We all know what IEP’s are- Individualized Education Programs. However, we may not understand why an IEP is so important! Did you know that IEPs didn’t even exist until 1975? Before that, millions of children with disabilities were denied a free, appropriate public education due to their disabilities.

IEPs give students legal protection, and make it possible for parents and teachers to work together to provide students with disabilities an education. Let’s take a look at all of the ways that IEP’s are important!

Working Together

A written IEP allows parents, teachers, and students above the age of 14 to work together to decide what is best for a student’s education. By meeting at least once per year, multiple parties can contribute their ideas on what would serve the student best.

On the Same Page

By having all of the student’s information about their present levels, goals, supplementary aids and services, related services, and service time on one document, everyone stays on the same page and knows what everyone else is doing. There is never a question about whether a student should be receiving speech therapy or how much service time they get in math.

This transparency helps with accountability and monitoring student progress.

Knowledge is Power

By previewing the student’s IEP prior to the school year beginning, teachers can be prepared for each student’s special needs. This allows teachers to plan for classroom accommodations and modifications, build in service time, and learn what the student’s areas of need are prior to the school year beginning.

By knowing what your student needs ahead of time, you will be better prepared to help them be successful.

Legal Protection

Having an IEP gives a student and their parents legal protection. They have certain rights when an IEP is in place, including:

  • The right to a free, appropriate public education.
  • The right to supplementary aids and services.
  • The right to all of the service time written in the IEP.
  • The right to any related services deemed necessary by the IEP team.
  • The right to prior written notice before any change in educational placement or program.
  • The right to give or deny consent for evaluations.
  • The right to an outside evaluation.

Prior to IEPs, students with disabilities and their parents did not have these rights. Special education has come a long way since parents began advocating for their children with disabilities in the 1930s.

Roadmap To Success

Finally, an IEP is important because it can serve as a roadmap to student success. The IEP outlines the service time, supplementary aids and services, and related services that the team feels that a student needs in order to be successful.

By following the IEP carefully, you are helping to set your student up for success.

We may take IEPs for granted now, but it is important to remember that these important documents did not exist until 45 years ago. Take some time today to reflect on some student IEPs, and what you can do to help implement them.


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