35 FAQs about IEPs, answered by a Special Education Advocate.


Periodically, I peruse various crowdsourcing websites to see what people are saying and asking about IEPs. That helps me stay ahead of trends and issues, especially if it meshes with what members are asking in the Facebook group. Recently after checking out sites like Quora and Also Asked, I thought I’d answer some of the common questions that are appearing on those sites.

I’ve done this before. I have another post about IEP Meeting FAQ, which you may want to check out. Since I have that post, I did not answer any of the meeting-related questions here.

FAQs about IEPs
What is an IEP?

IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan. It is a document that is defined and described by the Federal Special Education law IDEA.

What is the purpose of an IEP?

The purpose of an IEP is to give a child (ages 3-21) the supports, services, and interventions they need to access and benefit from their education.

Is an IEP the same as Special Education?

Yes, to be in special education, you need an IEP. And, if you have an IEP, you are receiving Special Education.

Is having an IEP a disability?

No, having the IEP does not make you disabled. The child goes through evaluations, from their school district. The IEP team then determines if the child qualifies for eligibility in one of the 13 Disability Categories defined in IDEA. However, if a child has an IEP, they are considered to be in a “protected class,” that is, a child with a disability. But, it’s a chicken-egg scenario, sort of. In this case, the disability must exist before the IEP is in place.

What qualifies a child for an IEP?

At either the parents’ or the school’s request, evaluations for special education are done. The team reviews the evaluations and determines if they qualify for an IEP, based on the results.

Who gets an IEP?

School children aged 3-21, after their evaluations determine that they need an IEP.

How much does an IEP cost?

For the parent-nothing. FAPE is one of the guiding principles of IEPs, and stands for Free and Appropriate Education.

What are the 7 Steps of the IEP Process?

Personally, I consider it to be 5 main components: Evaluations, Drawing up the IEP, IEP Meeting, Implementation and Progress Monitoring.

Does ADHD qualify you for an IEP?

Not by itself, no. IEPs are driven by needs and evaluations, not diagnoses. A diagnosis alone does not guarantee you an IEP.

Can a parent bring an attorney to an IEP meeting?

Yes, you can. However, it is not recommended. And, if you do not notify the school team first, they can cancel the meeting on you until they can arrange for one to come. There are OSEP Guidance Letters about this issue.

Can an IEP be removed?

Yes, if a child reaches the age to exit the school system (21-25, depending on your state), if the parent wishes to discontinue an IEP, or if evaluations determine that an IEP is no longer needed.

Can you get an IEP for anxiety?

Yes, but my answer is the same as above for ADHD. A diagnosis alone does not guarantee an IEP.

What are the 13 Disabilities for an IEP.

You can read all about the 13 Disabilities for IEPs here.

Can I get my child SSI because they have an IEP?

Short answer-maybe. But I wouldn’t count on it. In most circumstances, a disabled person does not qualify for SSDI (which is actually what you want, not SSI) until they are an adult.

Do you need a diagnosis for an IEP?

Again, no. IEP eligibility is determined by IEP evaluations done by the school.

How much does an IEP advocate cost?

That answer ranges from free all the way up to thousands of dollars. You can read more by clicking that link.

What is the parent’s role in an IEP?

The parent is an equal member of the IEP team. They should be treated as such, but they should also act as much. This means really engaging in the process year-round, not just at the annual IEP meeting time.

Can you fail a kid on an IEP?

Short answer-yes. Kids with IEPs can and do fail classes and grades, for reasons unrelated to their IEP. However, any time a child is failing, it should be a red flag to investigate and see what is needed.

What should I ask for on an IEP?

That’s going to be individual to the child and their needs. This is why it’s so important for parents to engage in the process.

Who determines IEP eligibility?

Every IEP decision is a team decision. In the event that the parent disagrees with the school, they must then use their IEP Procedural Safeguards for dispute resolution.

Will an IEP label my child?

To be honest-maybe. It’s unfortunate, but in today’s society, labels and stigmas get attached to people, even children. And Special Education is still one of those stigmas. However, if your child needs the services, I would still get one and teach them how to rise above it.

Can a child with an IEP take honors classes or go to college?

Absolutely! They may just need a different type of instruction or supports to get there, but an IEP should not limit a child’s ability.

Can an IEP help in college?

No, IEPs end when a child’s public school education ends. At college, the student then asks for a 504 plan.

How are IEPs and IFSPs similar?

They have a similar structure and process. IFSPs are for babies ages 0-3.

Are IEPs bad?

They’re not supposed to be! But the process and the meetings can be stressful. And, if they are not written well or followed, it’s very hard on kids. This is why they get a bad rap.

Are IEP meetings confidential?

Yes, but the IEP team can (and will) share information with relevant school staff who were not at the meeting.

What do you do when an IEP isn’t followed?

There’s a lot you can do. I have some incremental steps in that link.

How often is an IEP reviewed?

Per IDEA, it should be reviewed annually.

Can you add an IEP without Parent Consent?


Can you get an FBA without an IEP?

Absolutely. Many times the antecedents to behavior are the child’s academic needs not being met. However, it is not the best practice to implement a Behavior Plan without an IEP. A Behavior Plan has goals and you want progress monitoring; not just accommodations for behaviors.

What is an IEP classroom?

That is not a commonly used term. However, many kids with IEPs need to learn in smaller settings, and with smaller groups. They often are in a classroom called “self-contained.”

Can an IEP be changed?

Yes, but the entire team must agree to the changes.

Do private schools have IEPs?

No. IEPs are regulated by IDEA, and only apply to public schools and public school placements. Private schools are not obligated to provide special education, in most cases.

Can a child with an IEP be suspended?

Yes. However, there are different procedures that parents should be aware of.

What if I’m having IEP problems with my school?

Then, you’ve found the right place! Read all you can on here so that you can be a better advocate for your child. Or find a Special Education Advocate to assist you.

Good luck, I hope to “see” you around in the Facebook group. And, make sure you dig in and read the hyperlinked topics that apply to you.

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