What is an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?
An IEP is a document that spells out the specific services a child with a disability needs in order to access the free public education they are entitled to by law. An IEP is legally binding, which means that the contents of the program must be followed by the school. The IEP is developed at the child's initial IEP meeting, and annually thereafter, by a team that includes, at minimum, a child's parent or educational representative, a general education teacher, a special education teacher, a district representative, and anyone else who the parent or district thinks would contribute to the meeting. In many circumstances, the student should be in attendance, but it may be wise to hold part of the meeting with only the adults in the room. An IEP can only be implemented when the holder of educational rights agrees to the content of the IEP and signs it. There are many components of an IEP but here are some of the most important that will be described in the IEP document:
- The student's present level of educational performance, including how the child's disability affects their involvement and progress in a regular education setting.
- Measurable annual goals (and short-term objectives) related to a child's disability-related needs and methods of evaluating whether the goals are being met.
- Specific education services, supports, aids, and modifications that the school will provide to the child to reach their goals and progress in the general education setting.
- The type of school placement needed to implement the IEP in the "least restrictive environment" possible.
When are IEP meetings held?
A meeting to review and update a child's IEP must be held annually and a child is to be reassessed every three years. The holder of a child's education rights can request an IEP meeting whenever they feel one is necessary, to review goals, to modify the IEP, and so on. The district can either hold one or respond in writing why they don't feel one is not necessary. When a child is moved to a new school, the new school is bound by law to implement the program described in the child's previous IEP. While it is wise to set up a meeting soon after any child's enrollment in a new school, it is particularly important for children in special education to ensure that the new school understands the child's disability and history and implements the child's IEP immediately.
Resources for the IEP Process
Resources to assist families through the IEP process are made available through the San Mateo County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), which oversees San Mateo County’s continuum of programs and services for disabled individuals from birth through 21 years of age.