Is an Individualized Education Program (IEP) Right for Your Child?

Is an Individualized Education Program (IEP) Right for Your Child?

An Individualized Education Program has many benefits for children with special needs.

By Judy Koutsky

You’re probably always trying to make the most of your child’s education with the goal of helping your son or daughter succeed. For some kids, that may mean creating an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Here, we’ve answered some of your top questions and talked to experts in order to demystify the program and how it works.

1. What is an IEP? An IEP provides written assurance that the school is going to provide specific services and educate your child in a particular setting. An IEP creates goals for your child and outlines ways to achieve those goals. “While an IEP cannot guarantee success, it can often help a student with disabilities from falling through the cracks,” says Richard J. Murphy, a lawyer who specializes in assisting families in special education matters.

2. What are the benefits of an IEP? Having an IEP for a child who is struggling is really beneficial. The IEP stipulates the extra support a child would need and can really make a huge difference in a child's life, notes Gordy Rogers, a speech-language pathologist. “An IEP does require some extra work and diligence on the part of the parent,” says Rogers, but getting your child the helps he needs is worth the time and effort.

3. What is the parent’s role in the IEP? A parent is an essential and critical member of any IEP team. It is important for parents to tell the school about their concerns and ensure that they are included in all meetings.

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4. Who is your child’s strongest advocate during the IEP process? You probably already guessed it -- that’s you. Your job is to be a strong voice for your child. “Remember that the parents are always going to be your child’s best advocate. Your child is entitled to receive the services that he/she needs to make meaningful progress,” says Mary Ann Cassell, superintendent of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders Academy in Alexandria, Virginia.


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5. What information should you request before the IEP Meeting? Bring progress reports, test scores, and other data that may show your child’s learning level, says Cassell. Even if you think the school has copies of everything, it’s always a good idea to bring your own. You can highlight parts for reference, so it’s easy to refer to key details during the meeting.

How has an IEP helped your child?

Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of, AOL Parent and Follow her on Twitter @JudyKoutsky.

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