Everything You Need to Know About an IEP


An Individualized Education Program, sometimes known as an Individualized Education Plan and more commonly referred to as an IEP, is a formal document outlining a child’s individual educational plan from Pre-K through 12th grade in public schools. The IEP serves as a roadmap, detailing special education instruction, support services, and any necessary plans to help students with disabilities, including those with moderate to severe disabilities, meet their individual educational goals.

Who is eligible for an IEP?

Every child who receives special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) must receive a custom IEP. For a student to qualify for an IEP, one of the following disabilities must be met:

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Deaf-blindness
  • Deafness
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Hearing impairment
  • Intellectual disability
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Other health impairment
  • Specific learning disability
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairment

Who determines the contents of an IEP?

Development of the Individualized Education Program is an all-hands-on-deck approach. Before the IEP is even created, a student must be evaluated to determine whether or not they qualify for an IEP. After the evaluation is complete and an IEP is deemed appropriate, both the student’s parents/guardians, as well as the complete evaluation team will determine the contents of the IEP.

The evaluation team can include a special education teacher, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a psychologist, a speech and language pathologist, a vision or hearing specialist, or any specialist that can assist with the student’s specific needs, as well as a general education teacher. The general education teacher recommends how the student with disabilities’ IEP will integrate into the standard curriculum where appropriate.

Parents are strongly encouraged to play an active role in the development of a student’s IEP, including where heavier focus should be placed on both short-term and annual learning goals. In addition, an IEP cannot be created or implemented without final consent from the student’s parents.

What’s the difference between IEPs and 504 plans?

While both IEPs and 504 plans serve students with disabilities from Pre-K through 12th grade and ensure access to free and appropriate public education, the laws they fall under are different.

For example, IEPs are covered under IDEA mentioned above, while 504 plans are covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Rehabilitation Act is designed to halt discrimination against people with disabilities.

While students must have 1 of the 13 disabilities listed above to receive an IEP under IDEA, to be eligible to receive a 504 plan, a student can have any disability that disrupts their ability to learn in a general education setting.

While the parameters of both IEPs and 504 plans differ, each goal is to help improve and protect the advancement of student education.

TeachTown, an education company that focuses exclusively on serving the needs of students with moderate to severe disabilities, offers educators, clinicians, and parents/guardians evidence-based, ready-to-use solutions that aim to improve the academic, behavioral and adaptive functioning of students with moderate to severe disabilities.

Bonus: Each of the solutions can be integrated directly into a student’s unique IEP!

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