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Making the IEP Work for You Part Two: How Families Can Get The Most Out of This Valuable Tool

Making the IEP Work for You Part Two: How Families Can Get The Most Out of This Valuable Tool

When designed individually and implemented effectively, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) is an important tool that helps assure a student's success in education. PEAK is excited to share Part Two of this three-part series, Making the IEP Work for You, where we explore key components of the IEP including: Evaluation (Part One), How Families Can Get The Most Out of This Valuable Tool (Part Two), and Progress Monitoring (Part Three)! If you missed Part One on Evaluation, you can access it here

Making the IEP Work for You, Part Two: How Families Can Get The Most Out of This Valuable Tool

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the most important tool parents have when their child is receiving special education services. However, in order for any tool to be effective, the user must learn all about the tool first: its purpose and how it works.

The purpose of the IEP is drawn up at an IEP Meeting. Here are some key points for families to know:

  • The IEP is developed by team effort. The team is made up of the parent(s), the student (whenever possible), and the school staff (general and special education teachers, administrators, related service providers, and other support personnel). Parents may also include outside professionals, family friends and advocates if they wish.
  • Parents are to be active participants – not passive bystanders – in drawing up the education plan. Parents know their children better than anyone and their full participation is essential for success!
  • The IEP is to be designed according to the unique needs of the child. In other words, the child is not expected to adapt to the existing programs.
  • The IEP is developed once a year, but parents may request a review – and, if necessary, changes – at any time during the year. It is best to make this request in writing to the other members of the IEP team.
  • The IEP must contain information about the student's present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (general skills, social, motor, access skills, self-help, etc.).
  • The IEP is to be based on the child's unique strengths, interests, and needs, as they are determined for the upcoming year.
  • The IEP outlines Annual Measurable Goals. It is critical that these goals can be measured and that the IEP includes a timetable for achieving these goals.
  • Any additional educational support or related services, such as therapies, must be spelled out in the IEP.
  • An important goal of The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is that the child be educated as much as possible in the Least Restrictive Environment along with typical students without disabilities.

It's important to remember that the key word in IEP is "individualized." This means that all supports and services are to be tailored to the individual needs of the student. As the student's needs change, so does the IEP. And, even more importantly, the IEP must also take into account the child's unique interests, abilities, and gifts. Each child is to be considered as the individual he or she really is.

Here are some additional articles from our SPEAKout eNewsletter archives that will help you prepare for the IEP meeting, communicate during the IEP meeting, and design an effective IEP. Enjoy, and remember that PEAK's Parent Advisors are available by email and by phone (800.284.0251) to support you on your journey. 

Copyright 2012 © by PEAK Parent Center, Inc. All rights reserved. Permission to reproduce may be obtained from PEAK Parent Center.

Photo of mom reading with children included under a Creative Commons License by Neeta Lind