Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Categories: Applied Behavior Analysis; ASD and DD, Child-focused; Brain Injury

By Robert Putnam, Ph.D., LABA, BCBA-D

An IEP is an Individualized Education Program, a document that outlines special education and related services which school districts must provide to eligible children. It includes measurable goals and outlines services the child will need to succeed in school. It also describes where and how those services will be provided.

IEPs are developed in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) which mandates that every child in the United States with a diagnosed disability and who requires special education will receive that education free of charge.

First, your child will need to be assessed to determine if he is eligible to receive services. The school may request that an evaluation be completed to determine his eligibility for services. Otherwise, you will need to make a written request to the director of special education in your city/town/district to ask that your son be evaluated. With your permission, a multidisciplinary team of professionals will evaluate your son, based on their observations and his performance on standardized tests. The tests will focus on his proficiency in specific school subjects such as reading and math as well as his development in the speech and language area.

The professionals on an IEP team may include a teacher, psychologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, special educator, vision or hearing specialist, behavior analyst, and others, depending upon the specific needs of that child. Parents are also important members of any IEP team.

After the evaluation has been completed, the professionals who evaluated your son will provide written reports of their findings, along with a determination as to whether your son has a disability covered under IDEA. These written reports must be completed within 30 school days of a written request for determination of eligibility. If your child is eligible to receive services, you and the other IEP team members will meet to decide what will go into his IEP.

The IEP must be developed before any special education and related services can be provided, and it should be written and presented to you for approval shortly after a child’s eligibility has been determined. Thereafter, the IEP team must review it at least once a year, although a parent or teacher may request more frequent reviews.

It is important to note that IEPs are not only for students with severe mental and/or physical disabilities. A wide variety of students can benefit from an IEP, including those with learning disabilities and behavior disorders.

According to federal requirements, an IEP must contain the following six components:

  • Statement of present levels of performances

  • Measurable short- and long-term goals and objectives

  • Description of special education and related services to be provided

  • Explanation of how and when progress will be reported

  • Explanation of extent to which the child will participate with non-disabled peers

  • Statement of any individualized modifications in the state-wide or district-wide assessments

For some students, additional information must be included in the context of the IEP, such as a transition plan (for students ages 14 and older), a behavior support plan, Braille communication needs, and assistive technology needs.

Robert Putnam, Ph.D., LABA, BCBA-D, is the Executive Vice President for Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports and Consultation for May Institute.

May Institute is a nonprofit organization that is a national leader in the field of applied behavior analysis and evidence-based interventions, serving autistic individuals and those with other developmental disabilities, brain injury and neurobehavioral disorders, and other special needs. Founded nearly 70 years ago, we provide a wide range of exceptional educational and rehabilitative services across the lifespan. For more information, call 800.778.7601 or visit