Parents of school-aged children with special needs or learning disabilities are no doubt familiar with the term IEP. But if they don’t understand why their child needs to receive education under an IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, class placement and accommodations may turn into a very frustrating and confusing discourse. No parents want their child to be segregated or limited because of a disability or learning challenges. That’s why it’s so important to understand what the IEP is, why you need one for your child, and what to expect from it.


1. The IEP is developed by a team that includes parents as an important piece. Parents’ input is an essential part of this process and it must be heard, respected and taken as the basis for setting the child´s goals for the year and the services he will require to achieve them.

2. The IEP is a written statement that details the child’s education services. It states step-by-step how the team is expected to provide the services and the education agreed upon at the IEP meeting. Parents have the right to request periodic information on how these steps are being provided.

3. Parents have the right to disagree with the services suggested for their child. They may request a better placement or different services. But at the same time, it’s important for parents to be realistic and honest about their child’s abilities and special needs.

4. The IEP is not meant to label a child. Children can move past the IEP if they achieve their goals, and the IEP team determines that they don’t need or qualify for these services anymore. The main goal of the IEP is to adjust education services to the child’s need. It may be temporary or last throughout the child’s schooling, depending on the needs of the child.

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5. Having a disability doesn’t mean that the child needs to be segregated or placed in a special needs environment without interaction with typical kids. The IEP should always consider the necessity of children with special needs to have the opportunity to pursue typical activities with non-disabled children. That’s always the best strategy to work on socialization and behavior.

6. The Present Level of Performance of the child, also call PLOP, is a very important piece of the IEP, as this is the basic information that allows the team to take proper action and set realistic goals. It’s determined by the evaluation outcomes and also with daily information provided by parents.

7. Goals must be written in an understandable and measurable manner. Every goal should be individualized. Talk about what is expected from your child, in what time frame it should happen and what tools will be used to achieve it.

8. The best way for parents to help the team set up appropriate services is to prepare a parents’  report where they express in writing their child’s weakness and strengths and their concerns. They should record daily activities, milestones, and anything they find important to share for making good decisions when it’s time to write the next IEP.

9. Parents and the IEP team should work together for a common objective—finding the best services and resources for the well-being of the child and his optimum performance based on his individual abilities.