Why Have an IEP? - Tips for Parents on Their IEP Role
Why Have an IEP? – Tips for Parents on Their IEP Role

Are you parenting a child with special needs? Has your child been evaluated and is eligible for special education?  Most likely he will receive individualized support through his IEP? What is an IEP? The IEP, Individualized Education Program, is a written document that’s developed for each public school child who is eligible for special education.

This post will focus on the following:

◘TIPS for Parents on Their IEP Role

◘Who Develops the IEP?

◘Why Have An IEP?

◘What is the Role of the Parents on the IEP Team?

◘Who Makes Up the IEP Team?

 The IEP identifies learning expectations that are modified and/or any accommodations and special education services needed to assist the student in achieving his or her learning expectations.  It is an ongoing planning-tool that must be reviewed and revised on a regular basis.
The IEP is tailored to each child’s needs which are identified by a student evaluation process. The findings of the evaluation will guide his teachers and related service providers on how the student learns, how the student best demonstrates that learning and what teachers and service providers will do to help the student learn more effectively.
In the United States an Individualized Education Program, commonly referred to as an IEP, is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In Canada and the United Kingdom, an equivalent document is called an Individual Education Plan.

Who Develops the IEP?

As early as possible after it has been determined that your child is eligible for special educational services, an IEP must be drawn up. The school is responsible to develop the document starting by gathering all the information.
Then the Individual Education Plan (IEP) should be refined jointly by the child’s teacher(s), staff involved with the child’s program (Special Education Teacher, Speech-Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist, etc.) and the parent/guardian. If the student in question is mature enough, he may be part of the IEP team also.
Communication from the beginning among all the IEP team members and the sharing of information and ideas will result in a practical, workable IEP for the benefit of all.
Parents Are a Great Asset to the IEP TeamThe implementation of an IEP should not have two warring sides. All team members are there to smooth the educational journey of YOUR CHILD. I have been on both sides of the table, believe you me, neither is easy. If anything, the whole IEP team is tied by THE SYSTEM and THE BUDGET FOR SPECIAL NEEDS. It is not parents vs. school.
I have gone to bat for special needs children in my class and had my fingers rapped by higher up. Teachers have much less clout to fix THE SYSTEM than parents and Special Needs support groups. Advocate for your child; do not alienate those who are on the same team. Find the root causes of problems and try to influence changes by going diplomatically through the right channels.

Why Have An IEP?

Parents and professionals from the school, as well as the child if he/she is old enough, must schedule an initial meeting…the first of many I am afraid to say. In an IEP meeting, the decisions regarding special education and related services are made and the individualized educational plan is discussed. The IEP will outline the services your child needs to meet his learning needs. Information about your child’s present educational performance is stated and the specific measurable goals he/she is expected to accomplish within the year are listed. Also short term goals are included and evaluated throughout the year on the way to making progress towards his annual goals.

What is the Role of the Parents on the IEP Team?

Parents have a great deal of knowledge about the strengths and needs of their child. Their experience regarding their child’s education and development is invaluable. Parents are the experts in their own right. They provide historical information and the big picture from year to year. They know what works and does not work with their child and can be a great asset to the IEP team.
The goals and specific expectations, the accommodations and program modifications required must be discussed while fine-tuning the IEP. That first meeting of the whole team will, therefore, not be so daunting to the parents. Nothing should come out as a surprise. The focus of the meeting should be on making the IEP work.

Parents Are a Great Asset to the IEP TeamTip For Parents ~ Keep Records of EVERYTHING!

  • From the beginning, parents must keep good records in a large, sturdy folder which can be brought to meetings and appointments.
  • Start compiling a list of all the people you must deal with and include all their contact information. An address book for this purpose works well.
  • Keep a journal to write down, in chronological order, all developments in the IEP. Include all tests results, appointments and discussions about your child. After a phone call, immediately write down the W’s: who, when, why and what.
  • A good policy is to ask for every important decision to be written and signed.Keep a journal to write down, in chronological order, all developments in the IEP. - Parents Are a Great Asset to the IEP Team
  • Make copies of important papers to always have one to put in your folder. This folder is your bible, it will quickly be worth its weight in gold!
  • Parents will have to sign consent forms needed for further tests or for the school to receive test results from professionals.
    Share any relevant reports or assessments about your child.
  • Give your contact information so you are easy to reach to hasten the process.

Who Makes Up the IEP Team?

  • Parents and child if he/she is old enough
  • Previous classroom teacher if a school term is starting
  • Regular classroom teacher
  •  School system representative: ( usually our principal and or the Special education coordinator attended)
  • Professional who can interpret the evaluation results that led to your child’s eligibility for an IEP
  • Professional who will provide services as part of the IEP
  • Any other person either party deems has special expertise about the child
It is important that all parties be present for the initial meeting as well as the follow-up ones. I remember when I was teaching, how difficult it was to set a time when all could be present. It takes time to arrange every aspect of an IEP, therefore start months before you want it in place.
All parties are there for the benefit of your child and want to work in a collaborative way to map out your child’s educational plan. It might be overwhelming for the parents but they should know the whole team wants this IEP to be well drawn up and workable as much as the parents.
Parents Are a Great Asset to the IEP Team
It is important that parents continue to be informed and involved in their child’s education leading up to the IEP and for all the years after.
A student with special educational needs can still participate in the school culture and extra-curricular activities. They can still access the general curriculum.  The IEP is intended to help children reach educational goals more easily than they otherwise would… and you can all rejoice at graduation time on a job well done by the IEP team!
Please add other tips for parents whose child has an IEP.
See also:


  • Sandy Furth Posted June 19, 2013 1:11 pm

    I believe the student should have a voice, let the team know what their strengths are as a learner, what their own needs are as well. It helps them learn who they are as a learner and person.

    • Lorna dEntremont Posted June 20, 2013 7:22 am

      Yes, Sandy Furth, the student definately should have a voice. Parents and teachers should teach the child to self-advocate from very early on and when it is “time” the student should attend the IEP meetings too. When the child is young I have seen the child attending part of the LONG meeting and be excused for the last part.

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  • Beth Posted September 13, 2016 5:25 pm

    Thank you for sharing! This is good clear basic information, very helpful!

    • Lorna dEntremont Posted September 15, 2016 10:23 am

      Thanks Beth, Happy to read you found our post on IEPs helpful. Hope your child/children have a great school year! Lorna

  • Dave Anderson Posted April 12, 2017 1:05 pm

    I think that an individualized education plan is a good idea for children that are having a hard time focusing in class and studying. Because it is so important that children learn they should be able to have lessons that are catered to their needs. Like you said children with special needs can benefit a lot from an individualized lesson. However, with that said I think that it is also important to make sure that they have time where they can socialize and interact with other students.

    • Lorna dEntremont Posted April 14, 2017 7:36 am

      Thanks Dave for your comment. Yes, students with an IEP can often be in the same classroom with their age group most of the time. They also are with them at recess, noon time, etc. to socialize with the other students.

  • Ridley Fitzgerald Posted July 28, 2017 2:08 pm

    Personalized education sounds like it’d help my son out a lot. He struggles in a school, so I’m pretty sure he’ll need an IEP. I just love the fact that they can be tailored to each child’s needs, so my son won’t feel like a failure.

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