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Ready, Set, Parent

By Don Cook

How do you get an IEP approved for your child to receive extra care in school?

What exactly is an IEP? An Individualized Education Plan (or Program) “is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child with an identified disability who is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services,” as defined by the University of Washington. To be eligible for an IEP, children must meet two requirements: they have one of the disabilities specified by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the disability affects their performance at school.

The overall process of developing an IEP can be found on the state of New Jersey’s website. Generally consisting of a five-step process, being approved for and then developing an IEP begins with a referral. According to, “Parents, school personnel and agencies concerned with the welfare of students may make a referral to the school district the student resides.” Within 20 calendar days of receiving a referral, the school district must hold a meeting to decide whether an evaluation will be conducted.

If the decision is made to conduct an evaluation, the process will then move into the next phase. Officials will review any relevant data, and the individual administration of any tests, assessments and observations of the child. At least two child study team members must participate in this process.

Following the evaluation is the “Eligibility” phase or the phase where the results from the evaluation are assessed and a decision is made. According to the state site, “When the evaluation is completed, the school district holds a collaborative meeting to determine if the child is eligible for special education and related services.” As part of this process, parents are required to receive a copy of the findings and information from the evaluation phase that will be used to determine eligibility for an IEP.

Once eligibility has been determined, the school district will hold a meeting to develop the actual IEP. The IEP should describe how the individual child currently performs and their specific instructional needs. It will include measurable annual goals and short-term benchmarks. Once parental consent is granted, the IEP will be executed within 90 calendar days of receipt by the school district.

After executing an IEP, there will be a review period, usually on an annual basis, to determine if the IEP needs to be updated.

For more information on IEPs in the state of New Jersey, visit

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