Breaking Down the IEP Process

Individualized education plans, or IEPs, are critical to the learning and growth of students with disabilities in public schools. There are several steps to understanding the IEP for special education teachers, broken down into three major phases.

Pre-Referral and Referral

The pre-referral period involves trialing strategies in the general education classroom to determine if special services are necessary. If need for an IEP is suspected, the student is referred by someone like a parent, teacher or physician.

Initial Development

Once a referral is made, the IEP is developed:

  • Identification: Evaluating objectively in what areas an IEP is needed.
  • Eligibility: Determining if the student qualifies for special services.
  • IEP Development: Interdisciplinary collaboration to build the IEP.

The IEP process involves input from parents, educators and other specialists depending on the area(s) of need.

Implementation and Review

An IEP may involve both accommodations in the classroom and specialized services provided by professionals like physical, occupational or speech therapists. The IEP is reviewed every 1-3 years to ensure the student is meeting goals.

The process of developing an IEP for special education teachers should be tailored to each student, but in general, all IEPs go through a series of identifiable stages. Breaking these down can make the process easier to understand for everyone.