How to Get an IEP for Your Child

Whether you're requesting an IEP for your child, have been referred by a teacher, or have a child identified as eligible for services by your state's Child Find program, the process will follow a particular sequence.

The following steps, from the initial referral through the provision of services, are adapted from the U.S. Department of Education's "Guide to the Individualized Education Program," which details everything you need to know about the IEP process for your child.

Getting an IEP

  1. Referral or request is made for an evaluation. A school professional may ask that a child is evaluated to see if they have a disability. Parents may also contact the child’s teacher or other school professionals to ask that their child is evaluated. This request may be verbal or in writing. Parental consent is needed before the child may be evaluated. Evaluation needs to be completed within a reasonable time after the parent gives consent.
  2. The child is evaluated. The evaluation must assess the child in all areas related to the child’s suspected disability. The evaluation results will be used to decide the child’s eligibility for special education and related services and to make decisions about an appropriate educational program for the child. If the parents disagree with the evaluation, they have the right to take their child for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). They can ask that the school system pays for this IEE.
  3. Eligibility is decided. A group of qualified professionals and the parents look at the child’s evaluation results. Together, they decide if the child is a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA. Parents may ask for a hearing to challenge the eligibility decision.
  4. The child is found eligible for services. If the child is found to be a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA, they are eligible for special education and related services. Within 30 calendar days after a child is determined eligible, the IEP team must meet to write an IEP for the child.
  5. IEP meeting is scheduled. The school system schedules and conducts the IEP meeting. School staff must: contact the participants, including the parents; notify parents early enough to make sure they have an opportunity to attend; schedule the meeting at a time and place agreeable to parents and the school; tell the parents the purpose, time, and location of the meeting; tell the parents who will be attending; and tell the parents that they may invite people to the meeting who understand the child's needs (such as a health care provider).
  6. IEP meeting is held and the IEP is written. The IEP team gathers to talk about the child’s needs and write the student’s IEP. Parents and the student (when appropriate) are part of the team. If the child’s placement is decided by a different group, the parents must be part of that group as well. Before the school system may provide special education and related services to the child for the first time, the parents must give consent.
  7. Parents have a right to disagree. If the parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. If they still disagree, parents can ask for mediation, or the school may offer mediation. Parents may file a complaint with the State education agency and may request a due process hearing, at which time mediation must be available.
  8. Services are provided. The school makes sure that the child’s IEP is being carried out as it was written. Parents are given a copy of the IEP. Each of the child’s teachers and service providers has access to the IEP and knows their specific responsibilities for carrying out the IEP. This includes the accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided to the child, in keeping with the IEP.
  9. Progress is measured and reported to parents. The child’s progress toward the annual goals is measured, as stated in the IEP. The child's parents are regularly informed of their progress and whether that progress is enough for the child to achieve their goals by the end of the year. These progress reports must be given to parents at least as often as parents are informed of their nondisabled children’s progress.
  10. IEP is reviewed. The child’s IEP is reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, or more often if the parents or school ask for a review. If necessary, the IEP is revised. Parents, as team members, must be invited to attend these meetings. Parents can make suggestions for changes, can agree or disagree with the IEP goals, and agree or disagree with the placement.
  11. The child is reevaluated. At least every three years the child must be reevaluated. This evaluation is often called a "triennial." Its purpose is to find out if the child continues to be a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA, and what the child’s educational needs are. However, the child must be reevaluated more often if conditions warrant or if the child’s parent or teacher requests for a new evaluation.
3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Education. A Guide to the Individualized Education Program.

  2. U.S. Department of Education. Individuals with Disabilities Act. Sec. 300.502 Independent educational evaluation.

  3. U.S. Department of Education. Individuals with Disabilities Act. Section 1415. Procedural safeguards.

Additional Reading

By Terri Mauro
Terri Mauro is the author of "50 Ways to Support Your Child's Special Education" and contributor to the Parenting Roundabout podcast.