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What is an IEP? A Student Individual Program/Plan

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The Individual Education Program/Plan (IEP) Simply put, an IEP is a written plan that will describe the program(s) and special services the student requires to be successful. It is a plan that ensures that proper programming is in place to help the student with special needs to be successful at school. It is a working document that will be modified usually each term based on the ongoing needs of the student. The IEP is developed collaboratively by school staff and parents as well as medical staff if appropriate. An IEP will focus on social, academic and independence needs (daily living) depending on the area of need. It may have one or all three components addressed.

School teams and parents ususally decide who needs an IEP. Usually testing/assessment is done to support the need for an IEP, unless medical conditions are involved. An IEP must be in place for any student who has been identified as having special needs by an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC) which is made up of school team members. In some jurisdictions, there are IEPs in place for students who are not working at grade level or have special needs but have not yet gone through the IPRC process. IEPs will vary depending on the educational jurisdiction. However, IEPs will describe specifically the special education program and/or the services necessary for a student with special needs. The IEP will identify the curricular areas that will need to be modified or it will state whether the child requires an alternative curriculum which is often the case for students with severe autism, severe developmental needs or cerebral palsy etc. It will also identify the accommodations and or any special educational services the child may need to reach their full potential. It will contain measurable goals for the student. Some examples of services or support in the IEP could include:

  • Curriculum a grade or two behind
  • Less of the Curriculum
  • Assistive Technology such as text to speech or speech to text
  • A specialized laptop with specific software applications or switches to support the special needs
  • Braille
  • FM Systems
  • Print Enlargers
  • Sitting, standing, walking devices/equipment
  • Augmentative communication
  • Strategies, accommodations and any resources needed
  • Teacher Aid Assistance
Again, the plan is individualized and rarely will any 2 plans be the same. An IEP is NOT a set of lessons plans or daily plans. The IEP differs from regular classroom instruction and assessment in varying amounts. Some IEPs will state that a specialized placement is required while others will just state the accommodations and modifications that will occur in the regular classroom.

IEPs will usually contain:

  • an overview of the Student’s strengths and areas of need;
  • the current level of the student’s functioning or achievement;
  • annual goals written very specifically for the student;
  • an overview of the program and services that the student will receive;
  • an overview of the methods to determine progress and to monitor progress;
  • assessment data
  • name, age, exceptionality or medical conditions
  • transitional plans (for older students)
Parents are always involved in the development of the IEP, they play a key role and will sign the IEP. Most jurisidictions will require that the IEP be completed within 30 school days after the pupil has been placed in the program, however, it's important to check into special education services in your own jurisidiction to be certain of the specific details. The IEP is a working document and when change is needed, the IEP will be revised. The principal is ultimately responsible to ensure that the IEP is being implemented. Parents are encouraged to work with teachers to ensure their child's needs are being met both at home and at school.

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