How to get an IEP

The process of getting an IEP begins with an evaluation for special education. It ends with a written plan for services and supports. Learn more about the steps in this guide.

By The Understood Team

Expert reviewed by Kate García, MEd

Updated January 11, 2024

The more you know about how to get an and how it’s put into place, the more active a role you can take in the process. Keep reading to learn about the steps to getting an IEP and starting your child’s program.

Getting the IEP process started

Many parents wonder how to request an IEP from their school. You actually don’t need to request an IEP. But you do need to ask to have your child evaluated by the school, for free. You can also pay for a private evaluation.

Sometimes the school will start the IEP process, and not you. They may suggest that your child be evaluated. But they can’t evaluate your child without your consent.

Determining IEP eligibility

Once your child has been evaluated and testing results are in, the school has to determine if your child is eligible for an IEP. To do this, they have to answer two questions:

  1. Does your child have one or more of the 13 conditions covered under the special education law IDEA?
  2. Does your child need services and to succeed at school?

The IEP team decides if your child qualifies for an IEP at an “eligibility meeting.” You’ll be at that meeting as part of the team. School professionals like a speech-language therapist or an occupational therapist might be there too.

If the school finds that your child is eligible, together you’ll start creating the IEP. And if your child doesn’t qualify for an IEP, there are steps you can take.

Weighing options if your child isn’t eligible for an IEP

Sometimes, a school finds that a student is not eligible for special education services. If this happens, you have a few options and legal rights.

One thing you can do is request a for your child. Like an IEP, this plan would provide accommodations or other supports that give your child access to learning.

You can also look into getting an (IEE). Professionals outside of the school do this kind of evaluation.

There are also measures you can take to dispute the school’s findings, like mediation. Or you can file a due process complaint.

Download: Chart showing how kids get IEPs

Use this visual guide to see how kids meet eligibility requirements for special education.

IEP roadmap: How kids gets special educationPDF - 117.0 KB

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Next steps if your child is eligible for an IEP

If the school finds your child eligible for an IEP, there’s nothing you need to do to get the IEP ball rolling. That will happen automatically and quickly — within 30 days. Under IDEA, you have the right to take part in every step of the IEP process. So you’ll be part of the IEP team that creates and oversees your child’s IEP.

Make sure you know what’s in an IEP so you can advocate for your child. And learn what happens at an IEP meeting so you can prepare. You can also connect with experts and other parents to find out how they’ve navigated the process on Understood’s Wunder app.

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