skip to main contentskip to navigation

What are IEPs?


The development of each student’s Individual Education Program (IEP) takes place within the larger picture of the special education process under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Before taking a detailed look at the IEP, it may be helpful to look briefly at how a student is identified as having a disability and in need of special education and related services and, thus, an IEP.

Child Find (Screening)

A child may be  identified as possibly needing special education and related services primarily in one of two ways:

1. Through the Child Find process: When a developmental screening identifies a child as possibly having a disability and needing special education, parents may be asked for permission to evaluate their child. 

2. A school professional or parent may ask that a child be evaluated to see if he or she has a disability. A parent may request that their child be evaluated by contacting the child’s teacher or school. This request may be verbal, but it is best to put it in writing. Parental consent is needed before a child may be evaluated.


An evaluation is an essential step in the special education process. It is intended to answer the following questions:

• Does the child have a disability that requires the provision of special education and related services?
• What are the child’s specific educational needs?
• What special education services and related services are appropriate for addressing those needs?

By law, the initial evaluation must be both “complete and individual,” which is to say, focused on the child being evaluated and that child alone. A parent must give written permission for an initial evaluation and for any assessments that are completed as part of the comprehensive evaluation.

The evaluation results are used to determine a child’s eligibility for special education and related services and to make decisions about the appropriate educational program for a child.

A team of qualified professionals, and the parent, will review the results of the evaluation, and determine if the child is eligible for special education services.

If a child is not eligible, his/her parents will be appropriately notified, and the process stops. However, the parent has a right to disagree with the results of the evaluation or the eligibility decision. If the parents disagree with the evaluation, they have the right to take their child for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE).


The IEP team gathers to discuss the child’s needs and to develop the student’s IEP. Parents are full participating members of the team. The school makes sure that the child’s IEP is carried out as it is written. Parents are given a copy of the IEP. Each of the child’s teachers and service providers has access to the IEP and knows his or her specific responsibilities for carrying out the IEP. This includes the IEP accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided to the child in order for him/her to be successful.

Before the school system may provide special education and related services to the child for the first time, the parents must give written consent. The child begins to receive services as soon as possible after the IEP is written and parental consent is given.


A child’s IEP is reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, or more often if the parents or the school ask for a review. If necessary, the IEP is revised through an amendment. Parents, as team members, must be invited to participate in these meetings. Parents can make suggestions for changes, can agree or disagree with the IEP, and can agree or disagree with the placement.


A child must be reevaluated a minimum of once every three years. This evaluation is sometimes called a “triennial evaluation.” Its purpose is to find out if the child continues to be a child with a disability, as defined by IDEA, and what the child’s educational needs are. However, the child must be reevaluated more often if conditions warrant or if the child’s parent or teacher asks for a new evaluation.

If a child's parents do not agree with the IEP and/or placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement with the special education coordinator or executive director.


This summary is taken from A Guide to the Individualized Education Program, published by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services U.S. Department of Education.

34 C.F.R. §300.17; 34 C.F.R. §300.22; 34 C.F.R. §300.101; 34 C.F.R. 300.320; 34 C.F.R. §300.322; 34 C.F.R. §300.323; 34 C.F.R. §324

ADA Compliance Errors0