Individualized Education Program (IEP)

The IEP as an Educational Framework

The Individualized Education Program, known as an IEP, is the foundation of a child's curriculum under special education. An IEP is a legal, written plan that specifies special education and related services necessary to meet the individualized needs of a student with a disability. To effectively guide a child’s education, parents first need to become familiar with the IEP process and the way an IEP plan is written.

IEPs follow an evaluation that determines a child’s eligibility for special education services. Either the school or the student’s parents or guardians may request an IEP meeting, which occurs at a mutually convenient time and place. At the meeting, hearing health and education professionals will share the results of the evaluation, discuss its findings and give parents or guardians the opportunity to ask questions.

Considerations for a Child who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing

An IEP for a child who is deaf or hard of hearing should consider the following:

  • The student’s communication needs.
  • The family’s preferred mode of communication.
  • The student’s linguistic needs.
  • The severity of the student’s hearing loss and his or her potential for using residual hearing.
  • The student’s academic level.
  • The student’s social, emotional and cultural needs.

IEP Warning Signs

A poorly written IEP can lead to vague programming and lack of accountability. When writing or reviewing an IEP, look for the following warning signs:

  • Progress made on the current IEP is not documented.
  • No information is given about the student’s level of performance.
  • Too many goals are listed (four or five are usually enough).
  • Objectives are vague and immeasurable.
  • The same goals are repeated year after year.
  • Amounts and types of services needed, such as speech-language therapy, are not specified.
  • Goals are unrelated to curriculum or to activities.
  • Placement is determined before needs are established.
  • A regular classroom is not considered as an option.
  • Goals are written for school staff rather than for the student.

What to Look for in the IEP

The IEP also must include plans for behavioral intervention and discipline as well as a statement of the supplementary aids and services needed in regular education classes and on state and local assessments. The IEP becomes effective as soon as possible following the meeting. Parents/guardians have the right to refuse services if determined to be inappropriate and are not required to sign the IEP. The school district can then call a hearing, or the parents/guardians can request a hearing.

Reviews of the IEP must be conducted on at least an annual basis, but parents often want more frequent reviews if it appears that their child’s needs are not being met.

After a child receives a cochlear implant parents may wish to request more frequent meetings to review progress on the IEP.

Questions to consider include:

  • What are realistic language development goals for my child?
  • What are realistic speech production and speech perception goals for my child?
  • How does the school district plan to reach those goals, and how will these goals be integrated with academic objectives?
  • What responsibility does the school district take for cochlear implant (re)habilitation (if applicable)? What experience does the school have in this area?
  • Will the school district provide assistive listening devices, such as a personal FM system or FM sound-field system, to aid my child in the classroom? (If the school district pledges to provide support in this area, be sure to get its commitment in writing.)

To learn more about developing your child’s IEP and education advocacy, take the free Parent Advocacy Training course.