Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

IEPs are created by a multidisciplinary team of education professionals, along with the child’s parents, and are tailored to the needs of the individual student. The IEP is a blueprint for everything that will happen to a child in school for the next year. Special and general education teachers, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, school psychologists, and families form the IEP team and meet intermittently to discuss student progress on IEP goals.

Before the IEP team meets, an assessment team gathers information together about the student to make an evaluation and recommendation. The school psychologist, social worker, classroom teacher, and/or speech pathologist are examples of educational professionals who conduct educational assessments. A neurologist may conduct a medical evaluation, and an audiologist may complete hearing tests. The classroom teacher also gives input about the academic progress and classroom behavior of the student. Parents give input to each specialist throughout the process. Then, one person on the evaluation team coordinates all the information, and the team meets to make recommendations to the IEP team. The IEP team, which consists of the school personnel who work with the student and families, then meets to write the IEP based on the evaluation and team member suggestions.

IEPs always include annual goals, short-term objectives, and special education services required by the student, as well as a yearly evaluation to see if the goals were met. Annual goals must explain measurable behaviors so that it is clear what progress should have been made by the end of the year. The short-term objectives should contain incremental and sequential steps toward meeting each annual goal. Annual goals and short-term objectives can be about developing social and communication skills, or reducing problem behavior.

Please note: While IEP officially stands for "Individualized Education Program", the word "Plan" is often used interchangeably with "Program".


Appendix E (page 61) of OAR’s Guide for Transition to Adulthood provides more information on IEP and transition planning, including writing objectives and developing measurable IEP goals for learners with autism and Asperger Syndrome.

Pop-Up IEP: This Web site can help parents find the right words to communicate with the school during challenging spots in the IEP process.

Wrightslaw Special Education and Advocacy: Includes recommended reading, information about laws and regulations, strategies for negotiating with your child's school, and answers to frequently asked questions about IEPs.