Ultimate IEP Guide: Everything that an Educator Needs
July 26, 2023

Ultimate IEP Guide: Everything that an Educator Needs

IEPs are a essential component for children with disabilities and their educators. They are designed according to the individual’s need; so, teachers need to be careful about Individualized Education Plans and here is the guide:

The Ultimate IEP Guide for Teachers

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that ensures that students with disabilities within the public school system are provided appropriate and free special education. A child with a disability that has been shown to impact his or her ability to learn is eligible for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

This guide outlines what teachers need to know about IEPs. Creating and implementing an IEP can seem like a long and daunting operation (and IEPs themselves are usually long documents). The process is multi-layered and involves a team of other individuals, from parents to school officials to healthcare providers.

It is important to note that IEPs will vary in format, length, and information included based on not only the individual students but also on the State and local school districts. Some schools may require information that other schools do not; there is some flexibility in design from state to state. However, the overall purpose and goals of an IEP are consistent: to facilitate effective teaching, promote learning, and to achieve better results for children with disabilities.

What is the Purpose of an IEP?

IEPs are provided to children who are eligible for special education within the public school system. These plans are designed with the needs of each student in mind and with the purpose of providing services, accommodations, modifications, and equal opportunities for children with disabilities. IEPs are tantamount to creating the best possible school conditions in which a child can learn, grow, and reach his or her full potential.

It takes a village to create an effective IEP. Parents, teachers, school staff, and other professionals come together and analyze the student’s unique needs. With their knowledge and experience in tow, these people devise an educational program that will help the student participate and progress in the school curriculum. IEPs determine precisely which special education services the student receives, depending on the specific nature of the disability.

Who Qualifies for Special Education and an IEP?

Candidates for special education are usually first identified by either their parents or teachers. Parents or teachers can request that the student undergo an evaluation by the school in order to determine if he or she has a disability that qualifies him or her for special education services under IDEA. Currently, there are 13 categories under which a child is eligible:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Deaf-blindness
  • Deafness
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Hearing impairment
  • Intellectual disability
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Other health impairment
  • Specific learning disability
  • Speech or language disability
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairment

It is important to note that not all students with disabilities require special education or related services. It must be shown that the disability negatively affects the student’s ability to learn.

In the case of learning disabilities, teachers are often first to notice if a student is struggling academically and whether or not this indicates a more serious issue. KidsHeath has compiled a list of signs that may indicate the presence of a learning disability. They include :

  • Consistently getting poor grades, despite putting in the effort
  • Needing step-by-step guidance, sometimes repetitively
  • Having trouble understanding the logic behind problem-solving tasks
  • Having a poor memory or written or spoken material
  • Having trouble learning new tasks
  • Forgetting skills
  • Significant difficulties with reading, writing, or mathematics
  • Demonstrating communication problems
  • Becoming extremely frustrated with school and homework

For public school students with disabilities, IDEA stipulates that they are provided the following:

  • Access to a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living
  • Protection of the rights of children with disabilities and the parents of said children

For local governments and agencies, IDEA promises the following:

  • Assistance for States, localities, educational service agencies, and Federal agencies to provide for the education of all children with disabilities
  • Assistance for States in the implementation of a statewide, comprehensive, coordinated, multidisciplinary, interagency system of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families

For schools and educators, IDEA ensures the following:

  • Educators and parents should have the necessary tools to improve educational results for children with disabilities by supporting system improvement activities; coordinated research and personnel preparation; coordinated technical assistance, dissemination, and support; and technology development and media services

IEP Meetings with teachers

IEP Overview

IEPs are a crucial component for children with disabilities and their educators. Under an IEP, teachers are provided with tools, accommodations, and modifications to improve teaching, and the students should show improvement in learning and academic results. Each IEP is individualized; there is no “one-size-fits-all” program.

Before any mention of an IEP, a child must be identified and evaluated for the possibility of needing special education and its related services. Parents or caregivers can request an assessment for their child. Teachers can also refer students for evaluation, but this usually occurs only after attempts have been to remedy the issues within the regular classroom. Once a student has been referred for evaluation, qualified professionals assess the results and make the final decision as to whether or not the child has a “disability” as defined by IDEA. Once a child is determined to be eligible for special education and related services, the school will notify the parents (and student, if applicable) and schedule an IEP meeting.

During the IEP meeting, parents must, first and foremost, give consent for their child to receive special education and related services. If the parents disagree with the evaluation or IEP at any point, they are eligible for mediation via their state’s education agency.

Once an IEP is drafted and approved, special education is provided immediately. This includes all accommodations, curriculum or schedule modifications, and extra support as outlined within the IEP.

Teachers and school administrators will regularly assess the student’s progress and report back to the parents. After one year (and annually, continuing forward), IEPs are reviewed and tweaked based on the child’s overall progress, whether or not goals have been met, and suggestions from teachers and parents. After three years, children are reevaluated to make sure they continue to qualify as having a disability defined under IDEA. Additionally, they are evaluated for any changes to their educational needs. These “triennial” evaluations continue until the child finishes school or is deemed ineligible.

The IEP meeting is not the only time that teachers get to work face-to-face with parents and other professionals regarding their students’ special education needs. IEPs are “works in progress” that are reassessed annually; depending on a variety of factors—including teacher input—IEPs can even be modified throughout the school year.

What Goes into an IEP?

By law, the IEP must include certain information about the student and should present an educational strategy that takes into account his or her disability and particular needs. In a nutshell, this information is:

The IEP will include the following:

Current performance (also known as Present levels). This is an overview of how the child is doing currently. This information is gleaned from the student’s grades, test results, performances on assignments or projects, classroom behavior, attention, habits, and observed skills. Using measurable baseline data, this section assesses how the student’s disability affects his or her progress and involvement in the school’s general curriculum.

Goals. IEP Goals are a measure of the student’s progress and act as target points for academic, behavioral, social objectives. Goals are broken down into smaller, achievable parts, which allows teachers to easily monitor and measure how the student is progressing. Goals are reassessed annually during the IEP review.

Offer of Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). IEPs painstakingly detail the individualized special education and services that are to be provided. This includes supplementary aids, modifications, and accommodations. Teachers can use the general rule-of-thumb to distinguish the between a modification and an accommodation: If the teacher changes the work (an assignment or a test) or changes the level of work, then this counts as a modification; if something (a device, for example) helps the student to complete work at the same level as the other students, then it is an accommodation.

Participation. The IEP outlines if the student will participate in a regular classroom—either full- or part-time—or if he or she is to be placed in small-group instruction. The IEP may recommend that a student not participate with non-disabled children in particular activities. Additionally, the IEP will describe when and how (or even if) a student takes achievement tests. It will also specify there need to be any modifications during district-wide testing.

Transition services. Once a student has reached age 16 (sometimes younger), the IEP includes goals that will help the student once he or she transitions out of school. iep guide

The Teacher’s Role in an IEP

Teachers, parents, school representatives, and other professionals are all key members of the IEP team. Parents offer personal insight into the strengths of their child, as well as other aspects and skills that they have observed at home. School representatives are informed about the breadth of services and accommodations available, and they are responsible for ensuring that the outlines of the IEP are met. Other professionals might include healthcare providers (like psychologists, speech/language therapists, or occupational therapists) or translators.

Teachers are vital to the IEP and the child’s success. One or more of the child’s regular teachers will be invited to participate in drafting the IEP. The teacher provides insight into and recommendations based on the overall curriculum in the regular classroom. He or she offers advice about the types of services the child may require and may suggest changes to the curriculum that will help the child learn and progress. He or she may also implement strategies for problematic behavior, if that is an issue. At the meeting, the teacher will bring test results, behavior charts, math scores, writing samples, or any other demonstrative samples that illuminate problematic areas.

In most cases, IEP services can be provided in regular education classrooms. Sometimes, IEP services are provided in separate resource classrooms or even separate schools, but this is determined by the student’s needs and the school district’s resources.

Regular classrooms are the least restrictive for students with disabilities. For those students whose IEPs stipulate regular classroom attendance, it is important for teachers to be familiar with the student and the services, accommodations, or modifications stipulated in the IEP.

Sometimes students with IEPs will join small-group instruction. This usually takes place in a separate learning support classroom under the guidance of a certified special education teacher. Special education teachers are well-versed in how to teach children with disabilities. Their unique training provides insight into how to modify curriculums to help children learn, offers supplemental aids and services that promote success, and modifies testing conditions and exams so that the student can demonstrate what he or she has learned. Special education teachers may work with students individually as well. These meetings ensure that the student’s specific needs are being met and that he or she is making sufficient progress toward the goals identified in the IEP. Special education teachers also meet with the student’s regular teachers and other school staff to offer expertise.

Students who need intense intervention, however, may be taught in a special school environment. These schools generally have fewer students per teacher, which allows for individualized attention. Teachers in these schools usually have specific training in helping students with specific special educational needs.


Special education provides students with disabilities the opportunity to learn and grow. IEPs are an essential component of special education. Creating effective IEPs that provide a foundation for student success involves numerous players, steps, and considerations. IEPs are collaborative efforts, and teachers are a pivotal component in their drafting and implementation.


https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/iep-teachers.html https://sites.ed.gov/idea/ https://www.specialeducationguide.com/pre-k-12/individualized-education-programs-iep/the-iep-process-explained/ https://www2.ed.gov/parents/needs/speced/iepguide/index.html#process


This article is examined by Clinical Child Psychologist and Ph. D. Researcher Kevser Çakmak, and produced by Otsimo Editorial Team.

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This post does not provide medical advice. See Additional Information.