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What is an IEP?

By J. Beam
Updated May 23, 2024
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An IEP, or Individualized Education Program, applies to children enrolled in public schools who qualify. An IEP is required by law when a child is identified as having a disability that is recognized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as defined by the U.S. Department of Education.

The purpose of an IEP is to provide a disabled child with specialized or individualized assistance in school. In order for an IEP to be developed for a child, school personnel must first evaluate the child and identify a qualifying disability. Though the evaluation can be initiated by either a parent or a teacher, the evaluation can not be performed without the parent's consent. Even if a specific disability, such as hearing loss, is suspected, the evaluation for a disability must encompass all areas of the child's development.

Once a child has been evaluated as having a qualifying disability, a team comprised most often of the classroom teacher, special education teachers, speech or hearing therapists if necessary, and any administrators that may have relevant knowledge of a specific disability will develop an IEP for the student. The key to any IEP is individualization, so each IEP should be specifically designed for an individual child. There are some elements of an IEP that may remain the same for every child, as certain aspects of the program work well across the board, but the IEP as a whole is designed specifically for each child.

The actual development and implementation of an IEP may vary from state to state, and even district to district, depending on education laws, school funding, and staffing. Typically, an IEP is developed into a written plan that addresses specific areas of difficulty the student is having and what accommodations will be made to assist the child in those areas. The plan may include individual or additional classroom instruction or individualized homework assignments. The classroom teacher, along with other specialized staff members, parents, and the child, work together to develop and implement the IEP into a workable daily routine that benefits the child.

In the event that parents request an evaluation for an IEP and then disagree with the findings, they are entitled to an independent evaluation. In some districts, funding for specialized teachers and programs is lacking and can affect the timeliness of an evaluation. If you suspect your child has a disability that is interfering with their academic progress, it is your right to pursue an evaluation and receive one in a timely fashion. If the district fails to conduct an evaluation in a timely manner, you may also have the right to pursue an independent evaluation at the district's expense.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1002356 — On Nov 05, 2019

What is the right of playing sports with an IEP?

By anon124213 — On Nov 04, 2010

I am located in miami, FL. I was looking into tutoring that I heard the district was offering free for students in need. My daughter has ADHD, Asthma, asthma, mold. allergies, and poss. dyslexia and dysgraphia, gets anxious when doing homework and cries occasionally in school. she is in second grade.

I found out that free tutoring was for ESL students; what about the other kids? anyone know of free or discounted tutoring offered in Miami. Please help.

By anon101469 — On Aug 03, 2010

Can a student have an IEP, but yet still remain in the regular education environment as opposed to the special ed environment?

By anon40483 — On Aug 08, 2009

if a child that has been enrolled in an IEP program all through grade school, can he be denied an IEP in college?

By anon10012 — On Mar 18, 2008

An IEP can always be revised. my suggestions are if you are not happy with the current IEP call and talk to your schools special education department. Request to have an IEP meeting to review and make revisions to the IEP. I believe the schools have 20 days to hold the meeting after you have made the request. Everyone on the IEP is a team decision which means you might not get what you want, but you have the right to appeal it. At the next meeting ask for a handout with your rights and read through it carefully. It will give you lots of advice.

By anon8283 — On Feb 10, 2008

A parent signature on the IEP indicates only that the parent was in attendance at the IEP meeting. IDEA mandates that a parent may call for an IEP meeting and revision of the document at any time--he/she does not need to wait until the annual IEP meeting.

The parent also has the right to remove his/her child from the special education program. The child should not have been entered without the parent first signing written consent. The parent has the right to retract this consent, however he/she may face due-process appeal on the part of the school district.

By anon5764 — On Dec 05, 2007

With an IEP, what rights does the parent have if they signed it, and they want to pull their child out of the school and homeschool them?

By anon5763 — On Dec 05, 2007

What happens if a parent signed the IEP and now does not want it?

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