What is an IEP?

What is an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)?

IEPs are written documents that are created for each child who has a disability and receives special education services.  It is supported by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), and is a legal and binding document. IDEA states that all students must receive a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE).  This ensures that children are receiving the specialized educational supports they need at no cost to the parents. A school district MUST adhere to the child’s IEP and carry out its plan for that student, in conformity with IDEA and FAPE.

IEPs should be individualized, and have goals, modifications, and accommodations that are customized for each child.  Equal doesn’t always mean fair; all students should have an individualized plan that supports them in their success.

What is the purpose of an IEP?


IEPs are created to have a formal “plan” outlined for any student that requires special education services.  Basically, IEPs are created for the student by their IEP team to outline annual academic, therapeutic, and social goals for a student, and how they are going to help that student achieve them.  Accommodations and modifications are also listed in an IEP in order to help specify which strategies help that student specifically to succeed.

What are the parts of the IEP?

Generally speaking, there are 8 parts of an IEP:

  1. Student information and/or present levels of performance (PLOP)
    • What are the student’s strengths and weaknesses?
    • How does the child’s disability impact their ability to participate in the general classroom setting?
    • What are any parent concerns?
  2. Annual goals
    • What academic, social and functional goals are needed for that student specifically?
    • Goals must be individualized, measurable, and objective.
  3. Assessments
    • Which assessments will the student take each year at the classroom, district and state level?
    • What accommodations and/or modifications are needed in order for this student to be most successful?
  4. Programming
    • Which least restrictive environment is ideal for this student to learn?  Settings can vary from general education classrooms to private, residential schools.  This also lists the time that students would spend in and out of the “special education setting.”
  5. Additional services
    • Any additional service or therapy that the student requires to be successful in the academic environment, including speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or social work.
    • This section would also list how often and how long service providers are seeing the student (usually specified per week or month throughout the school year)
  6. Extended school year (ESY)
    • Does this student qualify for extended school year? (over the summer)
    • Does this student’s data show regression from over the summer or after longer breaks?   ESY may be beneficial to help recoup those skills in preparation for the upcoming fall.
  7. Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)
    • Does the child exhibit negative or maladaptive behaviors that impede their learning or the learning of others?  For many students, this part is not necessary.
  8. Transition
    • When the child is moving from 8th grade into high school, they become part of their own IEP meetings as the team discusses a transition plan.
    • Transition can include areas of potential job interest, future career goals, and accommodations/modifications needed for high school and beyond.
    • Transition plans must occur prior to the child turning 16 years of age.

Who can be on an IEP team?Work as a team!

  • Student (optional)
  • School administrators: typically a principal or assistant principal
  • Parents (can be accompanied by a parent advocate, student’s therapist, student’s tutor or an attorney if necessary)
  • Special education coordinator (not mandatory, but ideal)
  • Teachers that work with the student, which can include both general education and special education teachers
  • Psychologist (if formal assessment was completed)
  • Other therapists and service providers, which can include, but are not limited to: speech pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, hearing itinerant, and social worker
  • Translator (if needed and/or requested by parent)

What is a re-evaluation?

Every three years (at a minimum), a student has a re-evaluation, in which the IEP team gathers more in depth data/information regarding the student’s progress including formal and informal assessments.  At this time, the team decides if the student continues to qualify for special services and/or requires the IEP in order to be successful. Parents should be included in this process, and may be asked more specific questions regarding the child’s health, social skills at home, functional skills in the community, results of past evaluations conducted outside of the school setting, etc.

During a re-evaluation, a student may continue to qualify for services, but their disability area may change.  For example, a student with multiple areas of delay as a young child may qualify for services under “Developmentally delayed.”  As they get older, one area of delay/disability may emerge as a primary disability, such as Learning Disability or Speech/Language Impaired.  Programming, goals, and assessments may change, but the student would still receive specialized services.

** When a student is first being evaluated for special education services, a formal evaluation is also completed at that time.  Results from that evaluation will determine if a child qualifies for an IEP, and/or what those specialized services may look like.


How should a parent prepare for the IEP?

  • Be positive!  If everyone is working as a team at school and at home, the student is more likely to feel success and reach his/her goals.
  • Know that you can call an IEP at any time if you have questions/concerns or want more information on your child’s plan.
  • It is OK to ask questions!  This is your time. If the team only meets once a year for your child, use that time to your advantage.  Be involved, and become a participant in the meeting, not just a listener.
  • It is OK to request goals and/or assessments prior to the meeting to review beforehand.  There is a lot of data and information presented at an IEP and requesting these things beforehand may help you to be less overwhelmed and/or develop questions ahead of time.
  • Know your child’s strengths and areas for improvement to add to the IEP; YOU are an expert on your child, and you know them best!  The IEP team at school should support, respect, and appreciate your insight.


Last Updated 6/11/18.




OT, SLP, AT & the IEP… Making Sense of the Alphabet Soup