What is an IEP? A Quick Guide for Parents Before Your IEP Meeting

What is an IEP? A Quick Guide for Parents Before Your IEP Meeting

By: Molly Hankla, MA, BCBA

As a parent, walking into an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting can be overwhelming. You might feel like everyone is speaking a different language! You may also have heard the terms 504 plan, behavior support plan, student support plan, or other similar terminology. In this two-part article series, we will focus on IEP, but the same questions and ideas can be applied to many of these types of plans that cover additional support for your child in school. We will start with what these plans are, and then discuss what kinds of questions you should be asking in our next blog!

First, let’s answer some questions you may have about IEPs:

What is an IEP?

An IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, is provided for students with a wide range of disabilities to receive specialized education goals, related services, and accommodations. IEPs are required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975 (IDEA) for all students with disabilities who receive specialized education.

How do I know if my child is eligible for an IEP?

According to IDEA, a child must have 1 of 13 qualifying disabilities. These include:

  • Autism
  • Developmental Delay
  • Deaf-Blind
  • Emotional Disturbance
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Other Health Impairment
  • Speech and/or Language Impairment
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Visual Impairment Including Blindness
  • Preschool Speech Delay

Additionally, this disability must impact your child’s educational performance and/or ability to learn and benefit from the general education classroom. An independent educational evaluation, either provided by the school or an outside professional, will be conducted to determine eligibility.

Who will be at the IEP meeting?

A parent, the general and special education teachers, a school psychologist, and district representative must all be present. The school may also choose to include administrators, therapists, and/or the student themselves (based on age). As a parent, you are also allowed to bring anyone you’d like. This may include an IEP advocate, therapists, tutors, physicians, or lawyers to help you understand, participate, and advocate for your child.

How often are IEPs updated and who can make changes?

IEPs are reviewed and updated every year, and re-evaluations for eligibility are provided every three years. Prior written notice is required before any changes can be made, and require the whole team to gather.

Now that you’ve read this blog, read our follow-up piece, “Questions to Ask in Your Child’s IEP Meeting,” which gives you a blueprint of questions you should ask in these meetings. If you want to be notified by email as soon as our new blogs go live, you can sign up for our Newsletter here. In the meantime, Looking for more tips we recommend reading “8 Teaching Strategies for Children who Learn Differently” and “4 Tips to Help your Child Stay Organized.”

If you have any questions about IEPs, 504 Plans, Accommodation plans, Student Support plans, etc. we are here to help. You can reach out to us by phone at 904-374-6403 or by email at reception@floridachildrensinstitute.com. You can also schedule a Parent Coaching session to discuss any questions with Dr. Cat Baker using her Calendly Link!


  1. https://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/7690/urlt/2017MatrixServices.pdf
  2. https://priorityfordisabled.org/news-events/news.html/article/2020/04/03/504-plan-vs-iep-everything-you-need-to-know
  3. https://www.understood.org/articles/en/the-difference-between-ieps-and-504-plans
  4. https://mcandrewslaw.com/publications-and-presentations/articles/does-a-medical-diagnosis-qualify-a-child-for-special-education/
  5. https://www.parentcenterhub.org/iep-relatedservices/
  6. https://www.smartkidswithld.org/getting-help/the-abcs-of-ieps/iep-planning-accommodations-modifications/
  7. https://www.smartkidswithld.org/getting-help/the-abcs-of-ieps/examples-of-accommodations-modifications/

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