Essential Elements of an IEP

By Noreen J. O'Mahoney, CSW, SDA

The Individual Education Program (IEP) is the roadmap for your child’s education. It is a legal agreement between parent and school that states what the child will learn and be able to do; it dictates the programs and services he will receive. It’s supposed to set targets for your child and answer the question: Is he learning and mastering skills?

Essential Elements of An IEP

At a minimum, an IEP should contain the following elements:

1. Strengths and weaknesses. Does it reflect your input regarding the skills he does well and the skills he needs, as well as what you want him to know and do?

2. Correct diagnosis. Does it contain an accurate, comprehensive definition of her diagnosis, expressed clearly so that you understand how and what areas of learning are affected?

3. Current performance indicators. Does it present a clear, valid picture of his present level of performance in such a way that it can be used as a benchmark to measure future progress?

4. Valid interventions. Are you convinced that the treatment programs recommended are research-based and effective for his particular learning needs?

5. Realistic, measurable goals. Are the annual goals set for her meaningful and attainable; will objective measures be used to determine if the goals have been achieved?

6. Short-term objectives. Do the short-term (interim) objectives leading up to the annual goal specifically describe how progress will be measured, and is there a timetable and mechanism for regularly reporting progress, or lack thereof, to you?

7. Social considerations. Does the IEP provide a program for your child that allows maximum involvement with his peer group, in compliance with the law’s Least Restrictive Environment mandate?

Your Role in the IEP
It is your responsibility to ensure that the IEP fits your child. You must read and understand each page to verify that it is filled out completely, accurately, and appropriately. You must also review the document to make sure that it contains the essential elements described here. If they are not present in your child’s IEP, your job is to ask “Why not?”

Noreen O’Mahoney, CSW, SDA, is the founder and director of Collaborative Advocacy Associates, in Wilton, CT.


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