Every student with special needs has an I.E.P., a plan...

Every student with special needs has an I.E.P., a plan to set and accomplish goals in the classroom. Credit: iStock

Q. What is an I.E.P.?

A. I.E.P. stands for Individualized Education Program. It is created for a child by his or her school district when the child is identified as having a special need, says Frank Caliguiri, assistant superintendent for pupil personnel services in the Deer Park School District. "Every special education student has one," he says.

The process works like this, Caliguiri says: A special-needs assessment can be requested by the parent or by a classroom teacher or other school personnel. "It could be any age up until the student leaves the school system," he says. Then, the child is tested for possible academic, social, emotional, psychological and health-related needs. A district's Committee on Special Education meets with the parent or guardian to analyze the testing and decide if the child qualifies for services.

Once eligibility is determined, an I.E.P. is launched for that child. "The team develops annual goals for the student," Caliguiri says, and details what steps will be implemented to meet each goal. The services are free to the family, he adds.

A child's I.E.P. is reviewed each school year at an annual review meeting and is monitored throughout the year, Caliguiri says. A child with an I.E.P. may remain in the school system until the year he or she turns 21, Caliguiri says.

The website of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, ncld.org, has resources on I.E.P.s, including Tips for a Successful I.E.P. Meeting, and Why and How to Read Your Child's I.E.P.