Frequently Asked Questions & Answers Regarding IEPs:

You can download a Guide for Writing IEPs here.  A US Department of Education IEP/Evaluations/Reevaluations FAQ document can be accessed here.

Must the child's IEP goals address all aspects of the general education curriculum, or solely the areas in which the child's involvement, participation, and progress are adversely affected by his/her disability?

A student's IEP goals should relate to the elements of the general education curriculum (or pre-readiness skills) that will allow the student to participate and progress in the general education program. IEP goals target the student's educational needs set forth in the student's present levels of performance. The goals are based upon the ways in which the student's disability(ies) adversely affect the student's ability to perform in the classroom. The IEP need not include goals that target areas which are not adversely affected by the student's disability(ies).

May my child attend the IEP meeting?

The student may attend and participate in the IEP meeting if the parent(s) determine that he/she should be present. The student may attend selected parts of the IEP meeting, rather than being present for the entire meeting.

What timelines affect the creation and implementation of my child's IEP?

Eligibility for special education and related services begins with a request for evaluation. Fourteen (14) calendar days later, the district and parent(s) meet in order to decide whether an evaluation is necessary. If an evaluation is necessary, district and parents determine which domains will be evaluated. Parents are asked to consent to the evaluation process. Once the parent provides written informed consent, the evaluation process begins. The district has up to sixty(60) school days to complete the evaluation. By the end of the sixtieth (60th) school day, the evaluation team and parent(s) meet in order to determine whether or not the student is eligible for special education. If the student is deemed eligible for special education and related services, the parent(s) are asked to consent to placement. Placement may begin ten (10) days after the parent provides such consent (or sooner, if the parent gives permission.) (Adapted from, "Educational Rights and Responsibilities: Understanding Special Education in Illinois", Illinois State Board of Education Special Education and Support Services, June 2009)

What is the difference between a 504 Plan and an IEP?

A "504 Plan" may be created for a student, pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law is not a special education law. Rather, it is an "anti-discrimination" law. It requires any person or agency receiving federal funds to create and implement policies to prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It applies to school districts, as well areas outside of education (i.e. labor, employment, grants, contracts, etc.). The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a special education law that provides special education and related services to all eligible students. Unlike IDEA, which lists specific categories of disability, Section 504 defines "disability" as an individual who has "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." A "504 Plan" describes how the district will support the student's disability and provide access to school programs.

What is "special education"?

"Special education" is "specifically designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; and instruction in physical education." 20 U.S.C. Section 1041(29).

Is my child with special needs entitled to participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities?

A student's special education and related services should include supports which assist him/her in participatnig in extracurricular and nonacademic activities. The IEP should include any necessary training or support for educators, paraprofessionals, and parents.

Must the public school help my child with a disability find a job or get into college, following completion of high school?

In Illinois, post-secondary transition planning must commence by the time the student reaches 14 1/2 years of age (or sooner, if appropriate). The transition planning period continues until the student graduates or turns 22. During the period, the IEP Team develops a plan that will enable the student to move from school to adult life. This plan encompasses education, vocational training, employment, adult services, adult education, community experiences, related services, daily living skills, and independent living. The plan should be based upon the student's strengths, interests, preferences, and needs.

Can IEP Team members use alternative means to participate in an IEP Team Meeting?

Yes. The district and parent may agree that IEP Team members may participate in an IEP Team Meeting through the use of alternative means. These methods may include conference calls, video conferences, web meetings, etc.

Can my child be suspended from school for behavioral reasons?

Schools have a grave responsibility for keeping students and staff safe. If a student behaves in a way that is dangerous to him/herself or others, the school must act to keep students and staff safe. Special education laws and safeguards cannot impede or interfere with the safety of others. A student with a disability can receive the same punishments as non-disabled students - except for suspensions that exceed 10 days. If a student faces a suspension that could result in removal from education for more than 10 school days, the district must conduct a Manifestation Determination Review ("MDR") with the parents and members of the IEP Team. (Adapted from "Educational Rights and Responsibilities: Understanding Special Education in Illinois," Illinois State Board of Education Special Education and Support Services, June 2009)

What do I do if I disagree with the IEP Team at the meeting?

Sometimes, parents and school personnel cannot agree on issues that arise at IEP meetings. When this occurs, the Team members should make a good faith effort at reaching a consensus through dialogue and negotitation. If Team members cannot reach consensus through these means, mediation may be used as an option to resolve the conflict. Parents may also file a state complaint with the Illinois State Board of Education. Alternatively, parties may initiate a due process hearing. In this case, parties present formal arguments, witness testimony, and documentary evidence to support their positions. An "impartial hearing officer" listens to the parties' positions and issues a written decision that is binding on both parties.

Can I request that my child repeat a grade?

A student with an IEP may repeat a grade if the IEP Team determines that it is appropriate.  The parent is an equal member of the IEP Team and has the right to meaningfully participate in this discussion. 

May I record IEP meetings? Should I record IEP meetings?

The Office of Special Education Programs states that "[IDEA] does not address the use of audio or video recording devices at IEP meetings, and no other Federal statute either autorizes or prohibits the recording of an IEP meeting by either a parent or a school official." While federal law does not prohibit parents or school representatives from recording IEP meetings, school districts may prohibit, limit, regulate, or require recording devices at IEP meetings. Districts should permit a parent to use a recording device if it will enable the parent to meaningfully participate in the meeting and/or understand the IEP.

What type of education is my child entitled to during the summer months?

Sometimes, students with IEPs are entitled to "extended school year" (ESY)services. ESY includes special education and related services that are provided to the student beyond the normal school year, at no cost to the parent(s). ESY is to be provided if the child's IEP Team determines that the services are necessary to the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE). No single factor determines whether or not ESY is appropriate, but the discussion should address whether or not the student will regress in knowledge and/or skills over the summer months. The IEP Team decides which services will be provided during ESY, as well as whether the services will be provided in school, home, or community.

Can I excuse a member of the IEP Team from an IEP Meeting?

Yes, IEP Team members are not obligated to attend an IEP Meeting if the parent and school agree (in writing) that the individual's presence if unnecessary because his/her areas of the curriculum and/or related services is not being discussed or modified in the meeting. A parent can also excuse (in writing) a Team member whose areas of curriculum and/or related services are being discussed at the meeting if the individual submits written input to the parent and IEP Team prior to the IEP Meeting.

Can I bring additional people to the IEP meeting?

Yes. A parent may bring to the IEP Meeting, "other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child..." (34 CFR Section 300.321) This may include private related service personnel, medical professionals, tutors, etc. The determination of the individuals "knowledge or special expertise" must be made by the party who invites the individual to the meeting.

Who makes the ultimate decision about what goes into my child's IEP?

The content of an IEP is to be reached by meaningful dialogue among all IEP Team members. Members of the IEP Team include the following individuals: parent(s); regular education teacher(if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment); special education teacher, a representative of the school district who is qualified to provide and/or supervise provision of special education, is knowledgeable about general education, and is knowledgeable about the availability of district resources; an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results; other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child; and the student, when appropriate.

Can an IEP be changed, without holding an IEP meeting?

Sometimes an IEP Team needs to change the IEP after the annual IEP meeting. The parent(s) and the school district may agree to make the changes without holding another comprehensive IEP Team Meeting. Under these circumstances, the parties may draft a written document to amend or modify the student's current IEP. After doing so, the district must inform all IEP Team members of the changes.

Click here for IEP Ammendment

Am I entitled to examine my child's educational records?

Parents are entitled to an opportunity to inspect and review all education records with respect to the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of the child, as well as the provision of free appropriate public education to the child.

How do I arrange a private independent evaluation, and who pays for it?

An "independent evaluation" is an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the school district responsible for the education of the child in question. The parent(s) of a child with a disability have the right to obtain an independent educational evaluation of the child. The parent(s) have a right to this evaluation at public expense "if the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the school district." 34 CFR Section 300.502 If the parent does request an independent evaluation at public expense, the district must either file a due process complaint to show it is inappropriate, or ensure that the evaluation is provided.


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