What are IEPs?

An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is the plan that is developed for your child when they are at school or kura.

These plans outline how, who and when the goals for your child will be reached and may include:

  • who will be working with your child, what their role will be and what they will do
  • how you and your family and whānau can support your child’s learning at home
  • teaching strategies that will support your child to learn
  • resources or special equipment your child might need
  • what success for the team working with your child will look like

These plans don’t have to be large, intimidating documents. They don’t even need to be all in words – they might have charts, photos or pictures.

These plans are living documents, and will change over time as your child’s needs change. You and your child’s team will talk regularly about your child’s progress and what their next goals will be and update the plan.

How do you know if your child needs an IEP?

In order to qualify for an IEP, your child needs to receive an evaluation in school (or at home if your child has not started school yet, or attends homeschool or Cyber School). Depending on your child’s specific needs, the evaluation could be conducted by one or all of the following professionals: a school psychologist, a speech/language pathologist, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, or a vision or hearing specialist. If your child is of school age, the parent or school team can request the evaluation. If the school team requests it, you will be contacted to sign a permission form to let the evaluation begin.

There are several reasons an IEP might be needed. For example, when –

  • barriers to learning have been identified but cannot be overcome by regular classroom strategies
  • regular classroom planning doesn’t provide enough support for an individual student
  • there are key transition points – e.g., students are changing class, changing school or preparing to leave school
  • there is a change in the student’s personal circumstances such as deterioration in health, emotional trauma, or a substantial gain in skills

What do you do if you think your child needs an IEP?

Following the Special Education website diagram of the IEP process, the first step is to arrange a meeting with the school to discuss your concerns around your child’s educational needs. From there, an IEP can be created using a template such as the one on the Special Education Online website, or created from scratch.

The format of an individual education plan is not prescribed, but the plan does need to include the elements outlined in Contents of the IEP section (section 9.4) of the booklet Collaboration for Success: Individual Education Plans.

The team around the student agrees on the format of the plan.

From there, the school and parents should meet regularly to work through the IEP, assess how well things are working (or not working), and agree on the next steps to ensure the child is getting the education they need.


louise ratcliffe
Louise Ratcliffe
Information Officer
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