What is the Individualized Education Program (IEP)?
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) describes the educational program that has been designed to meet that child's unique needs. Each child who receives special education and related services must have an IEP. Each IEP must be designed for one student and must be a truly individualized document. The IEP creates an opportunity for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel, and students (when age appropriate) to work together to improve educational results for children with disabilities. The IEP is the cornerstone of a quality education for each child with a disability.
The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a legally binding document. It establishes a plan for an individual student who meets the following eligibility criteria :
Is identified as having one or more
of the 13 disabilities (you can count Sensory disability as 1 or as 3
Hearing, Vision, Deaf-Blind) defined in state and Federal laws.
(Which ever law provides the most coverage, is law that is applied.)
For the state definition, refer to: Special Education regulation - 28.02(7)2) The student is unable to progress effectively in regular education as a result of the disability.
"Disability shall mean 1 or more of the following impairments."
This link will take you to an on-line copy of the regulation.
Our Massachusetts 10 Disability Categories:
Includes Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD, PDD/NOS), Asperger's Disorder, Rett's Disorder,
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD), etc.
(state regs defines as "Emotional Impairment", federal regs uses the term "Emotional disturbance")
Includes pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; or a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems, over a long period of time and to a marked degree.
Learning capacity of a young child (ages 3-9) is significantly limited)
(state regs defines as "Communication Impairment")
Use of expressive or receptive language is significantly limited (Includes speech, articulation, stuttering, language impairment, or voice impairment, etc.)
(state regs defines as "Intellectual Impairment", federal regs uses the term "Mental retardation")
Limited cognitive functioning
(state regs defines as "Physical Impairment")
Includes severe orthopedic impairments or impairments caused by congenital anomaly, cerebral palsy (CP), amputations, and fractures.
(state regs defines as "Sensory Impairment")
Includes Hearing, Vision, Deaf-Blind
Specific Learning Disability
In read, write, spell, or to do math, listening, think speak (federal regs includes Dyslexic).
(state regs defines as "Neurological Impairment", federal regs uses the term Traumatic brain injury (TBI) )
Includes the use of memory, information processing,
organizational skills, social skills, speech, language, etc.
Other Health issue
(state regs defines as "Health Impairment")
Includes ADHD, asthma, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, and sickle cell anemia.
For the Federal definition (IDEA - 04), refer to: Federal Register "300.8- Child with a disability."
This link will take you to an on-line copy of the Register, for federal definitions of a disability.
The following is from the Mass. DOE manual, page 19:
Is Special Education the Right Service, A Technical Assistive Guide
"Naming a type of disability has common characteristics with the process of making a diagnosis. However, it is important to stress that identification of type of disability is not a medical diagnosis, but a more general agreement among Team members that the assessed characteristics of the student are consistent with the regulatory definition for that type of disability (ies). The definitions in regulation are general definitions. Each one is comprised of many subgroups with specific associated diagnostic criteria, often medical in nature. It is not the intention of the special education law to require a specific diagnosis such as “Asperger's Syndrome” or “Cerebral Palsy.” Those specific diagnoses will generally only be provided by medical personnel using criteria that include educational impact as only one aspect of the diagnostic process. Special education eligibility is both more specific and more general. The use of the disability label is more general, but the consideration of educational impact is very specific.
Some of the assessors who provide information to the Team may be in a position to make a medical diagnosis and the diagnosis may, therefore, be part of the Team discussion. However, although a Team may use a diagnosis made available to them as part of the assessment information, it is not the responsibility of the Team to confirm or deny a diagnosis made by an assessor. Teams should not spend time, therefore, attempting to agree on an exact diagnosis as long as the assessment information is sufficient to make the more general assertion that the student has a certain type of disability.
Conversely, Teams may often have conflicting information provided by assessors, including medical professionals, who have made a diagnosis naming a specific disability or disorder. Teams are not obligated to resolve such conflicts nor to accept such diagnoses as sufficient to require provision of special education services. In fact, the special education law explicitly requires that a Team of people, including educators and the parent(s), make a determination of eligibility. Although medical personnel may be members of a Team, they cannot be the only voice of the Team since a determination of eligibility for special education is an educational decision and not a medical one. "
"Progress effectively" means - making documented growth in the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Including social/emotional development in the general education program according to the following:
- Chronological age and developmental exceptions
- The individual educational potential of the child
- The learning standards in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.
Refer to: Special Education regulation - 28.02(17) - Progress effectively in the general education program.
This link will take you to an on-line copy of the regulation.
The following statements are from the 'IEP Process Guide', By Massachusetts Department of Education / June 2001
Page 9, 2nd paragraph:
"Teams sometime struggle in trying to decide if a student is making effective progress and look for specific guidelines to assist in making this important decision. Effective progress, however, is not easily translated to test scores, academic achievement, social skills or other individual or specific variables, but rather is an interrelated measure.
Teams, therefore, should carefully review evaluation data and make student-centered decisions on this important issue."
The DOE has a Flowchart to be used in the Team meeting as an aide for determining if your child meets the criteria of the two question asked above.
It's called the 'Special Education Eligibility Determination' form (ED 1) .
IDEA Eligibility Categories: What Difference Does the Label Make?
Passing Grades, IQ Scores & Evaluations of Students with Learning Disabilities: Letter to Lillie/Felton
"The student is not eligible. If the Team determines that the student is not eligible, the Team chairperson shall record the reason for such finding, list the meeting participants, and provide written notice to the parent of their rights in accordance with federal requirements within ten (10) days of the Team meeting."
The notice the school will send you is the Narrative Description of School District Proposal (the first paragraph has the Directions to School Staff and list 6 questions that the school district is required to respond to).
The first question is "What action is the school district proposing to to take?" If the school district has proposed a Finding of No Eligibility for your child, it should be stated in response to this question.
Next call the Bureau of Special education Appeals (BSEA) to request mediation or a hearing. Your child's IEP remain in effect (Stayput) until an agreement can be reach at mediation or or a hearing officer makes a decision.
(For more informaiton about laws and regulations reguarding evaluation requirements, please view our Change in Eligibility webpage.)
Students between ages of 3 - 21 are eligible for an IEP.
Refer to: Special Education regulation - 28.02(9) - Eligible students mean a person age 3 - 21.
This link will take you to an on-line copy of the regulation, Section 28.02,
scroll down to number (9).
For children who are ages 0 to age 3 are eligible for IFSP =
Individual Family Service Plan.
For the Federal definition:
Federal Register, 34 CFR Part 303, Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities (Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).
Click here to
an article for more information about IFSP and the difference between
The following is a summary of what is contain in the IEP:
Actual IEP Forms (IEP 1-8 ) This is a link to DOE forms (available in two formats, WP and PDF).
Guide (June 2001), is a manual that was publication by ESE, that
describes each page of the IEP.
Click here to view/print your own copy,(PDF format).
You can call an order your own copy of this guide from DESE, Special Education Policy and Planning Department (781) 338-3375.