protected plan or outline of the special education services the school will provide for the student.  This document should be agreed upon by the team, the district, and the parent/guardian.  As a parent/guardian you have the right to request additional or different accommodations for the child.

The IEP should include an overview of the student’s current academic achievement.  It should also list goals for the next year.  These goals must be measurable.  They also should have a plan attached to the goal outlining how that goal can and will be achieved.  The services provided should also be included.  These services should be tied to helping the student achieve the specific goal.  You have every right to be a part in developing the goals and they must be agreed upon by everyone involved.

Your role as the parent is the most important.  Remember you are your child’s voice in the meeting.   You do not have to just sign the IEP, you have the right to take time to review and propose additional or different goals, accommodations, and services.  IEP Answers was built to help parents through this complex process.  We put a state licensed special education teacher on your team. We have been there, we know your frustration.   Let us help you best advocate for your child, and give them the best chance at success.  We are here, reach out to us anytime to help – www.iepanswers.com


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What is an IEP

What is an IEP and what is its purpose? An IEP (Individualized Education Program) is a map that outlines the special education program and support that the child in their education program. Each program is designed unique to the child and should spell out the types of help the child will get.

When the interested parties of a child’s IEP come together and take into consideration how the program is going to be followed to structure the child’s education, they will review the IEP for that child. If you haven’t seen an IEP document before, you should review some IEP examples. We have a demo available. You may wish to review the demo document, or other IEP sample documents to get yourself acquainted with the content that will be in the IEP and how it’s structured. Reviewing examples will help you understand the benefits of IEP and the importance of IEP.

You may have also heard of the term 504. So, what’s an IEP vs 504? An IEP is a more advanced document that contains more instructions to establish, in more detail, what the educational program should be. The 504 plan is also a set of instructions for the school that outline how the school will support the student and navigate the barriers to learning that result from a disability. 504 plans are not part of special education though, so they differ from individualized education plans (IEP) in that way. The school will usually create a written 504 plan for the child, but they aren’t required to do so.

The referral process to an IEP usually starts with a teacher, parent, or doctor who identifies that the child may be having learning trouble at school. They can notify the school counselor to initiate the process. Typically, there will be a few conferences that take place between parents, the student, and the school, as well as some observation of the student in class and analysis of the student’s in class performance.

After that, the school and parents will work together to decide what goes into the plan by coming up with specific goals and methods to maximize the student’s success in the classroom. The program will include support services, how often those services are provided, types of therapy, and any ancillary services needed to help support the student’s learning. Sometimes, an occupational therapist can also contribute to the document if the child has motor skill issues or something similar blocking their learning progression.

Regular reviews of your IEP are also important to make sure the goals and levels of support are continually getting updated and providing the right accommodations for the child. IEP documents do not need to be set in stone for the year, they can be updated as required, even during a school year. If you’re still wondering, “what is an IEP?”, we’ve provided an example for you here in this IEP Example PDF.

Ultimately, the parents are the best advocates for their child, and have a great deal of insight to contribute to the IEP document. Make sure you’ve familiarized yourself with the document. We invite you to use our team to review your documents to provide additional insight and feedback to best prepare your IEP for your child’s learning environment.