Writing the
Individualized Education Program (IEP)

An individualized education program (IEP) will be written at the eligibility meeting if your child has been found to be eligible for special education services.

A case manager from your child's school will be assigned to ensure their success. This is usually a special education teacher or specialist that is named as the person responsible for ensuring that your child’s IEP is implemented correctly.

The IEP should ensure your child has access to a free appropriate education and should consider your child’s strengths, parent concerns, assessment results and areas of need related to academic and developmental areas. The individualized education program is a written, legal document that must include the following:

  • Your child’s present level of functioning
  • Strengths, weaknesses, abilities and educational needs
  • Area(s)of eligibility (based on the 13 categories named in IDEA)
  • Annual goals and objectives
  • DIS services
  • Program placement
  • Accommodations and level of participation in assessments
  • Transition plan

The IEP Team usually consists of some combination of the following school personnel. 

  • Parent, guardian or representative
  • School administrator
  • Special education teacher
  • General education teacher
  • Professionals who performed the assessments
  • Student (if appropriate and over age 8)

The IEP meeting should be scheduled at a mutually agreed upon time and place. Keep in mind that school districts are famous for scheduling meetings at 7:45 am. This is usually 20 minutes before school starts and often, everyone is watching the clock. When scheduling the initial IEP meeting, ask the case manager for at least one hour of uninterrupted time in a private place. The last thing you want is for participants to be leaving in the middle of the process and for you to feel rushed.


IDEA mandates that a child be placed in the least restrictive environment. A child can only be placed in a separate school or class if the severity of the disability is such that appropriate educational services cannot be provided in a general education classroom, even with modifications. In most cases, school districts can provide services. The schedule of services should be outlined in the individualized education plan and state when they are to begin, the frequency, duration and location. The IEP team determines what percentage of the day your child will spend in a specialized program. Each state has their own names for their special programs, but they usually break down into the following three categories.


Classes or specific reading courses that offer support but the special education instruction and services DO NOT exceed 50% of the child's day.

The courses are taught by credentialed special education teachers but the child participates in them for only part of their day. The child is in a general education classes for more than 50% of their day and receives resource support either through pull out programs, modifications implemented within the class by the general education teacher or through specific times designated during their day when they will receive services. Resource programs also tend to include speech and language services and other specialists.


These usually refer to programs who host a children who receive special education instruction for more than 50% of the their day. Here, they receive the majority of instruction from a credentialed special education teacher. The child usually attends general education classes only in physical education, electives or a specific subject area.


These programs are usually offered at a designated school site within the district for students requiring special education services for 100% of their day. This type of individualized education program can range from moderate to severe and are equipped to address medical needs, toileting needs, dietary needs and other specialized services.


The individualized education program must include measurable, annual goals as well as short-term objectives that describe how your child will achieve the goals. Goals are the nuts and bolts of your child’s individualized educational program. Goals and objectives reflect what the IEP team has determined to be appropriate for your child. They can be academic, social, emotional, behavioral or a combination. Goals should be specific, measurable and enable educators to develop strategies that will meet the needs of the child.

Designated Instructional Services (DIS) refer to supplemental services that have been determined necessary to assist your child. DIS Services are provided by specialists and are used to meet specific goals in the areas of:

  • Speech/Language therapy
  • Audio logy
  • Mobility
  • Home/Hospital
  • Adaptive PE
  • Physical and Occupational Therapy
  • Vision Therapy
  • Counseling
  • Psychological Services
  • Medical Needs
  • Transportation Needs

The goals of the individualized education program should focus on reducing or eliminating the child’s problem. They should include ways to measure progress and be directly correlated to your child’s identified disability. As a parent, don’t be afraid to ask how the team will be able to tell if a goal has been met. Goals should not rely only on subjective observations. There should be concrete, objective ways to determine if your child is making progress. 


  • The team will decide if your child will need to meet the same standards as non-special education students and if so, with or without accommodations and modifications.
  • Examples of accommodations include preferential seating, copies of notes, oral versus written quizzes, alternative assignments, use of a computer and an alternative testing environment. 
  • Modifications include changes in the content, curriculum, criteria and assessments. 
  • The individualized education program will list the needs of the student relative to the general education curriculum. The team also determines if the student will need modifications with regards to state testing or AP testing.  

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