Has your child already been evaluated? Are you waiting for the results? Depending on where you are in the process, you might want to go back to earlier steps in our IEP journey:
It can help to remember that once the IEP is put into place, your child will be able to get help that can pave the way to success at school.
Learn about key elements of an IEP, and how the school will create a plan that meets your child’s unique needs.
How your child’s first IEP is created
The IEP team will use the results of your child’s evaluation testing to design the plan. The scores show the specific areas your child struggles with. Having that information allows the IEP team to provide the individualized instruction and supports your child needs.
One of the biggest decisions the team makes when creating an IEP is what type of learning environment your child will be in. Schools are required to place students with IEPs in the least restrictive environment. Most kids with IEPs spend the majority of their day in class with their peers. This is called an inclusion classroom, or a general education classroom that includes students who receive special education.
What’s in an IEP
There are many terms in an IEP (and in the entire IEP process) that will likely be new to you at the start of your journey. Just know that you can go to the IEP team at any time with questions about terms or concepts in the IEP.
- See what an IEP includes. Explore this handy visual of the anatomy of an IEP.
Here are some of the things the IEP will include:
The annual goals set for your child are a key element of the IEP. The IEP gives a target for improvement in the skills your child struggles with. Read on for more information on IEP goals. You can also:
Spotlight on IEP goals
IEP goals set the bar for your child’s level of improvement for the year. The purpose is to chart how much progress your child is making with the services and supports being provided. IEP goals should be SMART — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound.
In traditional IEPs, goals aren’t related to what other kids at that grade level are achieving. So, a child can meet the goals in the IEP, but still not be performing at grade level.
Some states now use standards-based IEPs. With these plans, goals are based on academic state standards. A child’s improvement is measured against what other kids are doing at that grade level. The purpose is to help close the achievement gap.
Ideally, your child’s IEPs will be strengths-based. This means the annual goals look at your child’s strengths and then find ways to use those abilities to work on weaknesses. This approach isn’t widely used yet, but you can always ask the IEP team to consider your child’s strengths when setting goals.
Look ahead to how you can track your child’s goals with an IEP goal tracker. You can also:
If you disagree with what’s in your child’s IEP
Your role in creating your child’s IEP doesn’t stop once the plan is done. In fact, it’s very important that you go over the IEP carefully and make sure it has everything it should have, and that you agree with what the school has proposed. Learn what to double-check in your child’s IEP.
You may be reluctant to disagree with the team about your child’s IEP. But it’s a fairly common situation — for both parents and schools.
- Read what happened when one mom declined an IEP after years of accepting them.
- See how one parent handled it when she thought her young son was being held to a higher standard than other kids.
- Read how one school specialist felt when she and a child’s parents didn’t see eye to eye on an IEP.
Preparing for what’s next
Once the document is created, you’ll go over it with the IEP team. Assuming you’re all in agreement, the plan will be put into place and your child will start getting the services and supports in the IEP.
Here are the next steps in the IEP journey:
Tell us what interests you
About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Melody Musgrove, EdD served as director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the U.S. Department of Education.