Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Discovering new friends at the Topeka 2011 FEW.

Discovering new friends at the Topeka 2011 FEW.

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is defined as a written statement for each student with an exceptionality which describes that child’s educational program and is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with special education laws and regulations. The team that develops the IEP includes parents, school professionals, the student (when appropriate), and personnel from other agencies as appropriate (when addressing transition).

Each IEP must be developed with careful consideration of the individual child’s capabilities, strengths, needs, and interests. The IEP should direct the child toward high expectations and toward becoming a member of his or her community and the workforce. It should function as the tool that directs and guides the development of meaningful educational experiences, thereby helping the child learn skills that will help them achieve his or her goals. In short, it should assist the child in meeting the goals and challenging standards of our educational system as well as identified postsecondary goals.

Kansas State Department of Education Process Handbook Parents Rights Chapter 4

IEPs Should Focus on Unique Needs, Not Labels

A child who has multiple diagnoses, including Down Syndrome and Autism. The school district identified the student as Other Health Impaired, but the IEP did not make sufficient mention of the student’s Autism diagnosis, in the parents’ opinion. The IEP did, however, describe the student’s strengths and weaknesses, current functioning, and an educational program that provided educational benefit for the student. Nevertheless, the parents sought due process, alleging that the IEP was deficient because it did not adequately describe the student’s autism. The parents argued that the IEP was necessarily deficient because appropriate planning was impossible without fully and adequately acknowledging the student’s Autism. In turn, the school district argued that, although the IEP did not emphasize the student’s Autism, the services described in the IEP were appropriate for the student, given her unique needs.

A federal appellate court agreed with the school district. The court noted that the IEP, totaling 31 pages with a two-page behavior intervention plan, accurately described the student’s needs and provided a “tremendous” amount of resources and support for her. Moreover, the school district was able to show that the student had made progress through the educational plan. Finally, the court noted that, no matter what label the student had received, there was no evidence that his actual educational programming would have been affected. The case is Fort Osage R-1 School District v. Sims, 641 F.3d 996 (8th Cir. 2011).

This case serves as a useful reminder about the essential purpose of an IEP: crafting an educational plan that will benefit a disabled student. Often, IEP teams can become focused on labels. But no two children are alike, and no two children will manifest a disability in exactly the same way. Instead, focus on the individual child and her unique needs so you can craft an IEP based on substance, not labels.

This article ties into key IDEA regulation – evaluations are to be “sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the child’s special education and related services needs, whether or not commonly linked to the disability category in which the child has been classified.” 300.304(c)(6)


National Resources

25 Parent Tips for More Effective IEP Meetings

How Will I Know If My Child is Making Progress

IDEA Regulations: Individualized Education Program (IEP), Team Meetings and Changes to the IEP

IDEA Regulations: Individualized Education Program

IEPs for Students with Behavior Problems

Q and A: Questions and Answers On Individualized Education Programs (IEP’s), Evaluations and Reevaluations

All About the IEP

Annual Goals Checklist

Art and the IEP

Attending Meetings to Plan Your Child’s Individualized

Checklists & Worksheets

Contents of the IEP

Developing Your Child’s IEP

Facilitated IEP Meetings

Helping Students Develop Their IEPs

IDEA 2004: IEP Team Members & IEP Team Attendance

IEP and Inclusion Tips for Parents and Teachers

The IEP Must Contain

IEP Pop-Up Tool

IEP & 504

IEP Checklist for Parents

IEP Review Checklist

Laws Related to Special Education

Motor Behavior Goals and Objectives

The Pediatrician’s Role in Development & Implementation of an IEP

Individual Education Plan (IEP) and/or an Individual Family

A Lesson in Writing IEP Goals Service Plan (IFSP)

May a member be excused from an IEP meeting?

Parent Toolkit: IEP Basics for Parents of Students with LD

Parental Rights to Participate in Meetings

Present Levels of Performance Checklist

Preparing for IEP Meetings

Progress Monitoring Procedures

Related Services

Research Student Led IEPs & Self-Determination

Short Term Objectives and Benchmarks Checklist

Starter Set of Resources on LRE

Student Led Individualized Education Plans

Student Directed IEPs

Understanding the Standards-Based IEP

What is an IEP? 

Writing Individualized Education Programs for Success

Writing IEP Goals