IEP’s: An Overview

In my attempt to better understand how to best advocate for my son, I decided to pursue a special education credential. I was fortunate enough to be able to enroll in the  internship program at my local university.  There was also an opening for a special education teacher at the school that I work at.  It was the most rewarding year I had as a teacher.  The workload from going to a university, working full time and writing twenty-something IEP’s a year was more than I could handle.  I didn’t see my husband or kids on the weekends because I’d be writing either a paper for university or writing an IEP or working on progress notes.  I had entered a zone where my home life came second to work.  It was unfair to my children, my husband and my own sanity.  I had to quit despite excellent grades, protests from professors and administrators and the quantity of information I was acquiring.

I don’t regret it.  I’m glad that I did it. Now, I can be the ultimate advocate for my son.  I could probably correct any IEP that you hand to me and be able to correct any parts that need revision.  I would like to share the most important parts of the IEP.

For more detailed information about IDEA and special education law, I highly suggest you check out the Wright’s Law web site. They have great resources online and excellent books in their online bookstore.

IEP- Individualized Education Program


IEPThis plan is written specifically for children between the ages of 3 and high school graduation.  The maximum age for a student to hold an IEP 21 years old.  The age isn’t specified for high school graduation because some individuals continue with the high school special education program beyond the typical age of a high school graduate.  An IEP team includes, parents, teachers (general education and special education), a school administrator and other personal appropriate to your child’s success in school.  These people might include a school psychologist, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, or a behaviorist (among others).  The people who are providing any sort of service should be at the meeting.  If they can’t attend, they can sign an excusal form.

Here is the IDEA law as it pertains to IEP team members (P.L. 108-466, Sec 614 (d)(1)(B):


Generally, IEP’s are held where the child is receiving most of his or her education.  Exceptions are made, however, in many circumstances.  Please contact your child’s case manager if you have extenuating circumstances that make it difficult to attend.


Your child’s progress towards their IEP goals, their present levels and current program should be fully reviewed no later than 1 time per year.  As a parent you can call an IEP at ANY TIME.  Generally if a meeting is called sooner than the 1 year review date, you are calling a team meeting.  If you have concerns about your child’s progress, program or other aspects of your child’s education, I would suggest calling a team meeting.  Your child’s educators are working hard on his or her behalf and are always willing to keep you informed of their progress.


This is a specific plan to help a child receive FAPE (free and appropriate education).  This plan will include goals that are specific, measurable and appropriate to each individual child’s present levels.  The members of the team also discuss the best setting for education and other important details to allow your child to make optimal growth at his or her individual level. While IEPs look different in every SELPA (special education local planning area) all IEP’s must contain these key elements:

  1. Present levels of performance (the most IMPORTANT part of the IEP).  The present levels provide information to the team about which goals need to be written, which services and how many hours are needed for the child to meet his or her goals in 1 year.  Present levels should describe how the disability impacts the child’s progress in general education, their general achievement level and functional level.

  2.   Goals should be written that are specific and measurable.  The goals can be academic or functional and should allow your child to make appropriate progress towards standards where they are having the most difficulty in the general education curriculum.  The goals also might be related to other services they receive which may or may not include speech, OT (occupational therapy) or behavior.

  3. Progress Towards Goals should be discussed at annual and triennial IEP’s.  Progress towards goals (when I was a special education teacher they were called progress notes and coincided with general education report cards) should be provided to parents at regular intervals.  Teachers determine progress by taking classroom data and compiling it based on the goals.  For example a goal states: By 11/1/12, Billy will complete a multiplication chart with 90% accuracy in 2 out of 3 trials as measure by teacher made assessments.  A teacher would use school curriculum to

  4.   Supplementary Service and aids include specific modifications or accommodations  that can help your child to meet his or her academic goals.  Generally modifications mean that the curriculum is changed in some way to allow the student to access the curriculum. If too many modifications are offered, a student might not qualify for a diploma.  Talk to your IEP team about the modifications and how they affect the child’s progress toward a high school diploma.  Accommodations are changes that can be made without drastically changing the content of the curriculum.  Accommodations allow a student to access the curriculum including extra time to do class work, restating directions or large print for students with visual impairments.

  5.   How much time spent in general education and special education settings.    Some children only need help in one area of deficit, some children need help in multiple areas.  Depending on your child’s individual needs and the specific policy of the school, your child may spend more or less time in a separate classroom to receive their special education services.  Some programs are push in, so the services will be included in the regular education classroom.  Some services work best as a pull out program, where the child goes to a separate classroom to receive services.  If your child needs to attend a private or non-public school, this will be part of the IEP, as well.

  6.   A list of Accommodations  should also be included.  As discussed above, accommodations help students access the curriculum with slight changes in the environment.  These accommodations are listed with the modifications in our SELPA but this might be different for everyone.

  7. Frequency of Accommodations and modifications provided should be found somewhere in the IEP.  This is kind of an action plan.  It should include who will provide the service or accommodation, when it will be starting and ending, how often the accommodation or modification is needed, how long the modification or accommodation will occur, and where it will take place.

  8.   Services , including the frequency and duration are included.  Also a date when goals should be met for the given services is included.

  9.   Special Factors are considerations that must be taken into account when deciding the best way to educate a child with special needs.  Some children’s behavior impedes on others or themselves so a behavior support plan should be written to help them succeed.  A child who is an english language learner should have ELD (English Language Development) goals written.  For a visually impaired child instruction in Braille might be appropriate but in other cases it might not be.  Language needs are also considered for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Special devices such as PECS (picture exchange communication system) as a way to communicate with non-verbal autistic children, or visual timers for a child who struggle with transitions.

  10. General considerations are also taken into account including a parent’s concerns, the child’s strengths, the child’s educational needs, results of recent informal (including classroom tests or observations) or formal assessments.

These pages should all be included in an IEP.  Sometimes the pages are incorporated in several locations in the IEP to be thorough.  Often there are extra pages are included.  Some IEP’s have a page for notes so that all concerns by all parties can be noted and resolved.

Here is the IDEA law as it relates to IEP’s (P.L. 108-466, Sec. 614 9d)(1)(B)) and special factors (P.L. 108-466, Sec. 614 (d)(3)(A&B)).