people sitting around table at a meeting
Individualized Education Program (IEP) General Guidelines
An IEP is a legal document that sets goals and objectives for students with disabilities. The IEP describes the programs and services that will be offered to help the student reach those goals.
If a goal and/or objective in an IEP require the student to use an assistive technology device and service, the school district must supply them. The need and responsibility for assistive technology devices and services should be specifically written into an IEP.
The IEP is formulated by a team of professionals employed by the school district and the parents or guardians of the students. Parents must consent to an IEP and may seek due process in the form of mediation or a hearing if they find it unacceptable.
The IEP Team consists of the student, the IEP Case Manager/counselor, parent(s), classroom teacher(s), special education teacher(s), and when appropriate, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, assistive technology specialist, social worker or school psychologist.
A child needing an IEP will have one of the following types of disabilities as defined by IDEA 2004, or a combination of disabilities.  See this site for an understanding of these categories. 
Emotional Disturbance
Hearing Impairment
Intellectual Disability
Multiple Disabilities
Orthopedic Impairment
Other Health Impaired
Specific Learning Disability
Speech or Language Impairment
Traumatic Brain Injury
Visual Impairment
Diagnosis and Solutions—the IEP Process
There are 5 steps to the IEP process:
1. Referrals for special education can be initiated by a teacher, parent, or other school personnel. Alternatively, K-12 schools may have in place a program called RtI (Response to Intervention) or MTSS (Multi-tiered System of Supports) which utilizes evidence based interventions and progress monitoring for all students. If a child progresses through the tiers of these programs and requires intensive individualized instruction, he may be referred for special education. Parents must provide informed consent for the next step to occur. 
2. Evaluation of the child: The evaluation process may begin with a case study which reviews all aspects of the student's learning and environment. Student records, observations, work samples, state and district tests, psychometric tests and interviews are included. The evaluation will look at cognition, academics, and language skills along with social, emotional, developmental and medical findings. Therapists may be called in to evaluate a student's motor skills. Upon completion of the evaluation, eligibility is determined.  
3. Determination of eligibility takes place at an IEP meeting which includes the parents, all educational staff who completed evaluations and a school administrator.  The purpose of the meeting is to review their findings to determine if the student qualifies for special education.
4. Writing the IEP: If the student if found to be eligible, an IEP is written.  It includes the student's present levels of performance, strengths, weaknesses, measurable goals and objectives, placement, related services such as OT or PT, accommodations, participation in standardized assessments, and a transition plan beginning at age 14.  It is a priority whenever possible to keep a student in the general education environment, so an IEP determines how much time each week the student will leave the classroom to receive special services, whether it's an hour or more or the whole day. 


5. The Initial IEP meeting is the forum for discussing the results of the evaluations and determination of eligibility. Parents will be provided with procedural safeguards and asked to sign, indicating they have been received.  Parents should be active participants and voice all concerns and questions.  Ideally, the goals and objectives are written at this meeting.  However, due to time constraints goals and objectives are frequently prepared ahead of time and presented at the meeting.  Some parents ask to review them prior to the meeting or do not sign that they agree with the IEP until they take it home to review it. 
The IEP is reviewed annually to determine a student's progress toward meeting the goals and objectives.  IEPs can be revised at any time through an addendum.  
Understanding Special Education: The IEP Parent Guide
Download as a PDF here or view online here.
Outlines the special education process and gives brief descriptions of its elements.