Special Education IEP Defined

Children with an IEP sitting at their desks in a special education classroom.

I had been teaching in special education and attended many IEP meetings for nearly two decades when my son was diagnosed with Autism…

It was evident to me for a while that something was wrong…

However, just like in many marriages, one of the spouses struggles with new concepts that affect our kids.

This accurately described my husband…

Not Sure If Your Child’s IEP Is Right?


YES! I Want To Get Started FOR FREE!

He took a LONG TIME to come to terms with what I had already known.

BECAUSE he didn’t want a label put on our son that. He felt that it could have a negative effect on his mindset as he aged.

However, my husband finally agreed that the pros would outweigh the cons… and we moved forward.


My Son’s First IEP Meeting

I remember the first IEP meeting for our son… it was so weird for me!

It was the first time I was on the “Otherside of the table” as the parent.

I’d literally been to hundreds of these, but something about this one changed me…

Yes, it was a meeting about MY child… but the feeling was much more profound.

For the first time, I FINALLY understood WHY parents have so much anxiety during these meetings…

Why some parents don’t even show.

The knowledge and understanding required to make a real impact… was immense.

My husband struggled A LOT… everything was foreign.

We vowed right then and there to change this feeling for parents… And immediately we began working on resources to help parents understand their child’s IEP and allow them a chance to advocate for their children properly!


What is an IEP?

Individualized Education Plans or IEPs are written documents that represent the provision for special education services for children with special needs. Read our blog the 7 Steps to the IEP Process to see each step of the process in detail.

How Does A Child Qualify for Special Education Services?

For your child to receive special education services, they must be in one of the following categories.

IEP Categories

  • Speech-Language Impairments
  • Specific Learning Disabilities
  • Emotional Disturbance (ED)
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Autism
  • Hearing Impairments
  • Visual Impairments
  • Developmental Delay (DD)
  • Deafness
  • Deaf-Blindness
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Other Health Impairment (OHI)
  • Multiple disabilities (MDS)


The IEP team members provide detailed information on your child’s present performance. And they offer direct support and services to students as per the requirements.

They conduct a performance analysis to: 


What Goes In an IEP?

(1) Monitoring and analyzing present levels of functional performance and academic achievement

  • Documenting with multiple sources and data points the child’s current academic and functional performance in each area of need.
  • Statement on how progress on IEP goals will be monitored and measured.

(2) Determining and measuring annual goals
(3) Making provisions for special education-related services
(4) Determining the amount of time students remain out of general education classes and in Self-Contained Classes
(5) Planning participation of students in state or district-wide academic assessments
(6) Providing transition services

Legislative History of IEPs

Public Law 94-142, also known as 1975 EHA, contained the first requirement for the development of IEPs for children with disabilities.

After the 1975 EHA, there were continued improvements to the law to modify the IEP requirements.

With each reauthorization, the requirements for an IEP were adjusted to address items that were outdated due to changing times.

These items included new:

  • Needs Of Children And Schools
  • Focus On Curriculum And Resources
  • Challenges In The Ever-Expanding Special Education World

Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The 2004 IDEA amendments introduced several necessary adjustments to the IEP to address the need for increased accountability with the requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Pros and Cons of Special Education IEPs

Now that you are aware of the basic structure of IEPs, let’s take a look at some pros and cons.

This small comparison should help you make a better choice. Being informed and aware of the procedures can help you make the right decisions and have a positive impact on your child’s life.

Special Education IEP Pros

IEPs can provide much-needed services and support to children with special needs. Since tax dollars support special education there is no additional cost to families for these vital services.

Additionally, medically vulnerable children can receive free occupational, physical, and speech therapy through the school system.

Proper intervention through an IEP can help kids with special needs make progress both academically along with any behavioral issues that may exist.

Often, behaviors are a symptom of the frustration that a child feels with struggling to understand the concepts he is learning.

Special education programs are more inclined to deliver services and make provisions as per the needs of the students.

Special Education IEP Cons

Any time a label is placed on anyone, the likelihood of that person feeling different increases. Parents must help their child understand that a label simply means he learns differently in special education.  And that they will finally receive the additional assistance they need to reach their excellence.

If selected to be part of an inclusion program (remain in a mainstream classroom), it can be difficult for the child to get all of the help and attention needed to meet their goals.

Keep in mind if your child is part of a special education inclusion program, by law, they will receive additional services and support. This should be in their IEP.

All educators and parents need to focus careful attention on each child’s IEP. Failure to do so may cause unneeded disruption in their ability to perform at their best.

Additional attention and instruction will most likely need to occur outside of the classroom to ensure the child reaches their goals as efficiently and quickly as possible. Supplemental learning through special education tutoring is increasing in demand throughout the US.

As classroom sizes continue to climb, and budgets continue to fall, parents are taking their child’s educational needs into their own hands.

Things To Remember

In the end, one should always weigh the pros and cons of an IEP. Even though special education programs have been around for several decades and it benefits millions of children, the process isn’t perfect.

No one cares for your child more than you, the parent.

Be sure to:

  • Ask questions
  • Provide feedback
  • Be a part of every decision in your child’s education journey.

Armed with information and the proper guidance, it’s a battle you can win!


Need more one on one help with your child’s IEP? Get a consultation call with us! 


Children with an IEP sitting at their desks in a special education classroom.
An IEP or Individualized Education Plan is a written document that represents the guideline for special education services for students with special needs.

Picture of Luke Dalien

Luke Dalien

Author Luke Dalienhttps://specialedresource.com/author/lukedalien/ has spent his life dedicated to helping others break the chains of normal so that they may live fulfilled lives. When he’s not busy creating books aimed to bring a smile to the faces of children, he and his amazing wife, Suzie, work tirelessly on their joint passion; helping children with special needs reach their excellence. Together, they founded an online tutoring and resource company, SpecialEdResource.com. Poetry, which had been a personal endeavor of Luke’s for the better part of two decades, was mainly reserved for his beautiful wife, and their two amazing children, Lily and Alex. With several “subtle nudges” from his family, Luke finally decided to share his true passion in creativity with the world through his first children’s book series, “The Adventures Of The Silly Little Beaver."


    • Maria… thank you for reaching out! An IEP can be developed if something is diagnosed that can affect learning, issues at school, etc. There has to be an actual diagnosis. I would recommend reaching out to your child’s teacher first and ask for an evaluation to be done. After this process, the school should direct you with the next steps (if something is found). Hope that helps! Keep us posted… you can also email me directly; [email protected]

  1. hello my son is 6yrs old and really had a very difficult time regarding my son’s school not doing what they was supposed to do but now my son got evaluated and has an IEP he’s in kindergarten. my concern is he’s been change 1-3 times from classes to teachers now he has this new teacher and an aid my son got diagnosed with autism spectrum. I have seen a dramatic change on my son he hits himself in the head and per the teacher when he gets to the classroom he starts taking off his shoes, clothes, and starts to make tantrums. The teacher sound so frustrated, I don’t know how to go about this

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