Home » Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)

Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)

As mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), every public school student receiving special education and other related services is required to have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP is designed to meet the unique educational needs of one child, who may have a disability, as defined by federal regulations and is intended to help children reach educational goals more easily than they otherwise would. It should describe how the student learns, how the student best demonstrates that learning, and what teachers and service providers will do to help the student learn more effectively.


As more generalized and not very customized IEPs have made their way into the lives of special education students, some parents have become concerned. When the parent questions the goal of their child’s IEP, they wonder exactly what it means.

The concept of the SMART IEP was developed to get the most out of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA).  IDEA requires that each special education student must receive a “truly individualized” IEP.

Following is a breakdown of the components comprising a SMART IEP:

* Specific goals and objectives targeting functional performance and academic achievement. Descriptions of the goals will be clear with a list of skills and how progress will be accurately measured.

* Measurable goals provide the teacher and parents with definitive data on the student’s progress (or lack of progress). Accurate measuring allows achievement to be readily identified.

* Action words must be used in the writing of goal statements in order to provide definitive evidence of progress substantiated by measurable observance.

* Realistic goals, which are relevant to the unique needs of the student, should be a part of the IEP. External standards imposed by the District or State should not influence the needs of any specific student.

* Time limits must be associated with the specific, measurable goals. The student’s current levels of performance should be stated as a baseline. When the target goal will be met needs to also be a part of her IEP.

Additional Information on SMART IEPs: http://www.wrightslaw.com/bks/feta2/ch12.ieps.pdf


Evaluation and Eligibility for Special Education and Related Services

Evaluation is an essential beginning step in the special education process for a child with a disability. Before a child can receive special education and related services for the first time, a full and individual initial evaluation of the child must be conducted to see if the child has a disability and is eligible for special education. Informed parent consent must be obtained before this evaluation may be conducted.

The initial evaluation of a child is required by IDEA before any special education and related services can be provided to that child. The purposes of conducting this evaluation are straightforward:

  • To see if the child is a “child with a disability,” as defined by IDEA
  • To gather information that will help determine the child’s educational needs
  • To guide decision making about appropriate educational programming for the child.

IDEA lists different disability categories under which a child may be found eligible for special education and related services. These categories are:

  • Autism
  • Deafness
  • Deaf-blindness
  • Developmental delay
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Hearing impairment
  • Mental retardation
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Other health impairment
  • Specific learning disability
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairment, including blindness.

Before services can be implemented, the IEP meeting must take place and team members must agree upon and write the IEP.

IDEA Information Regarding IEPs and IEP Meetings – Pages 8-11: http://agbell.org/NetCommunity/Document.Doc?id=148