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Navigate the IEP

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Each child is unique, thus the IEP must be as well

Special education is instruction that is specially designed to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. This means education that is individually developed to address a specific child’s needs that result from his or her disability.

As a result, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) can be one of the most critical components of your child's success.

On this page, you’ll find general information, helpful tips, and downloadable resources—to help you effectively navigate the IEP process and ensure the best educational experience for your child. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

The focus and curriculum vary per child

Because each child is unique, it is difficult to give an overall example of special education. Some students may be working at the pre-kindergarten grade level, others at the first, second, or third grade level. 

There may be students whose special education focuses primarily on speech and language development, cognitive development, or needs related to a physical or learning disability. Special education for any student can consist of:

image of young Asian boy copying his mom
image of young girl with glasses lookignnglosely at textured cups

What the IEP covers, and what it does not

It is also important to remember that the education, services, and supports outlined in a child’s IEP do not necessarily cover that child’s entire education. The IEP only addresses those educational needs resulting from the child’s disability. If a child needs special education support throughout the school day, for all activities, the IEP will cover all these needs. 

If the child doesn’t need special education support in one or more areas (for example, physical education, music, or science), then the IEP will not include these subjects. The child accesses them through the general curriculum/ class, with no additional special education services.

IEP Resources

Image of children reading with text that says A Parents’ Guide to Special Education in North Carolina
A Parents’ Guide to Special Education in North Carolina
The focus of this Parent Guide from Children’s Law Clinic -Duke Law School, is the federal special education law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that promises each child with a disability a “free, appropriate, public education.”
Categories: General, Communication, IEP, Conflict Resolution, Special Education
Regreso a la Escuela
Regreso a la Escuela
Una Guía de Planificación para las Familias de Carolina del Norte con Estudiantes con Discapacidad
Categories: IEP, Spanish, Special Education, Remote Learning
Image of backpack with text that reads Return to School Planning Guide
Return to School Planning Guide
A Planning Guide for North Carolina Families Who Have a Student with a Disability
Categories: IEP, Special Education, Remote Learning
If a Student has Difficulty
If Student has Difficulty….Then Try This!
A great tool full of suggested accommodations for specific areas of difficulty.
Categories: IEP, 504, Special Education
Sample Accommodations
Sample Accommodations
This document provides Environmental, Behavioral, Organizational Strategies and more!
Categories: IEP, 504, Special Education
Accommodations to Consider
Accommodations to Consider for Students with Problems in Organization
Note the student’s response to transition between activities. Is s/he disoriented, distracted, or overwhelmed visually or auditorally when moving or preparing for new activity? Is s/he agitated or anxious during the change? If so, consider these questions in addressing this difficulty.
Categories: IEP, 504, Special Education
Student Dream Sheet
Student Dream Sheet
Transition is a journey, begin NOW to plan for the trip. The Student Dream Sheet can help students set goals and share their interests and preferences.
Categories: Advocacy, IEP, Transitions, Transition-age Youth, Transition to Adulthood
Resource thumbnail - Questions parents can ask about math
Questions Parents Can Ask about Math Instruction
When your child struggles in math, you need specific information to help you encourage and support your child as they develop and build their math skills...
Categories: Family Engagement, Advocacy, IEP
Resource thumbnail - questions about spelling, writing, and testing—Spanish
Questions Parents Can Ask about Spelling, Writing, and Testing (Spanish)
Cuando a un niño se le dificulta la lectura, con frecuencia también se le dificulta la ortografía, escritura y las evaluaciones/exámenes...
Categories: Family Engagement, Advocacy, IEP, Spanish
Resource thumbnail - Questions parents can ask about reading - Spanish
Questions Parents Can Ask about Reading Improvement (Spanish)
􀁕reguntas que los padres pueden hacer… Recuerde: Siempre pida una explicación de todo lo que no entendió. Si usted es el padre de un niño al que se le dificulta la lectura, usted necesita información específica para apoyar el progreso de su hijo. Ya sea que asista a las conferencias entre padres y maestros...
Categories: Family Engagement, Advocacy, Literacy, IEP, Spanish
Resource thumbnail - Questions parents can ask - reading
Questions Parents Can Ask about Reading Improvement
When you are the parent of a child who struggles with reading, you need specific information to support your child’s reading progress. Whether attending a parent/teacher conference, participating in writing the IEP (Individualized Education Program), or working with your child at home, use the questions that relate to your child to gather the information you need...
Categories: Family Engagement, Advocacy, Literacy, IEP
Differences IEPs 504 Plans—resource thumbnail
The Differences between IEPs and 504 Plans
Information including basic descriptions, what each does, what law applies, who is eligible, and more...
Categories: General, IEP, 504
Student Support Decision Tree—resource thumbnail
Student Support Decision Tree
When a parent or teacher expresses concern about a student’s health condition, learning or other challenges, the school will begin a process to determine the type of support and/or services that will meet the child’s needs...
Categories: General, IEP, 504
Related Services—resource thumbnail
Related Services
Does your child participate in a social skills group at school? Maybe he goes for speech-language therapy once a week. Or perhaps his teacher works with an occupational therapist...
Categories: IEP
Regular education and special education—resource thumbnail
Regular Education Teachers and Special Education: An Important Part of the Puzzle
Children with disabilities are guaranteed a free appropriate public education (FAPE). There are two criteria typically used to determine...
Categories: IEP, Inclusion
Terms to Know—resource thumbnail
Terms to Know
Related terms including FAPE, IEP, LRE, accommodation, FBA, and others...
Categories: General, Advocacy, IEP
image of All About Advocates document
All About Advocates
Good special education services are intensive and expensive. Resources are limited. If you have a child with special needs, you will likely need to utilize...
Categories: Family Engagement, Advocacy, IEP
If this, do that resource
Adaptations and Modifications—If This, Do That
Guide for actions regarding volume of work, time, support, difficulty, participation
Categories: IEP, Inclusion
Helpful IEP Questions
Helpful IEP Questions
Questions that may assist the team to establish a review of IEP goals and objectives
Categories: Advocacy, IEP
IDEA Fact Sheet—resource thumbnail
IDEA Fact Sheet
This fact sheet provides a snapshot of the various resources that ECAC offers to parents of children with special needs.
Categories: General, IEP, IDEA
image of teacher reading to young boy
Adaptations and Modifications
Adaptations and modifications that can be used in the general curriculum, including volume of work, time, support, difficulty, participation, and more.
Categories: Advocacy, IEP, Inclusion
Resource thumbnail - talk tools
Talk Tools
Talk Tools features helpful questions to use in conversations and meetings about your child—including behaviors, accommodations, modifications, support strategies, classroom situations, teaching methods, or a child's response to these.
Categories: General, Communication, Family Engagement, Advocacy, IEP, Conflict Resolution

IEP tips to remember

  • EVERY child can learn and make progress.
  • The steps of the IEP Process must be followed in the correct order.
  • The “I” in IEP stands for individualized.  Your child’s IEP must reflect your child.
  • The IEP should be specific, detailed and easily understandable by anyone – even if someone who is not a member of the current IEP Team.
  • Special Education is NOT a place. Special Education is the supports and services your child receives through his or her IEP.
  • On the IEP, Placement is NOT a location. Placement is the amount of time spent with special education services.
  • Statements about your child’s Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance are critical parts of the IEP.  They must be crystal clear and accurate.
  • Goals need to be logical, measurable, and relevant to your child.
  • The IEP Team should work together to reach a consensus.  There is NO voting!
  • Stay focused!  Don’t get sidetracked.
  • Parents are the constant – providing continuity to an ever-changing IEP Team.
  • Lack of money and/or other resources does not exempt a school district from providing what a child needs.
  • Don’t leave the meeting without a copy of your child’s IEP!
  • Download a copy of ECAC’s IEP Checklist…and use it!