What is an IEP?


(Arizona walking to school, August 2014)

As the school year starts to wind down and I’m starting to prepare for Arizona’s upcoming IEP meeting, I thought it would be the perfect time to explain what an IEP is and the various steps in the process.

An IEP stands for Individual Education Plan, a document put together by a team that details the special-education services the public school district will provide for your child.

Here’s what the process looks like :

1) The school district conducts an assessment in all areas of a child’s suspected disability.

2) The school district will evaluate and determine whether it recommends any therapeutic services for your child – this could include occupational therapy, speech & language therapy, psychological counseling, adaptive physical education, etc.

3) An IEP meeting is held. This is when the school district presents their recommendations for your child.

4) When the child’s parents and school district agree on an IEP, the document is signed and the plan is implemented.

5) When the child’s parent and school district cannot agree on an IEP, the next step is Due Process, which is the dispute-resolution part of the process. Typically, it is advised to seek the advice of an attorney who specializes in Special Education. (I highly recommend Valerie Vanaman and staff – http://www.navlaw.net).

Many parents, including myself, aren’t emotionally prepared for that first IEP meeting. In fact, I have participated in 6 IEP meetings for Arizona thus far and still have feelings of nervousness and anxiety from time to time. It’s hard not to get emotional and defensive when everyone is sitting around a table going over all of the things your child CAN’T do compared to their peers.

Next week, I will dive into my top 5 tips for ensuring a LOWER stress IEP experience.

In the meantime, what have your IEP experiences looked like? What have you learned in the process?

5 Comments on “What is an IEP?”

  1. First of all, shame on that school for conducting the meeting in a way that made you feel defensive. I would have felt the same way in that situation. If they aren’t spending as much or more time talking about what your child CAN do and the progress he/she HAS made, then they are missing a huge component of what an IEP meeting should be about.
    Second, as someone who regularly attends IEP meetings, the thing I most want to communicate with parents is to require more and expect more. I constantly see IEP goals that set the bar way too low. “Johnny will write his name with 50% accuracy” or “Bobby will count to 5 with 25% accuracy with unlimited verbal prompts”?? Come on folks, we can do better than 50% (and the second example doesn’t even make sense). If we can’t get the child to write his name or count to 5 with closer to 100% accuracy, then we are not doing our jobs. So I beg parents to ask questions – ask why they can’t do 80%; ask why they are only going to learn to spell their first name and not their last. In a year’s worth of time your child can and should be learning more than we can possibly talk about in a 2 hour meeting.


    • Love your feedback, thank you! Yes, the IEP I was referring to was our initial IEP – so there wasn’t a lot of “progress” to talk about, because it was my daughter’s FIRST assessment, etc. The school psychologist (at that particular school, NOT our current one) painted a very bleak picture of my daughter’s future! It was so unpleasant and stressful! Now, my daughter is really thriving! But, having that be my first IEP experience was traumatic, to say the least. Again, thank you for your tips re: requiring / expecting more. Will do!

      Liked by 1 person

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