IEP Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

This guide will help you discover what IEP means, where the term comes from, how to use it, and so much more. Click here to learn!

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An IEP is an abbreviation that most people only know about if they work in education, have their own IEP while they’re in school, or they’re a parent or guardian of a student who has one. For many, IEPs are a vital part of their educational experience, so it’s an important term that everyone should understand. 

What Does IEP Mean?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, an IEP is an individualized education plan (or program) for a child with a disability. The IEP statement is written, developed, reviewed, and revised as needed within an IEP meeting. The IEP statement should include certain components:

  • The statement should describe the effects the child or student’s disability has on their involvement in the general education process or their development through the curriculum. This is typically compared with the general progress of nondisabled students in the same curriculum at the same level.
  • The IEP statement should include measurable annual goals. Sometimes these goals will be academic, but they can also include functional goals that are designed to meet the child’s needs their disability creates. This can include nonacademic activities like socialization, organizational skills, and more.
  • The plan’s statement will include a description of how the child or student’s progress toward meeting the aforementioned goals will be measured. Periodic updates to the report will describe how the student is progressing in those measurements from present levels toward the overall goals.
  • The special education statement will also include a description of the related services and aids that will be provided to the child. This lets everyone involved understand what is needed and expected to help the child succeed in the goals laid out. 
  • The statement will include an estimate of how much time the student will spend with nondisabled children doing general education curriculum work in the regular classroom setting. 
  • The statement of the special education services the child can expect to receive will have a date that service should begin, the expected duration of those services, as well as an expectation of the frequency with which services will be provided.

The statement for the individualized education program is discussed at an IEP meeting with the IEP team. A multidisciplinary team is considered the best approach. Typically, the IEP team consists of:

  • Regular general education teacher of the child (at least one)
  • Special education teacher of the child (at least one)
  • A representative of the public agency (typically the school or school system)
  • An individual who can interpret educational implications (this role may be fulfilled by one of the other previously mentioned roles or someone else)
  • Anyone determined by the parent or public agency as having special expertise regarding the child
  • The parent(s) or guardian(s) of the child
  • The child themselves when appropriate

Each IEP team member will be asked to sign the IEP statement at the conclusion of the meeting to verify that everyone is aware and agrees to the plan laid out in the meeting.

What Is the Origin of IEP?

Individualized education programs were introduced to school systems in 1975. At that time, the right to attend public schools as a disabled student was legally recognized in the All Handicapped Children Act (EHA). Prior to the EHA, disabled students were not allowed to attend school at all. 

The act allowed for students with disabilities to obtain the same education in the least restrictive environment alongside their non-disabled peers. Since its passage, the laws have continued to adapt and progress to be more inclusive and help more disabled children receive the special education services they need to meet their individual needs and succeed in school. In 1990, the law was reauthored and given a new name as the Individuals with Disabilities Act (or IDEA).

The U.S. Department of Education has the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) that monitors states regularly to be sure they comply with IDEA.

How Do We Use IEP?

An IEP is needed when a child or student has special factors that impact their progress in a regular class. Some of the disabilities that might lead to an assessment to determine if the child is eligible for services would include:

  • Health impairment
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Visual impairment
  • Autism
  • A specific learning disability
  • Language impairment
  • Intellectual disability
  • Orthopedic impairment

Early intervention is the best way to ensure the child’s disability is taken into consideration and they receive an appropriate education. Services that are needed can range widely to include:

  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Counseling
  • Independent living training
  • Alternate assignments
  • Additional help with homework
  • Services to assist in their language needs
  • Alternate assessments
  • Supplementary aids
  • Assistive devices

The goal is always to take the child from their present level of academic achievement and help them to advance their functional performance and academic success. Typically, the child’s accommodations will not interfere with the learning of others. The IEP merely helps provide procedural safeguards that help the student receive the free appropriate public education as their non-disabled peers.

A student typically receives a referral for evaluation from school personnel. Once eligibility is established, the IEP team will begin to work on the short-term objectives that will help the student begin to progress.

Are There Any Synonyms for IEP?

Synonyms for abbreviations can be a challenge, but it’s much easier when you use the word or phrase the abbreviation stands for. An IEP is an individualized education plan (or program). Here are a few synonyms for IEP:

  • Idea
  • Scheme
  • Program
  • Project
  • Method
  • Design
  • Plot
  • Proposition
  • Proposal
  • Suggestion
  • Scenario

Are There Any Antonyms for IEP?

Antonyms mean the opposite of a word. As with synonyms, finding an antonym for an abbreviation can be a challenge, but if you look for the opposite meaning of the words that an abbreviation stands for, it is much easier. Here are some antonyms for an individualized education program:

  • Disorganized
  • Disorder
  • Ignore
  • Disregard
  • Neglect
  • Differentiated instruction

Examples of Using IEP

Examples help us see how words and abbreviations are used in context. When we have examples, we can use the term with more confidence in our own lives. Here are some examples of using IEP:

  • After the IEP meeting, they felt much more confident that their child would receive the assistance they needed to succeed.
  • It is required by law that an IEP examine a student’s current educational status.
  • In an IEP, measurable objectives are stated, and the child’s progress throughout the year will be measured towards these goals.
  • We had to reschedule the IEP meeting because the child’s representative could not be present.
  • Please consider adding this accommodation to my child’s IEP.

The Last Word

With your understanding of IEP, you’ll know what it means now if you or someone you care about needs one. It’s important to educate yourself on the accommodations needed to improve the ability to achieve the overall objectives laid out by an IEP. Perhaps knowing the definition of an IEP will help you feel more confident when you’re discussing it. 


  1. Sec. 300.320 Definition of individualized education program | 
  2. Sec. 300.321 IEP Team – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act | 
  3. A History of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act |