You made it through your first IEP meeting. Phew! While it is definitely not the intention of any school team, participating in an IEP meeting is overwhelming for most parents. These meetings can feel like a whirlwind, with numerous professionals sharing loads of information and making recommendations using language that is unfamiliar to you. For some parents, it might even feel as though they have spent more than an hour sitting across the table from a sea of specialists all speaking like the teacher from Charlie Brown.
Thankfully, there is a legal document, the IEP, that you receive in the mail after the meeting that includes everything that has been discussed and your child’s new program. When the hefty envelope containing the IEP arrives it can be intimidating. Unfortunately, this document is often filled with professional jargon and legal lingo and the process of understanding what it all means can be a daunting process.
While the IEP in every state looks a little bit different, each one must contain the same elements. Each section of the IEP has a distinct purpose. Below you will find specifics about each of the main sections which will assist you in better understanding this immense document.
Individualized Education Plan
Demographics: This is usually on the first page of the IEP and has information including your child’s name, and date of birth, the date of meeting, the school district, your child’s school, as well as a list of participants in the meeting.
Eligibility: This is a statement which acknowledges that your child is or is not eligible for special education, as well as the primary disability. If there is more than one documented disability, t is the job if the IEP team to determine which disability most impacts your child’s education.
Meeting Minutes: This is a summary and documentation of the IEP meeting. It typically includes the discussion and events of the meeting. It also includes issues considered by the participants, and responses and decisions made.
Present Level of Performance: This is information about your child’s current performance in school. It considers all areas, including, academic, cognitive, behavior, social emotional, communication, health and development (including vision/hearing), fine and gross motor, and activities of daily living. This section is broken down into strengths, concerns and needs, and impact of the disability on his or her performance in class. Any item that has a concern or need should have a goal attached and vice versa.
Annual Goals: Goals are what the child is expected to do or learn within a 12-month period. They are generally more broad. See my article on SMART goals.
Objectives: Objectives can be written in two different ways, depending on the school team. They are either the small steps over time needed to get reach the annual goal or more more specific areas within the goal that are being targeted.
Measurement: Each IEP must contain a description of how progress toward meeting the annual goals and objectives will be measured. The precise procedure for assessing progress, as well as criteria for mastery must be specific. For example, data collection, spelling tests, writing samples, etc…
Progress: At certain intervals, the school must provide you with information about how your child is progressing towards the goals and objectives. This can be very specific details about how the child is doing towards meeting each goal/objective, but sometimes it is provided in a more general way. For some parents general is acceptable, while others like very specific data shared. Make known your needs right away at the IEP meeting.
Service Schedule: This outlines exactly what services will be delivered, the amount of time per session, the number of sessions per week and the location that the services will be delivered. Sometimes the services are delivered in a special education/resource room and other times they are provided within the mainstream classroom. Often it is broken down into special education and related services. Related services are speech, OT, PT, psychological services etc… In some cases speech can be the special education service if there are not TOD or SPED services included in the IEP.
Accommodations and Modifications: This section includes accommodations and modifications that are required to “level the playing field”. They include materials, books and equipment, supports required for assessment, modification to grading, assistance needed with organization, adaptations to the environment, behavioral interventions and supports, and instructional strategies. Accommodations for district and state assessments are also included.
Supplementary Aids and Services: These are additional services and supports to the child which are not direct contact. For example, note taker, C-Print captionist, inservice training, consultation to staff.
Participation: This section lists the exact amount of time the child will spend in regular education vs. special education.
Transition Services: This is for students, once they reach age 16. The transition plan documents plans for the student after high school. It then includes goals and activities in the IEP that will prepare the student for life after graduation. This can be whether the student attends post secondary school, vocational programs, seeks employment, or with regard to independent living.