What is an Individual Education Plan (IEP)?

An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is created when a child is evaluated for special education, and the school determines that he or she qualifies for services and support. The IEP is created to help children improve academically and build skills.  

The idea is for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel and students (when appropriate) to be part of the IEP team and work together as equal partners in the development of an IEP. 

What Disabilities can be Covered with an IEP?

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children with disabilities have the right to a free and appropriate public education. Also, as much as possible, plans are made so that students can learn alongside peers who do not have disabilities. An IEP can include services such as speech and occupational therapy, social work, special resources, progress monitoring and annual goals. 

Disabilities that can result in an IEP include: 

  • Learning disability 
  • Health Impairment such as ADHD 
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder 
  • Emotional issues, such as depression 
  • Speech or language impairment 
  • Visual impairment or blindness 
  • Hearing Impairment or deafness 
  • Orthopedic impairment, such as cerebral palsy 
  • Intellectual disability 
  • Traumatic brain injury 
  • Multiple disabilities 

Life of an Individual Education Plan (IEP)

In developing an IEP, parents are key participants, because they understand their child’s previous and current academic performance, strengths and challenges. Parents also know what motivates their children, what they prefer, how they learn and their attitude towards school and learning. All of these are key components of a successful IEP. Steps for developing an IEP include: 

  • Identifying a child as possibly needing special education services by a school professional or parents. Parental consent is needed for the child to be evaluated. 
  • Evaluating the child. If parents disagree with an evaluation, they have the right to take their child for an Independent Educational Evaluation. 
  • Determining eligibility through a group of qualified professionals and parents. Parents may request a hearing to challenge the decision. 
  • Within 30 calendar days of eligibility, the IEP team must meet to write the IEP. 
  • Scheduling the IEP meeting, with parents being notified of the purpose, time, location and who will be attending. Parents can invite people to the meeting who have knowledge or special expertise about the child. 
  • Writing the IEP. Before services are provided, the parents must consent. If parents disagree after trying to work out an agreement, parents can ask for mediation and may file a complaint with the state education agency. 
  • Providing services, including accommodations, modifications and supports. 
  • Measuring progress as stated in the IEP. Parents must be regularly informed of the child’s progress toward annual goals. 
  • The IEP is reviewed at least once a year, or more often if the parents or school request.  
  • The child must be reevaluated at least every three years, or more often if the parent or teacher asks for a new evaluation. 

Help for Parents and Families

Kids’ Minds Matter has worked to create a pilot program for Mental Health Navigators, funded by philanthropy. Through a network of agencies, navigators provide peer mentoring and support for families with children who face mental health challenges. They are supervised by Kids’ Minds Matter and Golisano Children’s Hospital. 

In addition to assisting with IEPs, Mental Health Navigators also help with mental health appointments, use wrap around funds to meet basic needs as well as provide other assistance to help children and families navigate mental and behavioral health challenges impacting education.  

Currently, candidates for the program are identified through counseling departments at school districts in Lee and Collier counties.