5 common misconceptions about IEPs

Federal law defines what an (IEP) is, but the details can be tricky. Here are five common misconceptions — and the facts about each.

Myth #1: Every child who struggles is guaranteed an IEP.

Fact: To qualify for services (and an IEP), students must meet two criteria. First, they must be formally diagnosed as having a disability. This is defined under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This federal law covers 13 categories of disability. One of these is “specific learning disabilities.” Second, the school must determine that the student needs special education services in order to make progress in school and learn the . Not all students with disabilities meet both criteria. Learn more about the process of getting an IEP with our IEP Roadmap.

Myth #2: If something is in the IEP, the school will make it happen.

Fact: The IEP is a legal contract. The school is required to provide the services and supports it promises for your child. But teachers and administrators are busy — and human. Sometimes details are overlooked or forgotten. Part of your role as your child’s advocate is to make sure your child is getting the services and outlined in the IEP. Monitor your child’s schoolwork, test scores, and attitude toward school. If things seem off track, meet with the teacher to discuss the situation. You can also request an IEP team meeting to talk about your concerns and find possible solutions. Explore other ways you can assess whether your child’s IEP is being followed.

Myth #3: An IEP will provide services and supports for your child beyond high school.

Fact: The IEP (and the services it guarantees) will end when the student graduates from high school. Special education doesn’t extend to college or the workplace. The IEP team is required to work with the student to create a transition plan as part of the IEP. This plan focuses on future goals and helps the student prepare for young adulthood.

Myth #4: Having an IEP means your child will be placed in a special education classroom.

Fact: Federal law requires that children with IEPs be placed in the least restrictive environment. This means students should spend as little time as possible outside the general education classroom. The IEP may specify services and accommodations your child needs to succeed in the general education class. If students spend time in a “resource room” or special education class, that will be listed in the IEP.

Myth #5: The IEP is written by the school, then explained to the parents.

Fact: According to federal law (IDEA), parents are full and equal members of their child’s IEP team. You have a say in how your child’s IEP is crafted. Even if you’re not an expert on special education, you are an expert when it comes to understanding your child’s needs. Your knowledge of your child’s development, strengths and challenges, home life, and activities outside of school are valuable for developing the IEP.

About the author

About the author

Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education, and consumer health/wellness.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Andrew Kahn, PsyD is a licensed psychologist who focuses on ADHD, learning differences, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, behavior challenges, executive function, and emotional regulation.


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