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Parent Special Education Information

PACER is the Minnesota Parent Training and Information Center, funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs.

Development of the IEP

When developing your child’s IEP, the team must consider five areas:

  1. Your child’s strengths
  2. Your concerns regarding your child’s education
  3. The results of the most recent evaluation
  4. Academic, developmental, and functional needs
  5. Special factors

1. Student’s Strengths

Your child’s strengths and interests must be discussed by the IEP team and used as the basis for planning an educational program. Strengths and interests can form the framework on which to build new skills and behaviors. For example, if your child enjoys helping others, perhaps you can use this strength as encouragement to hand in all assignments and, as a reward, help a younger child with an art project. If your child has learning difficulties but is a good speller, perhaps teachers could build your child’s self-esteem by asking him or her to spell words that the rest of the class finds difficult.

2. Educational Concerns of Parents

The IEP team must discuss your concerns related to your child’s education. For example, you might be concerned that your child is being bullied, has few friends, is failing general education math, or doesn’t have enough time to move from one class to the next. The concern also could be long term. Perhaps you fear that your child will become frustrated and drop out of school. The IEP team must address these concerns if they have an impact on education.

3. Results of the Most Recent Evaluation

The IEP team will consider the results of your child’s most recent evaluation (initial evaluation or the three-year comprehensive reevaluation) when developing the IEP.

4. Academic, Developmental, and Functional Needs

Additional information for IEP team planning will include recent regular education report cards, results of state and district-wide assessments, progress made on goals in the current IEP, and discussion of the effectiveness of current IEP accommodations and modifications. The team will consider any new developmental or functional (activities of everyday life) needs that may have arisen for the child during the year.

5. Special Factors

The IEP team must consider additional special factors when a child:

  • Has behavior that negatively affects his or her own learning or the learning of others
  • Has limited English skills
  • Is blind or visually impaired
  • Has communication needs
  • Is deaf or hard of hearing
  • May need assistive technology devices and services

For more information on how to use the special factors, see PACER’s handout “Six Areas that May Affect Individualized Education Program (IEP) Services.”

Note: Some districts do not include the above areas on their IEP forms. Although the discussion is required, documentation on the IEP form is necessary only when the team determines that your child needs a particular IEP service. Schools also may document this discussion using the Prior Written Notice Form.

Parents Need to Know

  • Assistive technology devices and services should be considered for all children who have an IEP. Communication needs also apply to many children with variety of disabilities. Lack of communication skills sometimes leads to behavior concerns.
  • If the team determines that your child needs particular assistive technology device or service because of one or more special considerations, this determination must be written in the IEP.
  • Results of the discussion of the above topics may be noted in the appropriate section of the IEP form. These sections include present level of academic achievement and functional performance, annual instructional goal, services and modifications, or another appropriate section of your school’s IEP form.
  • Children with IEPs who move from one school district to another, or from one state to another, are called transfer students. For more information on how the IEP process works for transfer students, see PACER’s handout “Transfer Students and Special Education.”
  • Plan Ahead for Academic Success Using the IEP Meeting Checklist
    This checklist can be used as you plan for your child’s annual Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting and at the meeting itself.

Next Section: Content of the IEP