The Individualized Education Program (IEP)
Once your child has been determined eligible to receive special education and related services, you will begin the team process of developing an individualized education program (IEP) designed to meet the specific needs of your child. The IEP is both a document and a process.
The development of the IEP gives you the opportunity to work with educators as equal partners to identify your child's needs, what will be provided to meet those needs, and what the anticipated outcomes or goals may be. The process of collaborative goal setting allows both educators and parents to combine their separate areas of expertise to plan for the specific needs of a child.
The IEP is also a document - a written description of the plan developed for your child. It is a contract in writing of the resources the school agrees to provide. The IEP document will be written at the team meeting. A proposed IEP, labeled DRAFT, may be presented at the meeting, but changes can and should be made as the team works together to develop the plan.
The IEP will include the following content areas:
- A statement of the child's present level of education performance, including (where appropriate): academic achievement, communication, social/emotional, vocational/transition, fine and gross skills and activities of daily living (community participation and independent living) skills.
- A statement of annual educational goals for the coming school year. (e.g.: Mary will use strategies and apply math skills to solve word problems.)
- A statement of short-term instructional objectives or benchmarks derived from the annual educational goals. (e.g. with teacher demonstration, the child will use a word to request a desired object across 3 people and 2 environments, .4/5 trials.)
- A statement of specific educational services needed by the child, including a description of special education and related services which are needed to meet the needs of the child and the recommended instructional settings, the date when those services will begin, the length of time the services will be given and the location.
- Program considerations must be discussed and documented including: the length of the school day and year, assistive technology, vocational/career education, physical education, extended school year services, need for a functional behavior assessment and transportation.
- A description of the extent to which the child will not participate in the general education program, and the justification for removal from general education (if needed).
- Modifications and accommodations in general education including nonacademic and extracurricular activities.
Parents will receive a copy of the IEP five school days after the IEP meeting. The IEP will be reviewed at least annually.
Before the IEP is developed:
- Familiarize yourself with the IEP document.
- Review all relevant information, including:
- assessments (make sure they are accurate and up to date)
- prior IEPs
- teacher progress notes
- your child's schoolwork
- the genera! education curriculum for your child's grade
- If the school has prepared a draft IEP prior to the meeting, you may ask to review it
- Remember, you are an expert in your child's development. Be prepared to share your observations of your child's functioning in the following areas: movement, communication, social relationships and behavior, independence, preferences, problem solving.
- Be prepared to share your educational expectations for your child and what annual outcomes you would like to see your child accomplish during the year. Also, it's helpful to share your vision for your child's future with the team. It is important that everyone is heading towards the same goal.
- Be prepared to share your observations about the way your child learns best. Does he/she learn by:
- touching, holding
- seeing, looking, watching
- working in groups with other children -working alone or with one friend
- drawing, writing
- talking about new things they are learning
- Be sure all services necessary to implement your child's educational program will be written into the IEP
- Be sure to consider all of your child's needs including socialization and include strategies such as Circle of Friends or MAPS if necessary.
- Consider building strategies for ongoing communication with your child's team.
- Try to resolve any questions or concerns you have prior to the IEP meeting so meeting time can be used productively to formally agree to the plan. With prior discussion, there should be no surprises at this meeting.
- You may wish to tape record the meeting for later review.
After the IEP is developed:
- Ask for suggestions of how you can continue, expand and reinforce school activities at home
- Take the time to explain any special equipment your child uses
- Inform the teacher of any activities or significant events that may influence your child's performance in school.
- Let the school know that you would like to be called if your input is needed. Remember, you and the school want the best for your child. Working together can make that happen.
- Ask that samples of your child's work be sent home. If you have questions, make an appointment with the teacher(s) and significant others to discuss new strategies to meet your child's goals.
- Take the initiative. If you want to meet with the teacher, call him or her and arrange a visit.
- While in the classroom, observe how your child participates. Does the teacher treat your child the same way others are treated?
- Is your child reasonably happy? Does he or she feel pretty good about school? Talk to your child about what's going on.
- Does your child seem to be making progress toward the goals of the IEP? If not, and you see it first, it is your responsibility to contact the school and talk about it. Remember, you and the school are on the same side: your child's!