8 Basic Components of an Individual Education Program

The Individual Education Program (IEP) is the basic component of special education programs for children with learning disorders and other types of disabilities. It is made up of individual parts that act as a road map, establishing where your child is, where you want her to go, and how she will get there. Use this quick guide to understand the minimum requirements that the federal IDEA law specifies an IEP must contain.


Current Skill Level of the Student

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Every IEP must include a description of the child's current performance and skills in all areas of concern. It should explain how the disability affects his progress in the general education curriculum. The statements will address academics, life skills, physical functioning, and social and behavioral skills. They may also include any other areas of concern affecting the student's ability to learn.

IEP teams typically use formal assessments to determine the child's functioning and establish a baseline of performance. The team may also use anecdotal information and progress data from the student's classroom teachers to further describe their skills.


Annual Goals

The IEP must contain information about a child's goals, which need to be updated at least once a year. Goal statements specify what a student is expected to learn in the coming year, including academic skills and any relevant functional skills.

For students who participate in functional skills programs and who take alternate assessments, the IEP must also contain measurable short-term objectives. These will be used to measure their progress towards reaching the annual goals.


Progress Tracking

The IEP must contain an explanation of how progress toward goals and objectives will be measured. It should also describe how that information will be reported to parents. This gives parents a clear idea of how their student's advancements will be evaluated. It also serves as reassurance that you will receive the progress reports so you can maintain a role in their education.


Special Education Services

The IEP must include a description of the student's special education program which has been designed to suit his particular needs. This provides details regarding specially designed instruction and any related services the student will receive to help him meet his educational goals. 


Duration of Services

The IEP must include a projected beginning and end date of any services the IEP team proposes. This includes details on the frequency of the services and where they will be delivered. The intent is to ensure that everyone understands exactly when and where your student's individual program will take place.


Participation in Mainstream Classrooms

This section ensures that children are educated in the least restrictive environment to the greatest extent that is appropriate. When preparing it, the IEP team must consider if and how the child will participate in general education programs with children in mainstream classrooms.

The IEP must specify the amount of time a student will participate in these classes. It will also explain the rationale for that decision.


Testing Adaptations

The IEP must explain what types of testing accommodations will be used for the student. It should also explain why they are necessary. If a student will participate in alternate assessments, the rationale for that decision must be included in the IEP.


Statement of Transition

No later than a child's 16th birthday, an IEP must include measurable goals for the student's anticipated postsecondary program. It will also include a description of the services needed for the student to reach those goals.

Transitional goals and services focus on instruction and support services needed to help the student move from the school environment and into a job, vocational program, or other program designed to promote independent living. The goals should also prepare a student to advocate for herself in college.

A Word From Verywell

If an IEP is required for your child, be sure that you understand all of its details. Ask questions of the IEP team and look for those updates on your student's progress. By involving yourself in their education, you can help maximize the results of this program.

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