An IEP (Individualized Education Plan) is the program created specifically for a student enrolled in a special education program. Many students have IEPs, including those with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, emotional or behavioral issues, and gifted and talented students in some states.

About the IEP

The IEP for a special education student is written yearly and updated if changes are needed. This legal document lays out the expectations for the student, his or her teachers, any other professionals involved such as counselors, and may include parental participation. These expectations include procedures for teaching methods, accommodations and modifications of the teaching and learning process required, behavioral expectations on the part of the student and expected outcomes for the school year.

The IEP is a binding legal contract. As such, all members of the student's educational team, the student, and his or her parents must participate in its planning and must abide by the contract. If any participant disagrees with the content or expectations outlined in the IEP, it must be reexamined and revised. If the IEP is accepted, all parties must abide by its expectations and provisions. IEPs are individually rewritten each year.

Placement in Special Education Programs

In order to be placed in a special education program, a student must have a need for services different from those provided in the regular classroom. These services may include changes to the regular curriculum or the way the regular curriculum is taught, physical assistance to perform classroom assignments, time spent in learning outside the regular classroom or a variety of other accommodations and modifications to the usual classroom methods, setup and routine. Any student with a demonstrated need is eligible for services. Special education services are a legal right of students who need them.

Removing a Child from Special Education

In most states, a child can only be removed from a special education program in one of two ways. The first is if the child demonstrates during a reevaluation that special education services are no longer needed. The second is if the parent or legal guardian of the child elects to have the child removed from the special education program. It is important to note, however, that the school system has a legal obligation to provide services to a child with a demonstrated need for services, so a parent who chooses to remove his or her child may need to be prepared to defend that decision repeatedly throughout the child's school career.

Removing a child from special education services is rare, but it does happen. Most frequently, a student's needs are reassessed and the IEP is rewritten to reflect fewer changes to the regular school program.