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What is an IEP?

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a legally binding document created for students with disabilities in the United States that outlines the educational goals, accommodations, modifications, and services that are designed to meet the unique educational needs of the child. It is developed by a team of professionals, including parents or guardians, teachers, special education personnel, and other relevant stakeholders, and is reviewed and updated annually. While an IEP is not a contract, it is a legally binding document that guarantees the necessary support and services as agreed upon and written for the child. It serves as a roadmap for the child's educational journey and provides a blueprint for how their educational needs will be addressed. It outlines the student's present levels of performance, goals, accommodations, modifications, and services that will be provided to support the student's academic progress and access to the curriculum. At the least, the IEP must contain these pieces of information:

  • Present levels of educational performance

  • Goals

  • Special education and related services

Once the IEP is developed, the next step is determining how to implement it. The school district is responsible for providing free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities, which includes ensuring that the student is educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE) to the maximum extent appropriate. The LRE is the educational setting where the student can be educated alongside their peers without disabilities to the greatest extent possible, while still receiving the necessary support and services outlined in the IEP. Special education is a set of services that are designed to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities, and it is not limited to a specific place or setting. The IEP team, which includes parents or guardians, teachers, special education personnel, and other relevant stakeholders, considers how the student's educational goals and objectives can be achieved in the most appropriate setting. While the general education classroom is often considered the preferred setting for most students, a range of options, including special day classes or other specialized settings, may be available based on the student's needs. The members of the multidisciplinary team who write your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) typically include:

  1. Parents or guardians: parents are key members of the IEP team and provide valuable information about their child's strengths, needs, and preferences. They play an active role in the decision-making process and work collaboratively with the school to develop an appropriate educational plan for their child.

  2. General education teacher(s): The general education teacher(s) who currently or will be instructing the student in the general education classroom provide insights into classroom expectations, curriculum, and the student's performance in the general education setting.

  3. Special education teacher: A special education teacher who has training and experience in educating students with disabilities and collaborating with other educators to plan accommodations and modifications is an important team member. They provide expertise in designing and implementing specialized instruction to meet the student's individual needs.

  4. Evaluation interpreter: An individual who can interpret the results of the student's evaluation, such as a school psychologist or a qualified professional, can provide insights into the student's assessment results and help in planning an appropriate instructional program.

  5. School system representative: A representative from the school system, who has knowledge about special education services and the authority to commit resources, is typically part of the team. They provide information about the school's policies, procedures, and available resources for implementing the IEP.

  6. Other individuals with expertise: The IEP team may also invite other individuals with knowledge or special expertise about the child, such as related service providers (e.g., speech therapist, occupational therapist), transition services agencies representatives (when discussing transition goals and services), or anyone else who can provide valuable input on the child's needs and educational goals.

  7. The student (when appropriate): If appropriate, the student may also be invited to participate in the IEP process, especially when transition goals and services are being discussed. The student's input and preferences are important for developing a student-centered IEP.

  8. Additional invited individuals: Parents or guardians have the right to invite anyone they feel would be helpful during the IEP process, such as a friend, another parent, or an advocate. This person can provide support and assistance during the meeting to help ensure the child's needs are being addressed effectively.

It's important for parents or guardians to actively participate in the IEP process, collaborate with the team, and advocate for their child's educational needs throughout the development and implementation of the IEP.


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