ParentClick Santa Barbara

4 Things Every Parent Needs to Know about an IEP


IEPs are a federal right of every student.

IEP – The Individualized Educational PLAN:
  • is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services.

Not all students who have disabilities require specialized instruction. 

504 PLAN:
  • The 504 Plan is a plan developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment.

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are intended to help children reach educational goals, including success in reading, more easily – but they’re often a mystery to parents. Below are 4 pointers from the National Center for Learning Disabilities ( on how to start the IEP process:

Make a Request In Writing: A comment or request made verbally in passing to a teacher or school administrator technically didn’t happen. Remember always to place requests for an IEP evaluation or changes to your child’s current IEP in writing to the school administrator in charge of the Committee on Special Education (CSE) in the school district – email or a hand-delivered letter is fine.

Know Your Rights: After you’ve submitted an IEP evaluation letter of request, every school district nationwide is required by law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to respond to you within 10 days (school days, not including weekends). The school must provide you with written documentation explaining (1) the parents’ need for consent to conduct an educational evaluation, (2) how the a determination of eligibility will be made, (3) the documentation needed to identify the existence of a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) (if applicable), and (4) confirmation that parents are invited to participate in the IEP process.

Be Patient: Your child’s school has 60 school (or business) days to complete the evaluation, which includes an interview with parents, a conference with the student, observations of the student, and analysis of the student’s performance (attention, behavior, work completion, tests, class work, homework, etc.). Legally the CSE (or IEP team) must include “you” the parent, plus at least one general educator teacher (if your child is in even one general education class) and one special education teacher in the meeting.

Speak Up: The IEP team is charged with developing, reviewing, and revising your child’s IEP at least once a year by law – and more often if you are dissatisfied with your child’s lack of progress. If you’re not satisfied, speak up (and write letters or emails) as often as you feel you need to in order to get results! Remember that you are an equal partner with the school in the IEP process, and the IEP document is intended as a flexible, but binding, agreement that guides everyone involved in the child’s school career to ensure the highest quality instruction and free and appropriate educational services and supports in the least restrictive environment.

For more resources on IEPs from NCLD, check out Tips For A Successful IEP Meeting, Why And How To Read Your Child’s IEP, and IEP Meeting Conversation Stoppers.

[AUTHOR: National Center for Learning Disabilities]

March 2, 2015

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