How do I get an IEP for my child?



Request Evaluation to Determine Eligibility


Prepare for Evaluation


The Evaluation


Prepare for Initial IEP Meeting


Initial IEP Meeeting


Review and Modify IEP


Monitor IEP or Dispute IEP


Annual IEP Meeting/Update

VIDEO: How do I get an IEP?

The first step to getting an IEP for your child is to request a special education eligibility evaluation from the special education administrator at his school.

The school district might also request an evaluation before you do. Either way, your written consent is required to begin the evaluation. The school must share the detailed evaluation plan with you in advance so that you are fully aware of the testing and observation that your child will undergo. If possible, research these tests to determine if the tests the school district has proposed to utilize during your child’s evaluation are the most appropriate tests and how the results will provide a basis for developing an IEP for your child.

You have the right to suggest changes to the evaluation plan if you, for example, feel there are potential areas for evaluation that may not have been included.

Although not required by the IDEA, you may request to meet with the assigned evaluator before the evaluation begins. This will give you an opportunity to ask questions about the tests to be performed and the other evaluation methods to be utilized.

The initial evaluation must be completed within 60 days of the school receiving your written consent.

An evaluation should include the following:


Objective tests to evaluate your child in areas such as general intelligence, reading comprehension, psychological states, social development and physical abilities, an explanation of such tests and your child’s test results;


Comprehensive information such as teacher and parent reports, evaluations by experts specializing in your child’s disability, letters from your child’s pediatrician or counselor and evidence of school performances;


A conclusion regarding your child’s eligibility for special education and recommendations to meet your child’s specific needs.

What if I disagree with the school’s evaluation outcome?

If the school’s evaluation concludes that your child is not eligible for an IEP, you have the right to an Independent Education Evaluation (IEE) at the school district’s expense. It is important to make this request in writing.

The school district must cover the cost of the IEE or else file a due process complaint to request a hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate. The school district is required to consider the results of the independent evaluation when determining eligibility for your child.

What will happen at the initial IEP meeting?

At each IEP meeting, the team will go over your child’s current performance at school, his educational goals and the services and supports the school has put in place to allow him to meet these goals.

It is important to come to the initial meeting as prepared and organized as possible. Some things you might want to do to prepare include:

1. Gather as much information as possible about your child’s current strengths and challenges, both at school and outside of school.

2. Do some research in advance about the programs, placement options and supplemental aids that you find may be appropriate to meet your child’s needs.

3. Talk to other parents of children receiving special education services at your school and find out what has been helpful to them. Each student is unique, but it can be helpful to learn from the experiences of others who have gone through the IEP process before you.

4. Come up with your own goals for your child’s school year, as well as his future. Write out a list of possible programs and services you’d like to see on your child’s IEP that you feel will help him meet these goals. This will help you put all your thoughts in one place and give you something concrete to bring to the meeting.

5. Keep in mind: you know your child best! Be as clear as possible with the team about your child’s needs, while also being respectful and understanding of the opinions and findings of the school professionals.

Your child’s IEP must be set forth in writing and signed by you and the school district, which can either be done at the end of the meeting (if, and only if, you are comfortable and agree with the IEP prepared) or shortly after the meeting (if you would like to further review the IEP prepared and document any objections you have to the IEP).

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Who should be part of the IEP team?

Your school district will assign a case manager or team leader to oversee your child’s IEP and progress, most likely a special education teacher. The team will also include a general education teacher (if your child spends any part of his day in a general education classroom), a school administrator (such as the principal) and a school psychologist or social worker to review assessments, etc.

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The team can also include other teachers, such as a music teacher or a reading specialist, as well as professionals providing related services, including a speech pathologist, physical therapist or behavioral aide.

If there are others you feel will be helpful in providing information or recommendations throughout the IEP process, like a doctor or even a close friend, you are welcome to include them as well. Some parents might decide to bring an advocate or an attorney to a meeting, especially if there is a disagreement or a dispute that needs to be resolved.

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Once your child reaches middle school, or even in his later elementary school years, it is important to try to make him a part of the process, if appropriate. The team is ultimately setting out the goals and plan for his future, so making sure his voice is included is essential to developing a successful and effective IEP. In the high school years and beyond, as the IEP begins to focus heavily on postsecondary plans such as college, vocational programs or jobs, your child should be able to share his perspective on his needs and interests to the best of his ability.

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Next Section: Developing an IEP