Parent guide: Overview of the first IEP meeting

After a child is found eligible for special education and related services, a meeting must be held within 30 days to develop to the IEP.

The school system must notify the child’s parents of when and where the meeting will take place, so they have the opportunity to attend and participate.
Who develops the child’s IEP?

IEP teamMany people come together to develop a child’s IEP. This group is called the IEP team, and includes most of the same types of individuals who were involved in the child’s initial evaluation. Team members will include:

  • the child’s parents;
  • at least one regular education teacher, if the child is (or may be) participating in the regular education environment;
  • at least one of the child’s special education teachers or special education providers;
  • a representative of the public agency (school system) who (a) is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of special education, (b) knows about the general curriculum; and (c) knows about the resources the school system has available;
  • an individual who can interpret the evaluation results and talk about what instruction may be necessary for the child;
  • the child, when appropriate;
  • representatives from any other agencies that may be responsible for paying for or providing transition services (if the child is 16 years or, if appropriate, younger); and
  • other individuals (invited by parents or the school) who have knowledge or special expertise about the child. For example, a relative who is close to the child, a child care provider, or related services personnel.

Together, these people will work as a team to develop the child’s IEP. If you’d like more information about what each of them might contribute at the meeting, please have a look at our page called The IEP Team.

What’s in an IEP?

Let’s take a quick look at what type of information an IEP must contain. This will show the scope of what the IEP team must discuss as part of developing a child’s IEP. It’s also the meeting’s intended outcome–what the team wants to accomplish. It may take more than one meeting to write the IEP, especially when you consider the breadth and depth of the information the IEP must include:

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___ 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 (called extent of nonparticipation)

___ how (and if) the child is to participate in state and district-wide assessments, including what modifications to tests the child needs

___ service delivery details, such as 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.

Here are the key additional issues team members will need to consider as they write the child’s IEP.

What happens at an IEP meeting?

During the IEP meeting, the different members of the IEP team share their thoughts and suggestions. If this is the first IEP meeting after the child’s evaluation, the team may go over the evaluation results, so the child’s strengths and needs will be clear. These results will help the team decide what special help the child needs in school.

After the various team members (including the parent) have shared their thoughts and concerns about the child, the group will have a better idea of that child’s strengths and needs. This will allow the team to discuss and decide on the statements associated with each IEP’s component listed above, especially:

  • the “present levels” statement;
  • the educational and other goals that are appropriate for the child; and
  • the type of special education services the child needs; and
  • what related services are necessary to help the child benefit from his or her special education.
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4.1.1The team must also make decisions about whether or not any of the “special factors” identified in IDEA need to be considered, including the child’s needs for assistive technology.

Goals, special education services, and related services are all discussed as part of NICHCY’s IEP Contents page, where you can learn much more about each of these IEP components and the discussions that the IEP team will have as part of specifying each in the IEP. These are critical parts of an IEP, so the IEP team will probably spend a lot of time focused on how the child’s needs can be addressed through the goals that are written and the special education and related services that are appropriate for the child.

Then there are the “special factors” that the IEP team must also consider:

Special factors to consider

  • Depending on the needs of the child, the IEP team may also discuss the special factors listed below:
  • If the child’s behavior’s interferes with his or her learning or the learning of others: The IEP team will talk about strategies and supports to address the child’s behavior.
  • If the child has limited proficiency in English: The IEP team will talk about the child’s language needs as these needs relate to his or her IEP.
  • If the child is blind or visually impaired: The IEP team must provide for instruction in Braille or the use of Braille, unless it determines after an appropriate evaluation that the child does not need this instruction.
  • If the child has communication needs: The IEP team must consider those needs.
  • If the child is deaf or hard of hearing: The IEP team will consider the child’s language and communication needs. This includes opportunities to communicate directly with classmates and school staff in his or her usual method of communication (for example, sign language).
  • If the child needs assistive technology devices and services.

There’s a lot that can be said about each of these special factors. To find out more about special factors of interest to you and the child on whose behalf you are working, read the more indepth discussion found in Special Factors in IEP Development, which will also connect you with helpful resources.

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Putting it all together — and in writing

As you can see, there are a lot of important matters to talk about in an IEP meeting! Based on those discussions, the IEP team will then write the child’s IEP, bearing in mind that it must include specific types of information, including a statement of the child’s present level of academic achievement and functional performance, annual goals, the special education services that will be provided, and much more.

The resultant IEP will then guide how services are provided to the child in the coming year. Before the school system can provide the child with special education for the first time, parents must give written consent.

Parents are entitled to a copy of their child’s IEP at no charge, and all school personnel responsible in some way for implementing the IEP must know what their roles and obligations are and be given access to the child’s IEP.

Deciding placement

Placement is directly connected to the child’s IEP, is based on the child’s IEP, must be decided by a knowledgeable group of persons, including the child’s parents, but is not necessarily decided by the IEP team.

Who decides placement, based on what? The IEP forms the basis for the placement decision, which is made by a group of persons, including the child’s parents, and other persons knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of evaluation data, and placement options.

As the summary remark above indicates, the placement group may or may not be the IEP team, but in all cases, the parents are members of that group and participate in making the determination of placement for their child.

Placement can be in a range of settings — in the regular classroom, a special education class, a pull-out program, or a separate school.

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