Children who are eligible for special education must have individualized education programs, known as IEPs. IEPs are developed free of charge for qualified children in public schools. IEPs are documents that provide education plans for students. In order to qualify, a student must be classified as having a disability, as defined by federal regulations. The IEP process helps special needs children reach educational goals.

Proper Placement

One way that educators use IEPs is as a tool to help determine proper placement of students with special needs. Students may be placed in a variety of settings, including mainstream classes, special education classes, or a combination based on the unique needs of each child.  Parents and educators rely on IEPs, thus proper assessment, services, and placement is of great importance.  IEPs are updated annually, at least, and the needs of the child continue to be reassessed, until the child graduates from high school or at age 21. If the child attends a university, that institution’s policies and procedures will take effect.

Participation With Typical Peers

One purpose of the federal law which mandates IEPs – the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – is to assist in determining to what extent a child with special needs can participate in general education.  The IDEA mandates that students with special needs participate with typical peers to extent practicable, including in special classes such as physical education and art, if possible, and on field trips.

IEP Team

An IEP can only be drafted by an IEP team.  The members of the IEP team are set forth in the IDEA, and the public school is responsible for convening the IEP team for each special education student in its boundaries.  An IEP team meeting is for educators and parents to discuss the child’s specific needs, and how the school can assist the child in accessing his or her education.  IEP team members must include the parents, a regular education teacher, a special education teacher, a representative of the school (if a charter) or the district (if a public school), and an individual who can interpret evaluations of the child.  The IEP team may include any other person invited by the parent or the school district who has knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related service providers.

Creating a Plan that Works

The IEP is one of the most important tools for educators and parents to use as they create a plan that provides the special education child with appropriate supports and services to function at school.  It is important to note that the plan should be created based on the needs of the child, and should not be based solely on the programs or services that are currently available at the school. Questions regarding the legal requirements of the student should be reviewed by a qualified education law attorney.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Individualized Education Programs, or other Education Law matters, please feel free to contact Erin H. Walz at 480.461.5379, log on to or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.