What is an Individualized Education Program?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 December 2018
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The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is an individual plan for each child who has disabilities and meets criteria established by the US Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which was originally titled the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Under the provisions of its current manifestation, IDEA, any child who has certain qualifying disabilities may have rights to an Individualized Education Program that helps level the playing field for that child and gives the greatest amount of access to education, given different types of disabilities. The goal of IDEA and its predecessor was to be certain that discrimination against children with disabilities ended in the public school setting, and in many respects, IDEA has been successful, though degree of success is a topic of argument, and may vary by school or district.

When a child has any form of disability, or is suspected of having disabilities, parents may ask for an IEP evaluation. Under most circumstances, parents have to make the request, but teachers could note concerns they feel about a student’s performance and recommend parents do make this request. In a perfect world, such a request is swiftly answered by an evaluation of the child on multiple levels; unfortunately severe budget cuts may lengthen time it takes to do this evaluation. Parents should know that a request for evaluation should be made in writing to move this process along quickly.


After evaluation of the child, which can be fairly extensive, the school determines whether the child meets conditions that would require an Individualized Education Program. Parents do have rights in this area, and if the decision is not in favor of the child, they can take children to private specialists to get another determination of qualification for an IEP. Should private specialists decide in favor of the child, the school district may be responsible for reimbursing those specialists, though not always.

Once a child has been determined as needing an Individualized Education Program, parents, experts, teachers and administrators sit down to determine best approach to this. The program is essentially not only a statement of where the child is presently, but what goals he/she can reasonably be expected to meet in a year’s time. The IEP team determines what levels of accommodation to offer the child, what specific areas of support might be needed, and what degree of mainstream education the child can get. Many kids with an Individualized Education Program are completely mainstreamed, but depending on disabilities they may have freedoms in class to do things in slightly different ways; for instance, they might need to be located in a certain area of the class, and they could require special equipment such as earphones or a laptop.

Essentially the Individualized Education Program addresses the child’s present skills, the tools or resources that need to be offered the child and the plan for the year of education. IEPs often clearly define goals and create special benchmarks to determine if goals are being met. Provided benchmarks are being met or nearly met and there is some improvement from accommodations and support, the IEP team usually won’t meet again for another year. It should be noted that if an IEP seems to not be working successfully, parents can request a meeting sooner.

A child with an Individualized Education Program may retain one throughout high school. Some children don’t need them that long and find with support they are able to master issues with a disability sooner. If a child is consistently meeting or exceeding benchmarks, schools officials may suggest the child be exited from the program. Parents can request this exiting at any time too.



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