A Student's Guide to the IEP

The National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilties
A Student's Guide to the IEP

The following is an excerpt from a booklet created by The National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities.

1. What is an IEP?

IEP stands for Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP is a written document that describes the educational plan for a student with a disability. Among other things, your IEP talks about your disability, what skills you need to learn, what you’ll do in school this year, what services your school will provide, and where your learning will take place.

2. Why Do Students With Disabilities Need an IEP?

First, it’s the law. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires each student with disabilities who receives special education services to have an IEP — an educational program written just for him or her.

Second, the IEP helps the school meet your special needs. It also helps you plan educational goals for yourself. That is why it is called an IEP — because it is an individualized education program.

3. What is the Purpose of an IEP?

The purpose of the IEP is to make sure that everyone—you, your family, and school staff — knows what your educational program will be this year.

4. Where is the IEP Developed?

The IEP is developed during an IEP meeting. The people who are concerned with your education meet, discuss, and develop your IEP goals for the next year.

5. Who Comes to the IEP Meeting?

Certain individuals will help write your IEP. We’ve listed these below. Some are required by law to come to the meeting. (In the list below, we’ve written these people in bold letters.) Others, such as you and your parents, must be invited to take part in the meeting. It’s your choice to attend or not. (We’ve listed these people without any bolding of the letters.) All of the people listed below work together as a team to write your IEP. So — who might you see at the meeting?

  • You
  • Your parents
  • At least one of your regular education teachers, if you are (or may be) taking part in the regular education environment
  • At least one of your special education teachers (or special education providers)
  • Someone who can talk about your evaluation results and what they mean, especially what kind of instruction you need
  • Someone from the school system who knows about special education services and educating students with disabilities and who can talk about what resources the school system has — this person may be your principal, a school counselor, or someone else from the school system
  • People from transition service agencies (such as vocational rehabilitation), if you’re going to be talking about what you plan to do after leaving high school and what you need to do now to get ready
  • Other people who know you — your strengths and needs — very well and who can help you plan your educational program

6. How Often is the IEP Meeting Held?

The law requires that your IEP is reviewed and, if necessary, revised at least once a year. This means attending at least one IEP meeting each year. However, you, your parents, or the school can ask for more IEP meetings, if any of you think that it’s necessary to take another look at your IEP.

7. How Long Does an IEP Meeting Last?

Approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour.

8. Why Should I Participate in the IEP Meeting?

It’s your educational program everyone will be discussing in the meeting. Your opinions are an important part of this discussion.

9. What Should I Do if I Want to Help Develop my IEP?

There are five basic steps:

  1. Talk to your parents and teachers.
  2. Review last year’s IEP.
  3. Think about your strengths and needs in school.
  4. Write your goals for this school year.
  5. Practice what you want to say at the meeting.

Click here to see the rest of this booklet.

Posted on BrainLine November 16, 2009. Reviewed July 27, 2018.

From the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities. This information is copyright free. www.nichcy.org.

Comments (23)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

I am a special education teacher in Iowa. I was reading through comments and just wanted to clarify somethings. My sister has severe disabilities, and even though she is out of school now, had an IEP her entire school life. I am also going into my 4th year of teaching JH special education (Its resource so I only work with students in the mild/moderate levels, so those who have mainly Learning disabilities or who are higher functioning). First, in order to get an IEP or keep an IEP there has to be enough evidence proving the child needs to get or maintain an IEP. We look at multiple test scores, teacher point of views, the views of the parents, the views of the student, grades, and one-on-one tests that have been administered by a profressional. If there is evidence proving the child is 2 or more grade levels below their peers in the area(s) of reading, math, writing, and/or behavior (behavior can mean many things like functional behaviors, organization, anger problems, not participating in class or being social, can be something relating to the child's disability, or anything that prevents the child from becoming indpenedent and successful in the future. Its a broad area) Depending on the evidence, the child may be kept in general education and the teachers are given strategies to try to help the child, they may get a 504 which gives the child accommodations within the classroom and a structured studyhall, or the child gets an IEP that means they will be working on specific skills relating to the area(s) of need founded within the evidence. This means your child will have to spend a certain amount of time in school working on specific skills with the special education teacher.

Now, with all of this said, I know that as a person who has been on both sides of the table, not every teacher or school does what they are supposed to for many reasons. It could be not enough funding for staff or materials, the law is not enforced by the administration so the teacher doesn't do it (This is a big problem for secondary as they get swamped with homework, grades, and credits), the materials may not be appropriate, etc. There are many reasons. So when you go into meetings, make sure to have knowledge of what everything entails, ask questions, and find out who to talk to when you feel things are not going your way. Things are not always what they seem to be, so make sure to see all the angles before assuming something.

If my child is in an IEP program, will they receive a h.s diploma?

It depends on what type of special education program your child is in. Generally, students with 'mild to moderate' special education support earn regular HS diplomas. For students that have more severe disabilities that prevent them from accessing regular or slightly modified academic curriculum, they'll receive a 'degree of completion' (the terms vary based on the state).
Your IEP case manager/teacher is able to tell you which track your child is on. If they are in academic classes, most likely they are on a HS diploma track as they are meeting the same (or similar) credit requirements as their general education peers. Students in life skills or alternative programs are usually on the 'degree of completion' track.

I'd like an answer to that question as well. Because I was told by a college that my daughter was considering that she could never go to college with an IEP and that she would have to get her GED before she could attend. So basically what I'm really wondering is what kind of a RIP off an IEP really is.

1. My kid will never graduate which I was not even informed about until my kid was 16 and a half.

2. My daughter wanted to go to college to become a computer programmer. I painstakingly explained to her that it would be hard but that if she put in the extra time she could do it. (I have reading comprehension problems. I graduated college with a 3.86 in Information Systems). Her teacher ( and I loosely use that term) told her it would be too difficult for her and convinced her to sign up for culinary arts at a BOCES to prepare her for working in the food industry.

(So basically her teacher is telling her she is too stupid to work anywhere but at McDonald's).

3. I was told at her IEP meeting when she had just turned 16 that they were going to modify her program so that she could get her diploma she would just have to attend until she was 19.

That was a lie. So I want to know.... what the hell kind of future have these people given my child. For god's sake she went from having trouble reading to never graduating and working menial jobs that will never allow her to support a family or even herself for that matter.

What good is an IEP and will my child EVER have a future?

I live in MA. Mt child has had an IEP since ahe was 3, now 12, I asked during thr IEP review if anyone has diagnosed her with a certain learning disability and asked if possibly she could have dyslexia, (mt Father and her Father both have it), one stated " sure why not", so I called to ask if she indeed has dyslexia,( she still has a BIG problem with reading) and I was told that she has it but MA does NOT see Dyslexia as a diagnosis so they cant put that in there. I don't believe them and need some help on what to do. She is NOT getting the education she should. I asked if they would tutor her, they told me to get an Honor student from the high school. I said but they aren't able to teach a child with a learning disability that we don't even know what she has!

Last year they told me that a lap top would help her, so my whole family pitched in to get her one, I was recently told the school should have paid for it.

Also she should be in 6th grade, (we kept her back again for 5th, ( we tried to keep her back in 3rd and were told no).

I am having serious issues and have been r\trying to save for an Advocate. Can ANYONE help me???

I live in MA and that is a complete fabrication. My son has ADHD and a SLD, dyscalulia. What city are you in? I’m in Beverly

Because you don't agree with the school who removed your daughter from the IEP, I suggest you to request one IEE ( Independent Educational Evaluation) usually that evaluation is made by a professional who doesn't work at the school that attends your kid. The school is suppose pay for that evaluation. Search at Google about IEE and Law. I think that IEE will help you.

It's so discouraging to have to convince the school that your IEP child needs services to help him, which is the law in the US. US Dept of Education states that all students have to be provided with help, services and placement in the school environment. Don't buy the schools bull, fight for your child, you have law behind you. The only reason some schools still break that law is because no one sue them yet. If the lawyers report this rejection of services to the US Dept of Education, the schools will be forced to accommodate or they would be shut down!

How do we get an iep if our child's home schooled? She can't attend a regular school due to her schizophrenia and other psychosis issues. Her doctor and psychiatrist suggested homeschool. I've home schooled her for the past few years, but I would like her to try to go to this lighthouse academy. I would like to see her learning to socialize with other kids. But the school requires an iep. Which you get from school. The doctor and psychiatrist has an individual plan for her but not a plan for education. I've asked my homeschool friends but they are unsure. Any suggestions may help.

After the student turns 18 and is using an IEP, do they have a right to gain employment or can the parents with guardianship stop it? The idea of IEP is to help your child learn and hopefully live on their own and get a job. They wouldn't expect you to spend 3 years of their time if they weren't trying to get a job would think..

Oh no honey it's the law they have to take him !!! That's why they have IEP and they can go to school up until they are 21 fight for your rights

I have a question about IEP as a concerned grandparent.  Our grandson was supposed to have graduated last May, but did not pass.  He wanted to go to a school in our area, but the school will not take him. Don't know if it is because of his IEP or because he is already 18.  Any one have any idea?

the school just volunteered me  

My Child has had an IEP since she was in Third grade and the only reason we were able to get the IEP in place is because we were in the Military. I had tried since she started school and they kept telling me that there is nothing we can do she even repeated a grade because of it. When we entered the military the schools on base helped get everything together even the testing. She has now been on her IEP for seven years now. We recently left the military and live in Alabama. When we enrolled her into the school system here they had to reevaluate her IEP as it is different in every State so we did that and at the meeting after the evaluations they informed us that she no longer needed an IEP and they were taking her out of the program. As a mother who fought and sees how much my child struggles I was floored to hear them say this and did not agree with the decision they made. I also called the school board and complained and wrote a letter as to why I did not agree and that there findings were wrong. The school systems only do the basic testing so it is easy to fall threw the cracks. We are now in the process of trying to get her back on an IEP as she is struggling and failing her classes. My suggestion as a parent that has been dealing with this for a long time. Get outside help with your Child's IEP. Go threw your DR. Office and see a Psychologist to get IQ test and learning test to see where your child is academically and mentally. The schools can turn down an IEP that they put in place but only a DR. can turn down an IEP that has been placed outside of the school system. Always go to your IEP meetings and do not ever agree with the school if you think they are wrong. School systems these days don't look out for the kids like they use to and will drop your child IEP just because they don't want to hire extra teachers or accommodate the Childs disability. 

This program will be held against your child by the Military. Parents think twice. Seek private outside help for your child. This is not help. It is a hindrance in their adult life.

Know of many adults who - as adult students and workplace employees said that IEP put them at a huge disadvantage with post secondary programs. Program is not as  specialized as described. I've heard this complaint too many times. Most complained that they were not taught to deal with deadlines, stress and team work. Hope this helps some.

good i love it very much

I have Identical Twin boys. I had to fight the school to get them on an I.E.P.. Lots of testing from outside sources. They were diagnosed with A.D.H.D. and Aspergers. Also told they have Dysgraphia (due to writing problems). 4 weeks ago the Spec. Ed. teacher said they were doing so good, they needed to take art or music and get rid of one of their Academic Support blocks. They did. Now I am told that in that 4 week time, they are both failing 2 classes. one being music. The vice-principal has now put them on a 5 week probation until they bring up their marks. The Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education told me to call a meeting and let the school know they can NOT do this. Went to meeting yesterday and more-or-less the vice-principal said she can do what ever she wants. CAN SHE??? My boys now want to quit school in 6th grade.

Does an IEP cover a medical condition? I was advised to file a 504 on top of already having his IEP
my child has been on an IEP since 1st grade. Last year we were told that she should not ON an IEP. Her IEP plan has not been followed they have her in classes she should not be in. She was not given the assistance she needed to take the CHASEE testing I am so tired of trying to explain my daughters disability its frustrating.. Please help she will be turning 18 and graduating for high school in June 2014
Can the IEP Faculty keep a child with dyslexia out of band? this child has double classes and they say that they can't be allowed in band. Is that legal?
I found a wonderful website for Child Advocate help: AdvocateCenterForChildren.org