Essential Elements of an IEP

By Noreen J. O'Mahoney, CSW, SDA


For students with diagnosed learning disabilities, receiving services under the IDEA, the Individual Education Plan establishes goals and objectives for the school year • As your child’s advocate, it’s up to you to ensure that this document includes, at a minimum, the core elements outlined here

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 your child will learn and be able to do as a result of the programs and services he will receive. Simply put, the purpose of the IEP is to set annual targets for your child and answer the question: Is he learning and mastering skills?

As the parent of a child with learning differences, it’s your responsibility to ensure that the IEP fits your child. No one knows your child better than you.  It, therefore, behooves you to take an active part in the development of the IEP, and monitor adherence to it as the year unfolds.

Although you are one of several members of his IEP team, you are the only one at the table representing his interests alone.

Essential Elements of An IEP

To ensure that the IEP reflects your child’s educational goals, 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, at a minimum. the essential elements described below. If they are not present in your child’s IEP, your job is to ask why not, and to work toward making them a part of this document.

1. Strengths and weaknesses. Does the IEP 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 your child’s 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 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 peers, in compliance with the law’s Least Restrictive Environment mandate?

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

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