The IEP meeting can be mysterious and daunting for parents. One way to approach it is to ensure you know what is included in the IEP and what topics need to be covered.
The US Department of Education requires nine things to be included in every IEP. Some states may add additional sections, and every school district may use a different template, but they all must include these nine items required at the national level.
Whether preparing for your first IEP or your 50th, it’s a great idea to come prepared to keep the meeting focused and move it along. The longest IEP meeting I have attended was 4.5 hours, but it is common to have a meeting scheduled for 1-2 hours, and team members may be unable to continue the meeting past the scheduled time.
Coming in prepared can help get everything done during the meeting time.
Parts Of The IEP – List And Short Explanation
The US Department of Education has set nine items that must be included at the federal level. States will have additional requirements, but these are what must be included nationwide:
Present Levels – Where the student is currently.
Annual Goals – Academic goals and goals from the related services section will be reviewed each year.
Special Education and Related Services – States what specially designed instruction and related services (i.e., speech therapy) will be delivered and how often they will be delivered.
Participation With Nondisabled Children – The IEP must state how much the student will participate with nondisabled children and review the least restrictive environment (LRE).
Testing – This section will state whether the student will participate in state testing and what accommodations will be made for the testing.
Dates and Places – Every IEP will state when services will start, when the IEP needs to be reviewed, and where the services will be provided.
Transition – By the time the child is 14 (sometimes earlier), a statement of transition post-high school must be included, and the team must address what courses the student needs for success after graduation.
Age of Majority – By the age of 16 (or earlier in some states), the IEP must state what services are needed to prepare the student to transition from high school to adulthood.
Measuring Progress – It must be stated how progress will be measured and how the parents will be informed.
In addition to the required sections, there are a few optional sections (although they may be required in some states). Sometimes the parent must insist that it is covered or submit a request.
Parent Statement – This section can be added to let the parents write what they want about the child and the services received. They can put down the present levels they see outside of school, things they want to work on, and goals they have. The most important part of this section is that parents may write anything they disagree with in the rest of the IEP.
Prior Written Notice – If a parent disagrees with a decision by the team, they may request Prior Written Notice (PWN), an explanation of what was decided, why it was decided, and what other options were considered.
One Page Profile – A parent may submit a One Page Profile to be included in the IEP that briefly covers what is important to the student and how to support them best.
See the following sections for further explanation of each of these sections. I recommend going through the sections with a notebook and writing down important points you want to add to the IEP. If applicable, have the current IEP so you can note what changes you would like to make to the IEP.
Parts Of The IEP – Present Levels
The Present Levels section may be one of the longest sections. Some teams will leave the past levels and add new ones each year, with the year added for clarity.
You will find that this section takes up much of the time of the meeting. This is where you discuss everything happening, how well services work, and other things going on in the student’s life.
The IEP will have a robust Present Levels section, as it includes all the testing done to qualify the student for an IEP. You can expect in this section:
- Psychologist Reports
- IEP Qualification
- Academic Grades
- Academic Testing
- Other Academic Information
- Current Services
- Current Levels From All Current Services
- Classroom Behavior
- Behavior At Home
- Speech Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Autism Therapy
- How Assistive Technology Is Working
- How Accommodations and Modifications Are Working
- Anything Else
Parts Of The IEP – Annual Goals
Every IEP must include goals. This is the meat of the IEP and directs the team on navigating what the student needs throughout the year.
Every goal should be written for the length of the IEP. This usually means each grade level, but it could mean as long as every three years if this exception has been implemented.
Goals should be written so that they may be accomplished within one year (in most cases). If you find that goals are not changing, address this with the team and see what services might be added or what changes should be considered to help the student progress academically or in the area that the goal addresses.
Sometimes, the goal doesn’t change because it is too broad and something the student will work on throughout their life. I’d encourage you to have the team break that down into a different goals that can be completed or whether the expectation is inappropriate for this student.
If the goal is academic and the student doesn’t progress year over year, it may be important to dig into this and encourage the school to adjust the goal and/or services because all students should progress academically whether or not they have an IEP.
If they are not progressing academically, it is vital to dig into why. Even if it takes a student several years to progress through a typical grade level, the goals should reflect the different parts of the curriculum they are moving through.
Goals should be written like SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Sensitive.
Parts Of The IEP – Special Education and Related Services
Special Education, or specially designed instruction, separates the IEP from the 504 Plan. Students must require special education to qualify for an IEP.
This does not mean students must be delayed academically or get poor grades to qualify for an IEP. For example, a student may have excellent reading skills but need speech therapy to address figurative language.
It is common for students with disabilities to have uneven skills, even within a subject. They may be excellent at geometry, but algebraic calculations may elude them.
Some Related Services included in this section may be speech therapy, occupational therapy, autism therapy, behavioral therapy, teaching Braille, or other things that a student may need in addition to classroom instruction. Any Related Services should have goals in the proper section.
Parts Of The IEP – Participation With Nondisabled Children
The IEP must specifically state the extent to which the disabled student will participate with nondisabled students.
“Least Restrictive Environment” is the key term in this section. If you would like a refresher or a list of questions to determine whether a student is in the least restrictive environment, see this article I wrote on the topic.
The law states that students must be educated in the “least restrictive environment.”
This is the key to keep in mind:
(i) To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are nondisabled;
This is why this section must be included in the IEP. Since the law states that they must be with students who are not disabled for as much time as possible, it must be stated how much time (if any) they spend outside the general education classroom and why.
This section is vital, and it is one of the places I lacked understanding going into my first IEP meetings. Many schools prefer to separate children with disabilities because it makes it easier for them. The key question is: “What could be done for this student that would allow them to be in the general education classroom?”
If the student needs an aid that goes with them to class to meet this, then the school is obligated to provide it. Sometimes the school must be convinced, but the law is clear on the requirement.
Suggested Article: How To Determine The Least Restrictive Environment
I am not a lawyer and I do not intend this article to provide legal advice. Please contact an education or disability lawyer if you need further interpretation. I have included references to read the law for yourself as well as the interpretations that I found helpful in writing this article.
Parts Of The IEP – Testing
Standardized testing is part of the public school system, and the IEP must state the student’s needs to participate in this testing.
This section does not usually state that they will not participate; parents can opt students out of testing independently.
The Testing section on the IEP states what accommodations or modifications are needed to participate in the testing. They may need to have the level of the test adjusted for them or have services during testing.
Common testing accommodations include:
- Additional Time
- Quiet Testing Space
- Visual Aids
- Speech to Text
- Change Academic Levels
- Pacing Assistance
- Behavioral Assistance
Not all accommodations are needed or appropriate for all sections. For example, a student may have an accommodation to use a calculator in some sections, but it would be inappropriate to use it in other sections.
Parts Of The IEP – Dates And Places
There are four important parts in this section:
- Date services will start.
- How often will services be provided
- Length of services (when new IEP is due)
- Location services will be provided
Most of this section is fairly easy to understand. The date services start needs to be as soon as possible after the IEP if it is new; if it is a continuation, there shouldn’t be a lapse in services.
Services are usually written in minutes. The length will vary; having them listed per month or year is typical. Regular services like speech therapy will likely be listed monthly. Less regular services based on observing the classes are typically listed yearly.
An example of this might be 240 minutes per month (which translates to an hour each week).
Parts Of The IEP – Transition
On the IEP, transition refers to the transition between high school and adult life.
The Transition section must be filled out by the time the child is 14 years old, but it may be earlier in your state. It must address what the student wishes to do after high school and consider what academic courses they need to be successful in their pursuits.
Transition must also include what transition services are needed to prepare the student for life after high school.
Parts Of The IEP – Age Of Majority
Like the transition section, the Age of Majority refers to preparing students for life after high school.
Students must be told about the transition from high school and included in their own IEP. The age by which they must participate depends on the state, but they need to be included by the time they are 16.
Parts Of The IEP – Measuring Progress
This is usually included within the goals section but may be in a separate section specifically.
The IEP must address how progress academically and on their goals will be measured. If they need accommodations or modifications, it needs to be addressed how progress will be monitored within the need.
This section must also address how the parents will be informed about this progress toward goals. This is usually given to parents quarterly if your school has quarters.
Parts Of The IEP – Parent Statement
The parent statement section isn’t an official section in most states. However, parents are always allowed to write a parent statement.
A Parent Statement is for when you want to add information to the IEP that the other team members may not agree with. This might be regarding a decision you don’t agree with or information you would like to add for context.
One of the ways to phrase this is, “We are concerned because (student’s strength) isn’t being utilized for (student’s area of improvement) because (reason).“
For example, “We are concerned because N’s strength in typing isn’t being utilized for writing because they can express themselves more fluently when typing than writing by hand.”
I would caution against using this section to air any grievances with team members you disagree with. Focus on the strengths and needs of the student.
Parts Of The IEP – Prior Written Notice
Prior Written Notice (PWN) is underutilized, and most parents remain unaware of this parental right.
When you disagree with a decision made or want to have an official record of a decision and the reasoning behind the decision by the admin, parents may request a PWN be done.
The admin must write what option was presented, the considerations the team made, other options the team considered, and why the decision was made.
Having a written record inside the IEP can be extremely helpful if a new school is reading the IEP or in any situation where someone wants to understand the thought process behind a decision.
For example, a PWN could be requested if a student was denied the “Assistive Technology” being selected because the school provides a computer for all students. It would be helpful in a situation where all students weren’t offered a computer, but the student still needed it as part of their IEP.
Another reason is to get a written record of a denial of services. This may be helpful if you are considering legal action. Due to the time it takes and the record it makes, sometimes the admin will agree to try the other option the parent presented.
Suggested Article: IEP Secret: Prior Written Notice
Parts Of The IEP – One Page Profile
Of all the extra parts of the IEP that aren’t specifically mentioned, the One Page Profile is the one that the admin openly welcomes. I highly recommend doing a One Page Profile every year due to how helpful they are in the IEP meeting and during their year at school.
A One Page Profile has a photo of the student and important information. It is done on one page for easy reference for any teacher or staff interacting with your child.
Suggested Article: Make a One Page Profile Step-by-Step