Understanding IEPs and IEP Meetings


What is an IEP? 

An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan that can be implemented in the school setting when/if a child qualifies for one. The IEP is individualized to each child and provides accommodations or modifications to their school day to help them succeed in the classroom setting.  


The IDEA (individuals with disabilities education act) has listed 13 categories of disabilities that qualify a child for an IEP. Those categories are:

  • autism, 
  • deaf-blindness, 
  • deafness, 
  • emotional disturbance, 
  • hearing impairment, 
  • intellectual disabilities, 
  • multiple disabilities, 
  • orthopedic impairment, 
  • other health impairment, 
  • specific learning disabilities, 
  • speech or language impairment (DeLussey S.). 

If you have questions about whether your child may qualify for an IEP, please contact your local school. 

BIP vs. IEP. 

The major similarity between a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) and an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is that they are both legally binding documents. However, there are some significant differences between the two. 

The BIPtargets the management and modification of challenging behaviors that may be seen in the school setting (Hanson J.). It is created by a school psychologist or a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) with input from teachers and parents (About Behavioral Intervention Plans). 

An IEP allows the school to target more academic subjects, such as reading, math, writing science, and social studies. However, the IEP can also target social-emotional, speech and language, communication, occupational therapy, and physical therapy if your child needs goals in these areas. 

Similar to the BIP, the IEP has a team of people who collaborate on the document. Typical collaborators on an IEP are parents, general education teachers, special education teachers, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, school psychologists, and any other stakeholders, including outside-of-school district therapists (The IEP Team). 

Leading Up to the IEP Meeting

The IEP team will meet at least once a year to update the goals based on the student’s progress from the previous year, sometimes more if deemed appropriate (When the IEP Team Meets). The most common reason for an IEP meeting outside of the once-a-year meeting is to make an addendum to the current document based on the progress the school is seeing (When the IEP Team Meets). 

Typically, 30-45 days before the IEP meeting, the parent or caregiver will receive a formal invitation to the meeting (DeLussey S.). They may also get a call around this time from the child’s teacher asking what they would like to see targeted on the IEP and their thoughts on the child’s strengths and areas of growth. 

About two weeks before the meeting date, caregivers will receive a draft of the document to review before the meeting (DeLussey S.). When reviewing the draft, it’s important to remember that everything in it is just proposed, and nothing will go into effect until the meeting occurs and the document is signed. 

The IEP Meeting

The IEP meeting can last up to an hour, and everyone on the child’s school team, as well as family (mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, etc.), should be present if appropriate. Additionally, the child may attend the meeting and advocate for themselves if it is deemed appropriate by the family and the school team. 

In the meeting, the teacher will discuss current progress toward goals addressed the prior year (Guide to the Individualized Education Program). They will also discuss proposed goals to address this year and accommodations for state testing your child will receive (Guide to the Individualized Education Program). Additionally, they may discuss any other accommodations that your child may receive during their school day, whether or not the placement is still appropriate for your child, how long the IEP will remain in effect and the dates, how caregivers will receive information on the child’s progress and how often they will get that information (Guide to the Individualized Education Program). 

If caregivers have concerns about the draft document sent home, this meeting is a great time to bring those up and discuss them with the whole team so changes can be made. 

After the Meeting

After changes are made to the IEP as a result of the conversations during the IEP meeting, caregivers may be given the choice to sign the document. Caregivers can sign the document immediately or wait until they receive the Prior written notice. The Prior written notice is a document detailing all the proposed changes made to the IEP and why those changes were made (Joesph N.). If caregivers choose to sign the document, they will still receive a prior written notice detailing the changes made. They will also be given a document, either by email or a physical copy, whichever they choose, and a copy of the procedural safeguards detailing the educational rights afforded to the parent and child. 

The procedural safeguards for CO: https://www.cde.state.co.us/spedlaw/2011proceduralsafeguards

The procedural safeguards for TX: file:///Users/chandlerschotzko/Downloads/Procedural%20Safeguards%20-%20English.pdf

What questions and comments do you have about your child’s IEP?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. If you found this post helpful, please feel free to like, share, and follow us for more insightful content on autism and ABA therapy.

If a positive, play-based approach to ABA appeals to you, we invite you to reach out to ABA Connect. The friendly team at ABA Connect is always ready to help answer your questions.


DeLussey, S. (2024, April 4). What qualifies a child for an IEP?. The Intentional IEP. https://www.theintentionaliep.com/what-qualifies-child-for-iep/

Kling, J., Fatima, E., Hutter, D., 11, J. K. A., Kling, J., kleist, W., & 21, J. K. F. (2018, November 17). Difference between IEP, Bip, and 504. Alternative Teaching. https://www.alternativeteaching.org/iep-bip-and-504-plans/ 

Hanson, J. (2024, March 1). Qualified experts for writing a BIP: A complete guide. Special Education Journey. https://special-education-journey.com/who-is-qualified-to-write-a-bip/

About behavioral intervention plans (bips). Child Mind Institute. (2021, October 6). https://childmind.org/article/about-behavioral-intervention-plans-bips/

The IEP Team. Center for Parent Information and Resources. (n.d.). https://www.parentcenterhub.org/iep-team/

When the IEP Team Meets. Center for Parent Information and Resources. (n.d.-b). https://www.parentcenterhub.org/meetings/

DeLussey, S. (2024a, March 30). How to prep for an annual IEP meeting. The Intentional IEP. https://www.theintentionaliep.com/prep-for-annual-meeting/

Guide to the individualized education program. US department of Education. (2019, August 30). https://www2.ed.gov/parents/needs/speced/iepguide/index.html

Joseph, N. (2023, October 27). What is a Pwn?. The Law Offices of Nicole Joseph. https://nicolejosephlaw.com/understanding-the-importance-of-a-pwn-or-prior-written-notice/


Chandler Schotzko is from Montana, where she was a special education teacher for three years before she and her husband moved to Colorado Springs, CO. She is currently getting her certificate in ABA from Ball State University. She has always had a passion for working with individuals with special needs and autism, as her uncle has Down syndrome, and she spent her childhood volunteering for Special Olympics. She has an elementary teaching degree from the University of Montana Western. When she went to school to get her bachelor’s degree, she always planned on getting her masters in ABA. Her main area of interest is communication and teaching children to communicate their wants and needs to teachers, staff, and family. She hopes to help others the most by continuing to work in early intervention to get children ready for school so they can be successful in the school environment.


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