Understanding the IEP Process

February 2, 2016

Discovering your child has special needs in school whether it is in regards to reading, writing, math, attention, social or cognitive skills can be a hard pill for parents to swallow.  Thankfully our public education system provides a legal process and plan to help children succeed.  In order to receive special education services, first the child must have an Individualized Education Plan or IEP.  Let’s take a look at this legal document and the process that accompanies it.

What is an IEP?  An IEP is a legal document that is required by the Federal Law – the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  Any child (age 3-22) receiving special education services will have one of these to address each child’s unique learning issues.  The IEP will include:  a statement of your child’s Present Level of Performance (PLOP), goals for the coming school year, a list of services that will be provided, a list of modifications or accommodations, and a method of measuring progress.

What happens at an annual IEP Meetings?  Once a year the child’s special education team including: classroom teachers, therapists, and special education team members meet to discuss the measurable progress and needs of the child. This meeting is meant to review what has worked for the child and what has not worked.  The team will also discuss the most recent evaluation of the child and how this information can help improve the child’s education.

What if you have a dispute about the IEP? There may be times when the special education team and the family do not agree on the special education plan.  In these circumstances there are steps that can help resolve the issues.  The session may be mediated so that both parties can hopefully reach an agreement.  If the mediation does not end to the satisfaction of the parents, a complaint may be filed.  A process session will come up with a resolution that will be agreeable to both parties.  If all of this fails a civil lawsuit can be filed.  Thankfully not too many disagreements get to this level.


For further resources check out:

Center for Parent Information and Resources

Friendship Circle – Special Education Resources