A Complete Guide to Individual Education Plans
If your child has a learning disability or special needs, having an Individual Education Plan (IEP) can help ensure their academic success. We’ll break down common questions you might have about IEPs so you can support your child with the resources they need to thrive at school.
What is an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)?
An Individual or Individualized Education Plan is a support document developed for a student with identified special needs. It outlines the goals, objectives, and services the school will provide to help them succeed in an inclusive educational environment.
Creating a customized and comprehensive IEP requires collaboration between parents, teachers, administrators, and specialists who work with the student to help them find academic and behavioral success.
What does an IEP include?
An IEP is an extensive document (sometimes 20 pages or more) that includes everything from assessment data and observation notes to growth goals and subject-specific classroom accommodations.
For example, most Individual Education Plans include:
- Notes on the student’s academic strengths, weaknesses, and interests
- A description of the student’s disability and the educational impact of the disability
- Special services, curriculum modifications, or classroom accommodations necessary to help the student achieve their goals
- Goals and objectives the student should achieve within a given time period
- Historical and current data about the student’s progress and how their case manager will monitor growth
- A plan for transitioning to life after high school
What’s the purpose of an IEP in special education?
IEPs outline the services and support a school must provide for a student with a disability. They help specialists, administrators, teachers, and parents understand the specific instructional adjustments or modifications your student should receive throughout the school day.
For instance, if your child has a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) in reading, their IEP may guarantee preferential seating and extra time on tests in English class. Their teacher must provide any documented accommodations for your student as part of their IEP.
IEPs also help keep track of valuable assessment data so specialists can evaluate the efficacy of specific accommodations and interventions. IEP goals are revisited and adjusted as your student progresses, so accommodations may be changed or removed entirely as your student progresses academically.
Who’s eligible for an Individualized Education Program?
Any student with a documented disability affecting their learning ability may be eligible for an IEP in special education.
This includes students who have:
- Specific learning disabilities
- Intellectual disabilities
- Emotional disabilities
- Auditory or language processing disorder
Do IEP requirements differ by state?
Yes, each state has its own set of requirements for IEPs. For example, some states may require an Individualized Transition Plan (ITP) as part of the IEP process, while others may require an Assistive Technology Assessment or Functional Behavioral Assessment. It’s essential to be familiar with your state’s specific requirements.
What’s the difference between a 504 plan and an IEP in special education?
A 504 plan is a document to ensure that students with disabilities have access to the same educational opportunities as their peers. It outlines accommodations or modifications similar to an IEP, such as extended time on tests, preferential seating, or assistive technology.
An IEP, however, is more comprehensive and includes goals and objectives for the student to achieve. It also often includes direct services like speech therapy.
What happens after an IEP is created?
Once the plan has been developed and approved, it’s time to put it into action. Caseworkers should monitor progress regularly so the IEP team can suggest adjustments as needed. Parents and teachers should also stay in communication to ensure the plan is working and any concerns are addressed. The IEP should be reviewed at least once a year to ensure it meets the student’s needs.
How do I advocate for my child’s IEP needs?
Advocating for your child’s Individual Education Plan is essential to make sure they receive the best education possible. Here are a few tips to help you effectively advocate for your child’s Individualized Education Plan:
- Know your rights. Be aware of the laws and regulations that govern IEPs so you can know what your child is entitled to regarding services, accommodations, and resources.
- Prepare for IEP meetings. Before attending the meeting, make sure you have a plan and write down your questions so you can advocate effectively in the moment.
- Communicate your concerns. Let school administrators and teachers know what your child needs and why they need it. Make sure to communicate any concerns about their progress or lack thereof.
- Follow up. After the IEP meeting, check that the services outlined in the plan are being provided and follow up if they aren’t.
Knowledge Is Power When It Comes to Your Child’s Individual Education Plan
Creating a successful Individualized Education Plan for your child ensures they get the best education possible. By understanding what should be included in an IEP, advocating for your child’s needs, and staying involved in their progress, you can guarantee that all their educational goals and objectives are met.