What is an IEP?

toddler in red shoes

This is a post from “News Moms Need” related to delays and disabilities and how to help your child. It is published through the March of Dimes.

I find “News Moms Need” a wonderful resource for moms and parents in general…I hope that you do too and pass it on to your friends.



What is an IEP?


An IEP is short for “Individualized Education Program.” It is both a process and a written educational plan for a child with a disability. It is a document that lists all of the educational services that your child will receive, if he qualifies. In a prior post I told you all about the IFSP (for babies and toddlers). Well, the IEP is a similar document but it is for children ages 3 – 21.

The IEP is supposed to be just what it says – INDIVIDUALIZED, which means that it is specific for your child’s needs. It is not one size fits all. It is also supposed to be EDUCATIONAL, which means it should look at three main areas of your child’s life:  the general education curriculum, extracurricular activities and nonacademic activities. Lastly, it is a PROGRAM or PLAN, where all of the services your child will receive are laid out and detailed in writing.

In a sense, the IEP is like a roadmap. It shows you where you are now, where you plan to go, and the roads that you will take to get there. It sounds simple, but it is actually more challenging to write and put together than you might think. This post is just a quick overview to help you understand the basics.

Who gets an IEP?

In prior posts, I explained how to have your child (from birth to age 3 or ages 3 – 21) evaluated for free if you suspect that he has a developmental delay or problem. Once the team (evaluators, school officials and parents) has met and discussed the results of the testing, you will learn if your child is considered eligible for services (if he fits one or more of the categories of disability.) If your child is eligible, the team will develop an educational program (the IEP), that will be specific for your child’s needs.

What’s in an IEP?

The IEP may include special education, related services and/or supplementary aids and services. The IEP is first based on your child’s “present levels” which is a snapshot of your child’s current level of academic and functional performance. In other words…what he is able to do now as compared to his non-disabled peers. Then, based on his present levels and his delay or disability, the IEP sets measurable annual goals. The goals should specify:

• Who will provide the service (eg. the regular ed teacher, special ed teacher, reading specialist, physical therapist, etc.).

• What kind of service will be provided, such as curriculum modifications or adaptations, the types of related services or aids- (eg. specialized reading curriculum, speech therapy etc.).

• Where the service will be implemented (eg. the regular ed classroom, playground, counselor’s office, etc.).

• When parents will receive reports on how well your child is doing. By law, you need to receive progress reports at least as often as children without disabilities. Often a school system will send home the IEP progress reports when Report Cards are sent home for all children.

• When the goal will be achieved (eg. by the end of the marking period or by the end of the year).

• How the goal will be measured and how you will know the goal has been achieved (eg. a benchmark, such as a test score that shows if the goal has been reached).

An IEP is a living document that can be changed or updated by the IEP team, of which parents are members! It must be reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, but it can be reviewed and updated more often if necessary.

Where can you get more help with IEPs?

A great place to go to understand your options, how to prepare for IEP meetings, and to understand the process of creating a great IEP is on NICHCY’s website. In particular, they provide guidance on how an IEP team can write effective goals. NICHCY also refers parents to Wrightslaw – one of my favorite resources for parents. They go into even greater detail which will help you with every aspect of the process.

Why should you learn about IEPs?

The more you know about the law and the special education process, the better you can help your child. Knowledge is powerful!  If your child has a delay or disability, be sure to check out NICHCY’s and Wrightslaw’s information (above). It will help you understand the process to become a more effective advocate for your child and to feel more in control of your journey.


Have questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.


Note: This post is part of the new weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Tags: child, delays, developmental delays, disabilities, early intervention, Help for your child, IEP, IFSP, related services, school, special education, supplementary aids and services

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via News Moms Need » Blog Archive » What is an IEP?.

Week in Review…ParentingintheLoop!

Calm before the “Perfect Storm”

As my friends and family on the East coast get ready for yet another “Perfect Storm” now known as “Frankenstorm”, I am concerned for all of them. Here are some helpful tips on how to get ready if you are a mom or mom to be. The March of Dimes has a list for you from News Moms Need.

Halloween is coming and so, apparently, is a storm to match The Perfect Storm. Radio and TV weather reports have hurricane Sandy set to impact millions of lives all along the east coast of the U.S. Are you ready? Are you taking precautions should your basement flood or you lose power for several days?


Kids Apps

This past week I attended a parent meeting at our school which was a discussion on screen time and media time and kids. Since then I have noticed a few bloggers talking about the same topic. Where exactly do you stand on how much is too much screen time for your kids?

Many parents feel that screens have taken over their family’s lives. While few could argue about the benefits digital devices offer, as parents, it’s important that we establish guidelines for their use so they remain tools, rather than a source of endless distraction from real life.

Lisa Belkin, one of my favorite writers at Huffington Post, also wrote about her love of technology this week.
Personally, I do not feel that she has failed her children…in addition, I think that her love of technology has helped so many families with her timely discussions… this post being one that discusses how her work has influenced her family. Thank you Lisa, for sharing yourself as a mom and a writer!

Thumb sucking…

Thumb sucking!


Thumb sucking

Lots of babies suck their thumb or fingers. It is part of the normal reflex infants have to root for food. As a survival technique, the sucking urge is strongest in the first three months of life. After the age of six months or so, it has more of a calming influence and helps relieve stress. If your little one sucks his thumb or fingers, especially when he’s tired, don’t get upset – it’s normal.

via News Moms Need » Blog Archive » Thumb sucking.

Jogging stroller recall….

Another recall…

“B.O.B. Trailers, Inc. has recalled about 337,000 B.O.B.® single and double strollers. A drawstring on the stroller can get wrapped around a child’s neck, posing a strangulation hazard. The recall involves eleven different models. They were sold at REI, buy buy Baby and other stores nationwide and on the Web at Babiesrus.com, Target.com and Amazon.com between April 2002 and February 2011. Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled strollers and remove the drawstring. If using a separately purchased Weather Shield or Sun Shield accessory with the recalled stroller, contact B.O.B. Trailers for a free canopy retro

via News Moms Need » Blog Archive » Jogging stroller recall.”

Night Light Recall…


Night light recall

“Have you got a night light in your child’s room or the bathroom? Check it. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and American Tack & Hardware Company are recalling 261,000 LED night lights. An electrical short circuit in the night light can cause it to overheat and smolder or melt, which can burn consumers or result in fire.”

via News Moms Need » Blog Archive » Night light recall.