Inside: How to Write an IEP for Special Education, step by step.

This might seem like an unusual article to have on an IEP advice website that is mostly for parents and advocates–How to Write an IEP.

However, I have found that many parents are unaware of how IEPs are developed and what the step-by-step process is for writing an IEP.

How to Write an IEP
How to Write an IEP is a complex and lengthy process.

And, if you are a new teacher or an IEP mom, you should understand the IEP writing process, to maximize your participation in the process.

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How to Write an IEP for Special Education

First, make sure that you know exactly what an IEP is and what it should do. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written plan designed to meet the unique educational needs of students with disabilities. I have an entire article dedicated to “What is an IEP” so you can read more there.

Developing an IEP involves a collaborative process that involves parents, educators, and other professionals, and requires careful consideration of the student’s strengths, skill deficiencies, and learning style.

In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide for how to write an IEP.

Who Writes the IEP?

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is typically written by a team of professionals who work with the student, including special education teachers, regular education teachers, school psychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and other related service providers.

The IEP team also includes the student’s parents or guardians, as well as the student themselves, if appropriate, and any other individuals who can provide valuable insights into the student’s educational needs and goals.

The team works collaboratively to develop an IEP that outlines the student’s strengths, areas of need, and learning goals, as well as the services and accommodations they will need to succeed in school.

When is an IEP Written?

If following the spirit of IDEA, the IEP team typically writes the Individualized Education Program (IEP) during a formal meeting, which is held at least once a year. Modern times dictate that most IEPs are far too long and complex to be developed in one meeting.

The IEP team can begin the process of writing the IEP well in advance of the meeting to allow sufficient time for preparation and collaboration.

It is acceptable and perfectly legal to do prework, as long as parental concerns are heard and considered.

However, the team may meet more frequently if the student’s needs change or if there are concerns about their progress.

The team may gather information from various sources, such as assessments, progress reports, and teacher input, to inform the development of the IEP.

During the meeting, the team reviews the student’s current performance, identifies areas of need, and sets goals and objectives for the upcoming school year. The team also determines the specific services and accommodations that the student will receive to support their learning and achievement.

After the IEP is written, it is reviewed and revised as needed throughout the school year to ensure that it remains relevant and effective in meeting the student’s needs.

Understanding the IEP

Definition of IEP

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a legal document that outlines the educational plan for a student with a disability. It is a written agreement between the student’s parents or guardians and the school, which is created by a team of professionals, including teachers, parents, and specialists.

The IEP is designed to meet the unique needs of the student and provide them with the necessary support to succeed in school.

Importance of an IEP

The IEP is a critical tool for ensuring that students with disabilities receive appropriate educational services. It serves as a roadmap for the student’s education and provides a framework for measuring progress.

The IEP sets specific goals for the student, outlines the services and accommodations that will be provided, and identifies the individuals responsible for implementing the plan.

The IEP is also a legal document that provides important protections for students with disabilities. It ensures that the student’s needs are considered when making decisions about educational placement, services, and accommodations.

The IEP also provides parents with the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process and advocate for their child’s needs.

The IEP also provides important legal protections for students with disabilities and ensures that their needs are considered in decision-making processes.

scattered iep
Today, many IEPs are dozens of pages long, requiring a lot of time and effort from the IEP team.

Step 1: Conduct an IEP Evaluation

The first step in writing an IEP is to conduct a comprehensive special education evaluation of the student. This evaluation should assess the student’s strengths, weaknesses, and learning style, as well as any needs related to their disability.

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The evaluation may include assessments of academic skills, social skills, and behavior, as well as any other relevant areas.

The evaluation should be conducted by a team of professionals, which may include the student’s teacher, school psychologist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, and others.

The results of the evaluation will be used to develop the student’s goals and objectives for the IEP.

Step 2: Develop Goals and Objectives

Based on the results of the evaluation, the IEP team will develop specific, measurable goals and objectives for the student. These goals should be based on the student’s strengths and areas of need, and should address their academic, social, and behavioral needs.

Each goal should be broken down into specific objectives, which outline the steps the student will take to achieve the goal. Objectives are best practice, but are only required for students who take alternative assessments.

The objectives should be measurable, so that progress toward the goal can be tracked and assessed.

Writing an IEP goal is part art, part science. Data and baselines from the evaluations should be used during goal development. The parents and the team should work together to determine priorities. Some kids have so many needs that it would be impossible to write an IEP goal for every skill deficit.

I have a separate article and video on How to Write an IEP Goal.

A snapshot of an iPad displaying an IEP
It’s important for parents to understand the entire IEP development process and their rights.

Step 3: Determine Appropriate Accommodations and Modifications

In addition to goals and objectives, the IEP should include appropriate accommodations and modifications to support the student’s learning.

Accommodations are changes to the learning environment or instructional methods that allow the student to participate in the curriculum on an equal basis with their peers. Examples of accommodations might include extended time on tests, preferential seating, or the use of assistive technology.

Modifications, on the other hand, are changes to the curriculum itself. Modifications may be necessary for students who have significant learning disabilities or who are significantly behind their peers. Examples of modifications might include simplified assignments or a modified grading system.

And then there is the SDIs-Specially Designed Instruction. These are the specific special education interventions that your child is receiving.

I have a separate article explaining Specially Designed Instruction, and another explaining the difference between accommodations and modifications.

IEP accommodations modifications book stack
Click the Image to see the difference between accommodations and modifications.

Step 4: Determine Related Services and Supports

Related services are additional services that the student may need in order to benefit from their education. These services might include speech therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, or physical therapy.

The IEP team should determine which related services are necessary for the student, and how often they should be provided.

In addition to related services, the IEP may also include supports such as a paraprofessional or other adult support in the classroom. The IEP team should determine what type of support is needed, and how often it should be provided.

I have a separate article further explaining IEP Related Services.

related services on the IEP

Step 5: Establish a Plan for Monitoring Progress

Once the goals, objectives, accommodations, modifications, related services, and supports have been determined, the IEP team should establish a plan for monitoring the student’s progress toward their goals.

This plan should include specific criteria for measuring progress, as well as timelines for reviewing and revising the IEP.

Progress monitoring may involve frequent assessments, regular meetings with parents and teachers, or other methods for tracking the student’s progress. The IEP team should determine how progress will be monitored, and who will be responsible for monitoring and reporting progress.

I have a separate article about IEP Progress Monitoring.

Step 6: Write the IEP Document

Once all of the components of the IEP have been determined, it’s time to write the IEP document itself. The IEP document should include the following:

  • The student’s current level of performance in academic, social, and behavioral areas
  • Measurable annual goals, broken down into specific objectives
  • Accommodations and modifications needed to support the student’s learning
  • Related services and supports needed
  • The plan for monitoring

There are several different IEP software programs available for schools.

It’s also important to stay up to date with your state IEP regulations so that your IEP team is in compliance.

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