Understanding an IEP

If your child qualifies for special education services through your public schools, the district is required to provide an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This important document serves as a roadmap that will spell out the specific special education services you and your child can expect for as long as the child remains in the public school system.

IEPs are not required in private schools or at the college level, though most of these have their own formal systems for accommodating special-needs students. But for students in K-12 public schools, including charter schools, the IEP works almost like a contract, outlining the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved in the child’s education. The overall goal: to ensure that special-needs students receive as much individualized attention as they need to succeed in school.

Although an IEP follows a standardized format, its contents are customized for your child’s needs based on an evaluation that documents the need for specialized educational services. The IEP contains several sections, including:

  • Information about the child: name, birthdate, grade level, and other relevant details, along with a review of the child’s current academic performance level.

  • Information about the team who will work to help the child get the most benefit in school: names and contact info for the child’s parents, along with teachers, administrators and other resources.

  • Annual goals: specific achievable performance measures for the child, taking challenges and abilities into account.

  • Progress reporting: spells out exactly how the child’s progress toward milestones will be measured.

  • Services: details  the specific services the child qualifies for, and where and how long the child will receive the services.

  • Supplementary services: lists how the school will accommodate the child’s challenges, including which assistive technologies will be available. Also details how expectations for the child will compare with those that apply to the general student population.

  • Participation: explains how the child will be included in general education and what accommodations the school will deploy to help level the playing field for the child.

The IEP is an important document that you, your child and the education team will refer to and update periodically throughout the child’s education journey. It’s a collaborative effort. Parents are encouraged to play an active ongoing role—not only in creating the initial IEP but also in updating the plan over time.

IEPs are provided free of charge to families of children who qualify for special education services. For more information on getting your child evaluated for conditions that trigger special education services, contact us at 904.346.5100. Or better yet, schedule a tour of Hope Haven.