Understanding the Special Education System
Children Over Three
Individual Education Plans (IEP)
The purpose of an Individual Education Plan according to the Individual with Disabilities Education Act known as IDEA is to “ensure that all children with disabilities [including autism] have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasize special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for employment and independent living.” (IDEA, 20 U.S.C. 1400(d)(1)
An Individual Education Plan is a written document that establishes appropriate educational goals for your child and prescribes the appropriate services designed to help reach his or her goals. An IEP is developed by a team of people including the parents of the disabled child. The sole purpose of an IEP development meeting is to make decisions for the good of the individual with exceptional needs.
The IEP requirements under Part B of the IDEA emphasize the importance of three core concepts: (1) the involvement and progress of each child with a disability in the general curriculum including addressing the unique needs that arise out of the child's disability; (2) the involvement of parents and students, together with regular and special education personnel, in making individual decisions to support each student's (child's) educational success, and (3) the preparation of students with disabilities for employment and other post-school activities.
What Information is in Your Child's IEP?
Your child's IEP will contain the following statements:
- Present levels of educational performance. This statement describes how your child is currently doing in school. This includes how your child's disability affects his or her involvement and progress in the general curriculum.
- Annual goals. The IEP must state annual goals for your child, meaning what you and the school team think he or she can reasonably accomplish in a year. This statement of annual goals includes individual steps that make up the goals (often called short-term objectives) or major milestones (often called benchmarks). The goals must relate to meeting the needs that result from your child's disability. They must also help your son or daughter be involved in and progress in the general curriculum.
- Special education and related services to be provided. The IEP must list the special education and related services to be provided to your child. This includes supplementary aids and services (such as a communication device). It also includes changes to the program or supports for school personnel that will be provided for your child.
- Participation with nondisabled children. How much of the school day will your child be educated separately from nondisabled children or not participate in extracurricular or other nonacademic activities such as lunch or clubs? The IEP must include an explanation that answers this question.
- Participation in state and district-wide assessments. Your state and district probably give tests of student achievement to children in certain grades or age groups. In order to participate in these tests, your child may need individual modifications or changes in how the tests are administered. The IEP team must decide what modifications your child needs and list them in the IEP. If your child will not be taking these tests, the IEP must include a statement as to why the tests are not appropriate for your child and how your child will be tested instead.
- Dates and location. The IEP must state (a) when services and modifications will begin; (b) how often they will be provided; (c) where they will be provided; and (d) how long they will last.
- Transition service needs. If your child is age 14 (or younger, if the IEP team determines it appropriate), the IEP must include a statement of his or her transition service needs.
- Transition planning will help your child move through school from grade to grade. Transition services. If your child is age 16 (or younger, if determined appropriate by the IEP team), the IEP must include a statement of needed transition services and, if appropriate, a statement of the interagency responsibilities or any needed linkages.
- Measuring progress. The IEP must state how school personnel will measure your child's progress toward the annual goals. It must also state how you, as parents, will be informed regularly of your child's progress and whether that progress is enough to enable your child to achieve his or her goals by the end of the year.