To begin let’s keep in mind that an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is both a document and a process.

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written statement of the educational program designed to meet a child’s individual needs.  Every child who receives special education services must have an IEP.  That’s why the process of developing this vital document is of great interest and importance to educators, administrators, and families alike.  Here’s a crash course on the IEP.

What’s the IEP’s Purpose

The IEP has two general purposes:

  • to set reasonable learning goals for a child, and
  • to state the services that the school district will provide for the child.

Who develops the IEP?

The IEP is developed by a team of individuals that includes key school staff and the child’s parents.  The team meets, reviews the assessment information available about the child, and designs an educational program to address the child’s educational needs that result from his or her disability.

When is the IEP developed?

An IEP meeting must be held within 30 calendar days after it is determined, through a full and individual evaluation, that a child has one of the disabilities listed in IDEA and needs special education and related services.  A child’s IEP must also be reviewed at least annually thereafter to determine whether the annual goals are being achieved and must be revised as appropriate.

What’s in an IEP?

Each child’s IEP must contain specific information, as listed within IDEA, our nation’s special education law.  This includes (but is not limited to):

  • the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, describing how the child is currently doing in school and how the child’s disability affects his or her involvement and progress in the general curriculum
  • annual goals for the child, meaning what parents and the school team think he or she can reasonably accomplish in a year
  • the special education and related services to be provided to the child, including supplementary aids and services (such as a communication device) and changes to the program or supports for school personnel
  • how much of the school day the child will be educated separately from nondisabled children or not participate in extracurricular or other nonacademic activities such as lunch or clubs
  • how (and if) the child is to participate in state and district-wide assessments, including what modifications to tests the child needs
  • when services and modifications will begin, how often they will be provided, where they will be provided, and how long they will last
  • how school personnel will measure the child’s progress toward the annual goals.

Can students be involved in developing their own IEPs?

Yes, they certainly can be! IDEA actually requires that the student be invited to any IEP meeting where transition services will be discussed. These are services designed to help the student plan for his or her transition to adulthood and life after high school. Lots of information about transition services is available on our Transition to Adulthood page, including how to involve students in their own IEP development.


The following resources from the Utah Parent Center will provide you with a more in-depth understanding of the IEP and special education process. If you need help or guidance on how to proceed with an IEP, please call the Utah Parent Center at 1-800-468-1160.

Basic Special Education Information for Parents

Your Child’s IEP

IEP Tips for Parents

Parents as Partners in the IEP Process – Parent Handbook

Parents as Partners in the IEP Process Videos


Used with permission: a legacy resource from NICHCY through the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CIPR)