Special Education » The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Process

The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Process


What’s involved in developing my child’s IEP?

  • The IEP meeting(s), where you, your child (at times), and school staff members together decide on an educational program for your son or daughter; and
  • The IEP document, which puts the decisions from that meeting in writing.

Among other things, this document lists the services and supports your child will receive.

The entire IEP process is a way for you and the school to talk about your child’s needs and to create a plan to meet those needs.    By law, certain people must attend: Who is on your child’s IEP team.  You and HSD Staff will talk about  your child, his or her needs and strengths, and what type of educational program would be appropriate. You should feel free to ask questions and offer suggestions.  

Where and when do the IEP meetings take place?

You and the school mutually agree on where and when to have the IPE meeting.  Usually, meetings are held at school during regular staff time  Thismeans the meeting can happen before, during or after the regular school day.  By law, the district must tell you in writing:

  • The purpose of the meeting;
  • The time and place for the meeting;
  • Who will be there; and
  • That you may invite other people who have knowledge or special expertise about your child to the meeting.

Also – 

  • The school must hold the meeting to develop your child’s IEP within 30 calendar days of when your child is found eligible for special education services
  • You must agree to the program,  in writing, before the school may carry out your child’s first IEP.
  • The IEP must be reviewed at least once every 12 months and revised as necessary.

It may take more than one meeting to write a complete IEP.  If you find more time is needed, the team may scheduled another meeting.

You may ask for an IEP meeting at any time, if you feel that changes need to be made to your child’s educational program. 

Does the IEP meeting have to be in person?

NO.  When holding an IEP meeting, you and the school may agree to use other means of participation.  For example, some members may participate by video or conference call.

Who attends the IEP meeting?

Under IDEA, certain people must be part of the IEP team.  It is important to note that there doesn’t have to be a different person for every role.  Who is on your child’s IEP team

May a member of the IEP team be excised from attending the meeting?

YES, in certain circumstances some members of the IEP team may be excused from attending an IEP meeting.  However, you and the school must agree to excuse the member.  An IEP team member may be excused from an IEP meeting if the member’s area of curriculum or related service is not going to be discussed or modified at the meeting.  Also, an IEP team member whose area of expertise is going to be discussed may be excused if the member gives written input to the IEP team before the IEP meeting.  

What happens at an IEP meeting?

At an IEP meeting the team will develop, review, and/or revise the IEP document.  You and the other team members will work to create an IEP that is educationally appropriate and that the team can agree on.  Before the meeting, school staff usually write down ideas of what needs to be in your child’s IEP by creating a draft IEP.  It’s a good idea for you to jot down what i s most important to you.  You can share these ideas with other members of the team.  

The IEP team discussions will include talking about:

  • Your child’s strengths;
  • Your concerns for enhancing your child's education;
  • The results of the most recent evaluation of your child; and
  • Your child’s academic, developmental, and functional needs.

As a parent, you are a member of the IEP team and an expert on your child.  If you have questions or concerns, speak up.  Ask for more information or an explanation if you need it. If you disagree with something you hear, please let the team know of your concern.  The IEP meeting is a conversation and a dialogue.  You and the other IEP team members are putting your heads together to design an effective program for your child.  The main purpose of the meeting is to agree on each part of the IEP so that the document can be written and the services started.

What is an IEP?

The IEP is the plan developed by the IEP team for the delivery of services necessary for your child to meaningfully benefit from their education.  The IEP form can look different from one District to another, but the items below must be contained in the IEP as specified under the IDEA: 

  • Your child's present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. This includes input from both the school and parents/guardians.
  • Annual goals for your child;
  • How your child’s progress will be measured;
  • The special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services that will be provided to (or on behalf of) your child, including program modifications or supports for school staff;
  • An explanation of the extent (if any) to which your child will not participate with children without disabilities in the regular class and in school activities;
  • Any modifications your child will need when taking state or district-wide assessments;
  • The dates when services will begin and end, the amount of services, as well as how often and where they will take place;
  • How and when you will be informed of your child’s progress;
  • By age 16 (or younger, if the IEP team so decides), postsecondary goals and the transition services (including courses of study) that your child will need to reach those goals;
  • Beginning at least one year before your child reaches the age of adulthood (18), the IEP must include a statement that your child has been informed of any rights that will transfer to him or her upon reaching this age. Reaching the age of adulthood is called the “age of majority” in IDEA.

Each one of the items above is discussed during the meeting and filled in on the IEP form.

What is placement?  How is my child’s placement decided?

Once the IEP team has decided what services your child needs, decisions must be made about where the services will be provided.  Where your child’s IEP is carried out is called Placement.  As a parent, you have the right to be part of the group that decides your child’s placement.  Placement may occur in the child’s attendance areas boundary school or may occur at another school depending on the location of the program that may best address the needs of the child.

In deciding your child’s placement, the group must make sure that your child has the maximum opportunity appropriate to learn with children who do not have disabilities – in academic, nonacademic, and extracurricular activities.  This is part of the law called Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).  

  • The child’s placement is determined at least annually; is based on the child’s IEP; and is as close as possible to the child’s home.
  • Unless the IEP requires some other arrangement, the child is educated in the school that he or she would attend if the child had no disability.
  • The placement option(s) that provide a reasonable high probability of assisting the student to attain his or her annual goals.
  • Consideration must be given to any potential harmful effect on the child or on the quality of services that he or she needs.

When discussing placement, the group should consider your child’s unique needs and determine what the least restrictive placement for your child is, based upon those needs.  A placement that is least restrictive for one child may not be least restrictive for another.  

In making placement decisions, the IEP team will discuss the different options where children can receive services.  These different options are referred to as the continuum of alternative placements.  These options include placements such as:

  • A general education class;
  • A special education class;
  • A special education school;
  • At home; or 
  • In a hospital or other institution

A student’s placement in the general education classroom is the first option considered by the group making the placement decision.  Can your child be educated satisfactorily in the general education classroom?  What aids, servies, and supports does your child need to make this possible?  If the group decides that your child’s needs can be met in the general education class, with supports, then that placement is the least restrictive environment for your child.

What do I do before the meeting?

Review the information on your child – from home, school, or private sources (such as doctors, therapists or tutors).  Ask yourself, “Do these records show the full picture?” Fill in any missing pieces, if you can

Talk with your child about the upcoming IEP and ask about school. “What things are hard? What things are easy? What’s important for you to focus on this year?”  Your child may have a lot to say about his or her needs and interests.  Students are often much more aware of their strengths and weaknesses than parents realize.  Make notes on what your child says.

Think about your child’s involvement in general education classes.  Consider his or her learning style, special education needs, and social needs.  How can these needs be addressed in the IEP?  What kinds of supports or services might your child need in order to be successful in the general education class? Ask your child what he or she needs or doesn’t need in the way of support.

If your child will be attending all or part of the IEP meeting, explain how the meeting works in a way that he or she can understand. Let your child know how important the meeting is and that his or her opinions and input are valuable. You may need to prepare your child to speak up at the meeting. Talk with your son or daughter about how to share his or her feelings about what is being proposed.

Brainstorm with people (teacher, friend, family members, tutor, therapist, consultant) to get ideas before the meeting. Write down things you feel must be included in the IEP. Decide how you want to share this information with the other members of the IEP team. 

Ask other team members if they can share their ideas about your child’s program ahead of time.

Know your rights. Review the IDEA regulations and accurate summaries.  Take the regulations with you to the meeting in case you need them.

Are there any areas where you and the school might disagree? Plan how you want to handle these. List any information that might support your position. Think of alternatives to offer if the school is not willing to accept your first suggestion.

Consider whether you’d like to invite another person to go with you to the IEP meeting. This person should have special knowledge or expertise about your child or with respect to your child (a related service provider, for example, a past teacher, a specialist in your child’s disability, or a friend). Another person may think of things during the meeting that you do not. As a courtesy, let the school know if someone will be attending the meeting with you. 

If an advocate will be attending the meeting with you, review your agenda together before the meeting. Above all, be sure that the advocate understands what role you would like him or her to play in the IEP process.

What do I do during the meeting?

Stay focused – Keep the focus on your child’s individual needs and in creating a plan that will lead to success. Remember your child’s social and emotional needs, including the need to be with peers that do not have disabilities. Encourage the other members of the IEP team to use simple language, so that anyone reading the IEP can understand and carry it out.

Ask questions – If a team member says something you don’t understand, ask the person to explain. If someone says something about your child you don’t agree with or have a question about, ask for more details. What backup information supports the person’s statement (teacher notes, checklists, evaluations)? If you have different information, be sure to share it. Make sure you don’t agree or disagree with a goal for your child based on incomplete information. If a present levels statement is appropriate, there should be data to support it. If a goal is appropriate, there should be documentation to back up the need. You want to make sure that decisions are not made based upon a single event or random observations. 

Be thorough – Make sure you agree with the language in the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance before you finalize annual goals for your child. Try not to move away from one area until you are confident that it adequately addresses your child’s needs. If you find that needed information is not available at the meeting, have the team make a note of what is missing, who will get the information, and when they will get it by. Then you can agree to move on and come back to discuss the issue when the needed information is received. 

What if we don’t agree?

If the team cannot agree on a particular item after several minutes of discussion, add it to the team’s “parking lot” of concerns and suggest coming back to it later. Avoid getting stuck debating a particular point over and over, especially if it feels like you are not getting anywhere. You need to be clear in your mind on where you can and cannot compromise. Communicate this in a reasonable and calm way. 

What if we still don’t agree?

If you’ve done as much as you can and still cannot come to an agreement on the IEP, there are several options open to you.

  • If this is your child’s first IEP, you can refuse to give permission for the school to implement the IEP. In this case, your child will not receive the special education services outlined in the IEP.
  • Ask the school to give you prior written notice on the issue(s) under disagreement. Written notice must tell you in detail what the school is proposing or refusing to do, why, and what information it used to reach the decision. This includes:
    • telling you other options the school considered and why they were rejected;
    • describing each evaluation procedure, test, record, or report used as a basis for the action being proposed or refused; and 
    • Describing any other factors that are relevant to what the school is proposing or refusing to do.
  • You may request mediation or a due process hearing to resolve the conflict.  With mediation, you and the school sit down together and try to work out the disagreement with an impartial third person called a mediator. The mediator will not work for the school system or make any decisions for you or the school. The mediator helps you and the school talk about your differences and work toward an agreement.
    • The due process hearing is a formal, legal procedure where both you and the school present your views on the dispute to an impartial hearing officer. After all the evidence is presented and witnesses have spoken— much like in a court case—the hearing officer decides the case and tells you and the school how the matter is to be settled. He or she issues the decision in writing. You request a due process hearing by filing a due process complaint that must contain specific information, with a copy sent to the state department of education. Within 15 days, your school system must convene a resolution meeting between you, as parents, and relevant members of the IEP team. The purpose of the meeting is for you to discuss your due process complaint, which gives the school system the opportunity to resolve the dispute. This resolution meeting need not be held if you and the school system agree to waive the meeting or agree to use mediation instead.
  • You can also file a written citizen’s complaint with the Oregon Department of Education. When you file a complaint, you must tell the state what part of the IDEA you believe the school has violated. You must also state the facts as you know them and provide copies of any documents or correspondence on the matter you may have. The state will investigate your complaint, request documents if necessary, and give a written decision.
  • Finally, if this is not your child’s first IEP, you can revoke consent, in writing, for the continued provision of special education and related services to your child, even though you previously gave your consent. Once you revoke consent, the school system may no longer provide special education services to your child, and they may not try to override your revocation of consent. There are also a number of other consequences that may arise, particularly such as how your child will be disciplined. Therefore, it is important for you to ask questions about how your child’s education will be affected before revoking consent.

When an IEP is completely written, am I supposed to sign it and what does my signature mean?

As the IEP meeting comes to a close, you will be asked to sign the IEP document. Your signature on the form simply means that you attended the IEP meeting. 

There is no regulation that says you must sign the IEP immediately at the end of the meeting, or at all.  Likewise, your signature does not indicate agreement with the IEP.  If you do not agree with the IEP or do not sign the IEP the District will provide you prior written notice.  You will then have the opportunity to request another meeting or to pursue dispute resolution.  If the team feels the IEP is reasonably calculated to provide meaningful benefit in light of your child’s unique needs, the IEP will be implemented as per the prior written notice.  

Can I request that the IEP be changed?  If so, how?

Yes, you can request an IEP meeting for the purpose of amending the IEP at any time. If you and/or the school want to change your child’s IEP after the annual IEP meeting, you and the school may agree to either reconvene the IEP team to discuss changes or you can agree not to convene an IEP meeting. Instead, you and the school will develop a written document that will amend your child’s IEP either with a meeting of selected individuals or without a meeting at all.  If your child’s IEP is changed, all IEP team members will be informed of the changes, and if you request it, the school must give you a copy of the reviewed IEP.