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What is an IEP?

By The Understood Team

When kids struggle in school, you may hear about something called an IEP. What is an IEP? IEP is an acronym that stands for Individualized Education Program. Some people may refer to it as an Individualized Education Plan.

There’s a lot to know about IEPs and how they support kids who learn and think differently. Understanding IEP basics can help you make decisions about seeking an IEP.

What is an IEP?

An IEP is more than just a written legal document (or “plan”). It’s a map that lays out the program of instruction, supports, and services kids need to make progress and thrive in school.

Each program is designed to meet a student’s unique needs. The term IEP is also used to refer to the written plan that spells out the specific types of help kids will get. Both the program and the written plan are covered by special education law, or the (IDEA).

Who gets IEPs

IEPs are a part of public education. They’re given to eligible kids who attend public school. That includes charter schools.

Private schools don’t offer IEPs. But students in private school may be able to get special education through what’s known as a service plan (also called an Individual Services Plan).

Even before they attend school, babies and toddlers can get services through . Once kids turn 3, they can get an IEP through their local public school district.

There are no IEPs in college. But eligible students often can still get accommodations through college disability services.

IEPs vs. 504 plans

Some students get support at school under a , rather than an IEP. Both can provide supports like and . But a 504 plan isn’t part of special education. It serves a different purpose than an IEP.

The benefits of an IEP

There are many benefits to getting an IEP. The process begins with a full evaluation that shows a student’s strengths and challenges. The results let families and schools create a program of services and supports tailored to meet the student’s needs. (Read more about the benefits of getting kids evaluated.)

With an IEP, kids get individualized instruction that focuses on improving specific skills. But there are other types of help that can also be included in an IEP.

Kids might get accommodations, like extended time on tests, or related services, like speech-language therapy. Assistive technology (AT) is another type of support that can be part of an IEP. Learn about AT that can help kids with reading, writing, and math.

Having an IEP gives students, families, and schools certain legal protections. It lets families be involved in decisions that impact their child’s education. It also gives students rights when it comes to school discipline.

All of these factors can boost kids’ self-esteem, help them build skills, and help them thrive at school.

One of the best ways to understand the benefits of IEPs is to hear from others who’ve been there. Explore these IEP personal stories.

Looking ahead

Understanding IEP basics is just the first step in helping kids thrive in school and beyond. Learn about the difference between IEP meetings and parent-teacher conferences. And learn what teachers should expect in an IEP meeting.

If you decide to seek an IEP, here are next steps for both families and schools:

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special education

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

early intervention

504 plan

accommodations

assistive technology

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Share What is an IEP?

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom