How to write an effective IEP? A step-by-step quick guide

IEP stands for Individual Education Plans. Those involved in special education teaching find IEP of great help in identifying a student’s strengths and needs. A successful IEP implementation starts from planning and developing an effective IEP. So, it is essential to know the steps involved in it by heart. It involves identifying goals and plans for the children transitioning from one grade to another.

In this post, find below a step-by-step guide to writing up an effective IEP. But, before that, let us know why you need an IEP in the first place, and what its benefits are. Scroll down to learn more!

What is IEP?

IEP, or Individual Education Plans, or Individualized Education Program, is exclusively meant for children identified with a specific disability (such as learning disabilities, autism, cognitive problem, hearing/speech disabilities, etc.) and attending educational institutions at the elementary or secondary level. An IEP consists of a few things. These are:

  • Progress of the child with a disability in the general curriculum education process
  • Availability of specialized services to the child in the education institution
  • Availability of the educational accommodations that a child must receive
  • Academic performance of the child at present
  • Setting specific and measurable goals for the child to achieve regarding education
How to write effective IEP? step by step guide infographic

How to write an effective IEP?

A considerable number of steps need to be followed in order to ensure everything that is crucial for a child as per the needs is added to the plan. Here is a step-by-step guide for preparing an effective IEP.

1. Developing the team of collaborators

Developing the team of collaborators

An IEP development is successful only when the right people contribute to it. So, when you set to develop one for your student or your child, you need to consider whom you will take within your team. Those who must be in the team are- the student, their family, teachers, and specialists. You may consider not including the child if they have not reached 16 years. But we would recommend you not to do so. After all, a child needs to know what is being planned for them. As the child grows, you need to give them more responsibilities.

You need to include the family as they are the ones who would support the child at home. Everyone should be on the list, from parents to siblings, for they know the child best.

Also, communication between the school and the family is essential, mainly when the child is promoted to a new class. So, when you plan an IEP, you must include, if possible, all the teachers of the child’s course (instead of only the special needs teacher or the classroom teacher).

As for specialists, your IEP plan should have room for speech therapists, education specialists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, etc.

2. Reviewing the child’s educational progress so far

Reviewing the child's educational progress so far

You need to collect and review the child’s progress report, at least from the last session. These reports would help you recognize what the child has already achieved; you may find that the child has mastered some achievements beyond those years and consider those as the child’s strengths. Again, these reports will help you identify what the child still needs to achieve, and you can view those as their areas of improvement. Now, you can move on to the next step of the process.

3. Setting goals for the child/learner

Setting goals for the child/learner

From the knowledge earned from reviewing the previous year’s performance of the child, you now know what goals you need to include in the plan. You must make sure that these goals are SMART (i.e., Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound), small, devoid of complicated jargon, and quite ambitious. If the children are subjected to higher set goals, it will be easier to minimize the gap with other mainstream students in the class.

For preparing the goals, it is important that you take in suggestions and opinions from the family and the child also. This way, you can make sure that the goals you include are enjoyable. It will be more successful also.

4. Consulting the goals with the other teachers and members

Consulting the goals with the other teachers and members

Once you think your IEP goals are set, you have to send that to the other team members, especially the other teachers on board. With years of experience and expertise, they would know which goals need more specificity, whether any goal needs to be eliminated, what you can include further, etc. This improves the IEP plan and makes it more efficient before you finally write it off.

5. Including accommodations and modifications as a part of the learning process

Including accommodations and modifications as a part of the learning process

According to the International Dyslexia Association, the term ‘accommodations’ refer to making adjustments to the present situation or set-up so that a child can achieve their targets. For example, while everyone else in the class reads from books, you can offer audio-text provision to the special need child. So, the IEP plan should include these accommodation provisions for the children.

As for modifications, you need to shape the assignments and set the expectations in a modified way. For example, instead of giving prime and composite numbers assignments, you can choose only prime to begin with.

6. Preparing a draft IEP

Preparing a draft IEP

By now, you will have a clear notion of your to-dos. Next, you need to put those on paper and prepare a draft. You can send the draft to the parents if you are a teacher. Or, if you are a parent, you can send it to the teachers or other IEP team members for a final check and ask for their input, if any.

7. Comparing the present draft with that of the previous year

In this step, you need to compare how different or upgraded the IEP of this year is from the earlier years.

8. Preparing the final copy for circulation

Preparing the final copy for circulation

After you revise the draft and get all the required inputs from the experts, it is time to write it down finally. Here again, you have to keep in mind that the IEP plan should be focused on the child and not on the presentation or the looks of the document. Instead of decorating it with colorful borders, highlighting the heading, etc., emphasize the main points, mark them in bold, and maintain a legible font size and style.

9. Updating the IEP plan from time to time

PLAAFP, or Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance, is utterly important. You can recognize the child’s current performance, how far they have progressed regarding developmental areas, etc. This part of the IEP gives the parents and teachers a clear idea of the child’s present capabilities or, in other words, strengths. Keeping the progress in mind, you can modify the current IEP plan and incorporate new goals as you feel necessary.

10. Other guidelines

 Other guidelines

Here are a few other things to keep in mind while writing an effective IEP:

  • Include social goals in the IEP. Such goals include positive interaction with peers, conflict resolution, etc.
  • Sometimes, parents might wish to bring an advocate to the IEP meetings. As a teacher, you need to prepare the IEP so that there are no loopholes.
  • Avoid using words that the child or their parents and teachers might find judgmental, such as ‘enthusiastic,’ ‘appropriate,’ etc.

Why is it important that you have an effective IEP?

Here are a few benefits if you are wondering why you need to put so much effort into writing an IEP.

  • People from various fields join the team to develop an IEP collaboratively. After reaching the age of 16, the child can also join the development team. This collaborative process makes it easy to understand the learning process a child must engage in.
  • As you develop small, specific, and measurable goals for the students, it becomes easy for you and the learners to identify the progress towards the goals.
  • An effective IEP helps you clearly understand the child’s strengths and weaknesses in academics, extracurricular activities, etc. You can also gauge the child’s socio-emotional status and family structure through the IEP, that might contribute to their success. 


Post-pandemic, returning to the continuous learning process has become more difficult for children with special needs. But, they need to close the gap and match the mainstream expectations to their best extent. IEP comes to be of great use in such situations.

Now that you know how to write an effective IEP from the step-by-step guide above, we wish your child succeeds with all our hearts.

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