What is an IEP?

What is an IEP?
Students that qualify for special education must have a formal Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP specifies the support that a child with physical and/or cognitive disability needs to succeed in the least restrictive environment.

The IEP process is governed by the under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Schools receiving federal funding are required to perform the necessary evaluations to determine what services will be required. These evaluations are funded by the school.

The IEP must include a statement of the child’s current level of academic functioning, the services and accommodations that the child needs, and annual goals to meet. For older children, there also must be a plan for transition in the areas of further education, employment, and, if needed, independent living skills.

Services provided through the IEP can address a variety of needs, including physical and academic adaptation and/or assistance, technology needs, and special education services. The IEP may also address the need for related services such as occupational, speech, and physical therapy.

The IEP differs from a 504 Plan in a number of ways. An IEP requires a formal meeting each year and a written plan. Parents are required to be part of the planning process, and changes to the plan cannot be made without parental approval.

While most students with neuromuscular disease have physical disabilities, individuals with neuromuscular disease less often have learning disability or cognitive delay. Because of this, some students with neuromuscular disease will not qualify for special education services through an IEP. These students, however, may qualify for assistance through 504 Plans.

If, however, the student has significant disability that would keep that student from participating in a required regular education physical education class, that student may quality for special education services even in the absence of cognitive disability. This will require an Individualized Education Program.

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) was signed into law in 2004. Subsequent regulations have clarified IDEA regulations.


Quintero, A., (2009). 504 Plans: What Parents Should Know. Quest, 16:2. https://quest.mda.org/article/504-plans-what-parents-should-know . Retrieved 10/26/12.

Quintero, A., (2007). Building the IEP Puzzle. Quest, 14:2. https://quest.mda.org/article/building-iep-puzzle . Retrieved 10/26/12.

U.S. Department of Education, (2007). A guide to the Individualized Education Program. https://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/%2Croot%2Cdynamic%2CTopicalBrief%2C10%2C . Retrieved 10/26/12.

U.S. Department of Education, (2011). Topic: Individualized Education Program (IEP). https://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/%2Croot%2Cdynamic%2CTopicalBrief%2C10%2C . Retrieved 10/26/12.

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