What is an Individual Education Plan?

Dr. Carla LeHouillier
Wishing Star Associate

Are you a parent of a child with learning exceptionalities? Have you wondered what an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is? Have you ever wondered how to navigate IEP meetings and what questions to ask during these meetings at your child’s school? For many parents, discovering that their child has learning differences leads to many questions, including how will my child best be supported at school? An IEP is a document developed for students when they have been identified as a student with special needs by the school board. IEP’s may include specific learning outcomes, or achievement standards for your child that are different or in addition to the typical provincial learning outcomes set out for students in the curriculum. An IEP may also include any services that will help your child meet either the provincial or individual learning outcomes outlined, materials that may be used, and how these goals/outcomes will be measured or monitored. 

You may have also heard confusing terms such as adaptations and modifications in the context of developing an IEP for your child. Adaptations are changes that are made to the way a particular student is taught or how their knowledge is evaluated, while still allowing these students to have the same curriculum learning goals or outcomes. Adaptations may be things like allowing your child to present test answers orally, getting extra time on exams, or having teachers use different teaching strategies like visual schedules. When adaptations are used, students receive the same types of grades and report cards as their peers, and they are able to graduate with a Dogwood Graduation Diploma (the graduation requirement for most colleges and universities). In contrast, modifications are learning outcomes that are different from the ones set out in the provincial curriculum guide. They are developed specifically for your child’s unique needs, and it means that your child will not receive letter grades or percentages, as other students in their grade. Rather, report cards include written comments about the individualized outcomes that have been developed. When modifications are used, students do not graduate with a Dogwood Graduation Diploma, but may receive a School Completion Certificate.

For more information about the IEP process, including the important role that parents play in the process, how to prepare and what questions to ask, see the Parent’s Guide to Individual Education Planning prepared by the British Columbia School Superintendents’ Association at http://www.bcssa.org/topics/IEP.pdf.

This blog posting is not a form of psychological counselling, advice, therapy, or assessment and should not be used as such by any individual. This blog posting is provided only as an article intended to encourage thought and discourse. For specific psychology related services, please contact an appropriate healthcare provider.