Individualized Education Program (IEP)

“The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children”
(Department of Education website, 2022)

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) is a federal law that defines and regulates special education.  It is a requirement that all public schools provide a continuum of services to children 3 to 21 who meet certain eligibility.  Special education refers to the services and setting where learning will happen for students who have a documented disability in one of 13 categories covered by IDEA and need special education services to access and the general education curriculum.

IEP Process

Every child who receives special education services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP is a written statement of the educational program designed to meet the child’s learning needs.  The purpose of the IEP is to set reasonable learning goals for the child and to state the services and settings that learning will take place.  It is a legal contract between the school district and parents. If your child’s teacher, other interested party or you suspect that your child may be eligible for special education services, it is helpful to know what to expect and where to begin. There are 10 Basic Steps of the IEP Process.  Outlined below is the special education process and brief descriptions of its elements.

Step 1. Child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services

A child is usually referred to professionals for review and diagnosis after being referred by a parent or teacher. Another method used to determine special needs children is the Child Find program. This program is used by educators in every state.  School districts must respond to the request within 10 days whether they are going to evaluate or not.

Step 2. Child is evaluated

The evaluation stage is very important and is intended to determine whether children:

  • Have a disability that would necessitate assistance through a special education program
  • Have any needs requiring special education instruction
  • Require any type of special education assistance

Parents uncomfortable or in disagreement with their child’s diagnosis can request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). School districts often cover the costs of these evaluations.

Step 3. Eligibility is decided

After a child is evaluated, the educational team which includes the parents and other professionals review results to decide whether the child requires special education services. Parents can always seek a re-evaluation if the results are not conclusive.

Step 4. Child is found eligible for services

When a child is diagnosed with a disability, they can enroll in a special education program. Within 30 calendar days of a diagnosis, the educational team must prepare an Individual Education Program (IEP) to aid that child diagnosed with disability.

Step 5. IEP meeting is scheduled

Schools are responsible for setting up and administering IEPs. They are also responsible for sending out Prior Written Notice (PWN) to parents that includes the following information:

  • Contacting the parents within a reasonable amount of time in advance of an IEP meeting, so they can be present
  • Scheduling the IEP meeting at a time and location convenient for parents;
  • The purpose of the IEP meeting;
  • Notifying the parents of all educators and other professionals (psychologists, OT’s PT’s Social Workers, etc) who will be present at the meeting.

Step 6. IEP meeting is held, and the IEP is written

During the IEP meeting, the effects of the child’s disability on his/her learning process are discussed.  Special education and related services are also discussed and outlined in the IEP.   In most meetings, parents and their children attend and participate. Whenever a group outside the school makes a decision for a child’s IEP, parents are invited to their meetings. After IEPs are developed, parents must agree to the placement and any special services their child will receive. Once the team agrees with the IEP, the IEP goes into effect.  School districts are responsible for overseeing the implementation of the IEP.

Parents disagreeing with IEPs can always discuss the issues they have with educators and others involved in the process. When compromises cannot be reached, parents can request mediation.

Step 7. After the IEP is written, services are provided

Once the IEP is finalized and signed off on by parents, schools are responsible for the implementation of the IEP.  General education and special education teachers use this plan as a blueprint for teaching a child with a disability.  Related service professionals (Speech Pathologists, Occupational and Physical Therapists, etc.) also follow the IEP to help support the child in their ability to learn.

Step 8. Progress is measured and reported to parents

Special educators and related services personnel closely monitor students, gather data and document progress made on the student’s goals and benchmarks. Parents receive updates about the progress made by their children. Progress reports are usually given to parents at the same intervals as grade reports for other children enrolled in the school.

Step 9. IEP is reviewed

IEPs are reviewed by educators annually or whenever parents request a review. When it’s required, educators and parents can make alterations to IEPs. Parents are permitted to make recommendations for IEP modifications and appeal any disagreements they have with plan revisions and discuss possible compromises with educators. Parents can also request more testing, review by an independent committee, and seek additional alterations whenever they disagree with an IEP. If necessary, parents can submit a complaint with the appropriate government agencies. These agencies are administered at the state level.

Step 10. Child is reevaluated

Special education students are re-evaluated every 3 years, unless the team decides that a re-evaluation is not necessary.  Re-evaluations are conducted to determine growth and continued eligibility for special education and related services.

How may K Altman Law help in matters pertaining to special education?

K Altman Law has a team of special education advocates who are ready to help parents/guardians navigate the waters of special education.  These advocates have decades of combined experience and training as special education teachers, related services personnel and administrators.

Contact K Altman Law to schedule a consultation on matters related to special education

If at any time you question the special education process, or your child is not receiving the special education and/or related services agreed upon, or the school district is not following procedures and adhering to deadlines that impact your child’s educational progress, schedule a consultation with K Altman Law today by contacting us at 888-984-1341 or

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