Learn more about the IEP

An IEP is an Individualized Education Program

It's a legal contract between you and the school that describes the specialized instruction and support that the school will give your child.

What does an IEP include? Image of a stack of ruled paper labelled IEP

  • Which specialized services your child will getImage of a checklist on a clipboard

  • How often they will get them Image of a schoolbus

  • What school or program your child will be in Image of a calender

  • How often or if they will be out of the regular classroom

  • If they will get transportation to and from the school or program

  • If  they will get Extended School Year Services


Extended Year Services (EYS) means that your child will get some services through the summer. An IEP should provide this when a child is likely to lose progress during summer vacation.

What kind of specialized services might be in the IEP?

Here are some examples:

Images of tecahers helping students in the classroom

  • One-on-one or group sessions with learning specialists 

  • A special education teacher working with your child and others in the classroom

  • Therapies like speech, occupational therapy (OT) or physical therapy (PT)

  • A plan to help with behavior issues

  • Counseling for coping with social or emotional issues

  • Help with special devices or equipment a child may need

Two images of teachers using educational toys in the classroom and an image of a teacher helping a student.

You and the rest of the school team will develop a specific plan that describes the services your child needs. Remember, these are just some examples!

What happens next?

  • You and the school will create an IEP team and have a meeting

  • You and the rest of the team will decide together what services your child should get

Click the boxes below to learn more about IEPs and see a helpful glossary:

An IEP is an Individualized Education Program.

It's a legal contract between you and the school that describes specialized instruction and support that the school will give your child.


There is a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This gives children with disabilities the right to an education that meets their unique needs. So if a child needs special help in order to learn at school, the school system has to give them extra services.

An Individualized Education Program, or IEP, is a document that describes these extra services under IDEA that the school agrees to give your child to help them meet their educational needs. It is a legal contract between you and the school.

How it works:

You the parent, and the rest of the IEP Team work together to define your child's goals and develop a unique plan to help address and achieve these goals.

What kinds of services might be in the IEP? 

  • Extra learning help from a special educator

  • Therapies like speech, or occupational therapy (OT) to help your child with specific skills

  • School counseling, to help your child cope with their challenges

These services may be called Special Education services or Exceptional Student Services (ESS).

Image of an exclamation markDon't be scared by the term Special Education! It only means that your child will get special services to help them learn in school. It does not mean they are any less smart than others, just that they need some support at this time. 

In this Guide, we will walk you through each section of the IEP form. If you would like to look at the form before we get to that section, click the link at the bottom of the page to download it. (It will open in a new tab or window or appear at the bottom corner of your screen.)


Special education involves a lot of terms and abbreviations that may be new to you.

Here is a list of some common words and phrases that you will probably hear:

  • 504 Plan: A set of accommodations, or changes in the classroom environment to help your child follow the regular curriculum.It is less formal and involved than an IEP and does not change the instruction itself.For example, a student who uses a wheelchair but doesn't need academic supports would have a 504 plan. SeeAccommodations below for other examples. A student who qualifies for a 504 plan has not been identified as having one of the disabilities listed in IDEA.

  • Accommodations: Changes that the teacher can make to help your child learn more effectively. For example: they may rearrange the classroom, let your child take more time for tests, or give them certain types of learning aids. Accommodations are NOT changes to the education content itself.

  • Advocate: An attorney or non-attorney who focuses on helping parents and students resolve problems with schools.

  • Assessments (Standard): Tests given to all students. Students with disabilities may need accommodations for these tests, which will be written in the IEP. Certain students may need alternate assessments, depending on their disability.

  • Bulletin 1508: This is a document from the Louisiana Department of Education that outlines all educational rights of students with disabilities. Another name for this bulletin is "Special Education Processes and Procedural Safeguards".

  • Dispute Resolution: The process that parents and schools go through when they cannot agree on something related to special education services.

  • FAPE: Free and Appropriate Public Education. This is every child’s right, even if they need special services. All students ages 3 to 22 can get a public education at no cost to the family that is appropriate. They have a right to fully take part in school life, including after-school activities.FAPE differs for each student because each has unique needs. What is “appropriate” for each child will be different, but it means more than just getting by.Every child's education should challenge them to the best of their abilities.

  • General curriculum: The IEP will discuss"accessing the general curriculum." This means being able to follow the teaching plan for each subject in a typical classroom.

  • General Education classroom (or teacher): This refers to the regular classroom that has students without disabilities or teacher of that regular class, NOT the special education ones.

  • IEP: Individualized Education Plan. An Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, is a document that describes the special services your child will get to meet their educational needs. It is a legal contract between you and the school.

  • IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The federal law that gives children with disabilities the right to have "equal access" to a free and appropriate" education. (See FAPE above.) It requires public schools to give them the services they need to meet their own educational goals.

  • LRE: Least Restrictive Environment. The IDEA law (see above) requires that students with disabilities must be taught with their non-disabled peers as much as possible. The closest they can get to being in a typical classroom is called the "least restrictive environment," or LRE. If extra supports and services will allow your child to make progress in the regular classroom, then that’s what the school must offer. Only if that’s not possible will your child go to a more restrictive setting like a special needs classroom. The most restrictive environment is a special needs school or hospital-based setting.

  • Placement: The school or type of classroom where your child will be taught. Based on your child's needs, these range from the regular classroom in the child's regular school to a special-needs classroom, a separate school, or a special program in the home or a hospital. Placement also refers to how often your child will be in the regular classroom with non-disabled peers, and how often they will be in a different classroom with specialists.

  • Procedural Safeguards: These are specific procedures that are required by law to protect the rights of students and parents. They include timelines, consent processes, and specific rules for getting the evaluation and creating the IEP. Click this to read more: Louisiana's Educational Rights of Children with Disabilities: Special Education Processes & Procedural Safeguards.

  • RTI: Response to Intervention. This is a system of interventions that tries to help your child who is struggling in school. There are different layers of interventions that increase in intensity. When a lower level doesn't work, the school will try the interventions at the next level.

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This is part of the federal law that gives children with disabilities the right to get services and accommodations in public schools

Source: LA DOE

Sources: Federation for Children with Special Needs, LA DOE