The Individualized Education Plan, constructed by the school team, is a written statement of the goals, objectives, and services that will be provided to assist a child with exceptional educational needs. A well-written IEP will incorporate long term goals and very specific measurable objectives accompanied by a timetable in which those objectives will be met. Federal law mandates that an IEP include seven required parts:

1. A statement of the child’s present level of performance.
2. A statement of the goals and objectives.
3. A statement of special education services to be provided (including location, duration, and frequency of services).
4. A statement of the extent to which the child will participate in regular education.
5. The date the special educational services are to begin and the expected ending date.
6. The criteria for determining if the objectives are being met.
7. A statement of transition services needed.

The IEP goals should be written for all academic areas of need (math, reading, writing, etc) and for any school-related areas of need (such as attendance, school behavior, self-help, social, emotional, etc.) The language should be very specific.

In addition to the written goals, the document should answer the following questions:

  • What services are to be provided?
  • Who will provide the services?  Specialists, teachers, aides?
  • Which teaching methods will be used?
  • Where will services be provided: regular classroom, resource room, and/or special education classroom? Will it be one-on-one? With a small group?
  • How often will the services be provided?
  • How long will each session be?
  • When will the services begin?

To view a model of an IEP written specifically for a student with bipolar disorder, go to The Bipolar Child website: “Model IEP.

The goals of the IEP should be monitored and reviewed every nine weeks to determine if progress is being made. Parents may request more frequent feedback. Additionally, parents may request an IEP meeting at any time to review progress and to request needed changes.

Though the school is required by law to conduct a triennial review (every three years) where the student will be retested, this is generally too long to wait to determine if the student’s academic weaknesses are being remediated. We advise parents to have an annual, independent evaluation in early spring so that a meeting can be called and the results of any evaluations can be shared with the IEP team. This will ensure that the appropriate program, goals, and objectives are in place for the next school year. Some states and school districts require and regularly provide annual reviews.

Annual reviews do not require a complete neuropsychological evaluation. Instead, they focus on troublesome areas that are being remediated in school or with private tutors. Do not assume your child will tell you (or be able to identify) that he or she is having a problem or that the work is too difficult. Instead, they become Masters of Defense and develop the attitude “Who gives?”

Also, understand what “grade level” means. If a dyslexic student has a verbal IQ of 138 and her reading is “at grade level,” assume that this is a near-tragic scenario. Any child doing work three standard deviations below his or her cognitive ability (no matter what the learning disability) is a child in trouble. Some schools may not recognize this or wish to point it out to parents as they fear a due process hearing.