We speak to a lot of parents every week. Most are frustrated with the education their children are receiving and want a lot more support. However, one issue commonly come up – parents not knowing what is actually in the IEP. This is understandable. It can be a very complex document, and IEP meetings can oftentimes not be a supportive environment, instead feeling like a box the school needs to check off before they get to the next IEP. 

You cannot effectively participate in an IEP meeting if you do not read and understand the IEP. The IEP is the centerpiece of a student’s education. In order to understand where your child is currently functioning, understand what type of progress they should be making, and what services and support a school should be providing you must know what’s in the IEP. 

One of the main reasons parents don’t read the IEP is because they feel it’s an extremely complicated document, often consisting of 30 to 60 pages of information. However, if you break the document down into three parts, it can be better understood.

The first thing to look at is the student’s present levels of performance (“PLOP”).

In this section, usually within the first few pages, the IEP should clearly state where the student is functioning in all areas of concern. For example, if a student is reading at a first-grade level, the IEP should clearly say that. If a student elopes from classes four times a day, it should also state that. The problem arises when this section is not accurate. For example, if a student can count from 1 to 20 but the IEP only states they can count from 1 to 10, the IEP may develop a goal that was already attained, wasting an entire year. So it’s important, as a parent, to read this section, make sure you understand it and feel it’s accurate.

The second section to understand is goals.

In brief, this is where we want the student to go at the end of a year. So, if a student is counting from 1 to 10, we may develop a goal where the student can count to 100. This is one of the best ways to track whether or not your child is accessing their education and receiving the appropriate services to enable them to make appropriate progress. 

The last section is services and placement.

This is commonly at the end of the IEP and describes what services will be provided. Here you should see a service, such as speech, as well as the amount of time the service will be provided and whether or not it will be provided in a group and/or individual setting. This section often describes the student’s placement. For example, if the student is to be placed in a mild to moderate special day class. 

It is important for every parent to understand what is in their child’s IEP. Not only does it allow you to effectively participate in the IEP process, but it also allows you to understand whether or not your child is making progress. As a parent, you are your child’s best advocate. So take your time, read the IEP, if there’s something you don’t understand, call and IEP meeting to make sure you do.