The IEP is Not Working for my Child

The IEP is Not Working for my Child

What is an IEP?

An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan, a legal document that details your child's educational present levels and current needs. Then it includes goals and objectives to support those needs. It covers all areas of education--including special education services--and consists of the regular education curriculum. The IEP also includes behavior intervention plans if necessary. The most important thing a parent should know about an IEP is that it is INDIVIDUALIZED for YOUR CHILD. Just because they do or do not support another child in a certain way does not mean they have to support your child the same way.

Signs that an IEP is Not Working

If you're concerned that your child's IEP isn't working, there are some signs to look for.

Decline in academic performance
Suppose your child is struggling with schoolwork or has stopped making progress on their goals (WATCH FOR THOSE PROGRESS REPORTS that come home at report card time). This decline may be a sign that they need more or different support from the school. It might be time for a new evaluation or additional data to be collected.

Negative behavior changes
If your child has become more aggressive or withdrawn since the IEP was implemented, it could mean that it is not meeting their needs and causing stress instead of helping them thrive at school.

Your child is complaining
If your child is complaining that they are not lost, feel dumb, or are not getting accommodations outlined in the IEP or 504. Listen up. The information provided by your child may be less than 100% accurate. Still, kids don't complain when they are feeling successful and getting what they need.

Steps to Take When an IEP is Not Working

If your child's IEP is not working, there are several steps you can take. The first step is to talk to the teacher. Sometimes this is a simple oversight. They don't know or simply forgot about the accommodations required in the IEP or 504. It could also be that your child is declining support. That is when your child should be a part of that conversation. You may wish to include the case manager so she can ensure everyone is on the same page and explain any IEP details that either the parents or teachers do not understand. Make sure to send a follow-up email after the meeting about what you discussed together. This email recap is always a good idea when talking in person, so there is a paper trail and something to refresh your memory later on.

If you don't see any improvement after meeting "unofficially," schedule a meeting with the IEP team. Send a parent concerns letter several days before or when requesting the meeting so they can be prepared to address your issues. You can also request an evaluation if you feel that your child's data is out of data.

If the IEP team is not working to address your concerns, it's time to seek outside support.

Options for Making Changes to the IEP

Some parents have asked me, "What should I recommend when meeting with the team?" Remember, it is a team conversation; tell them your concerns and open the discussion. But some suggestions you might think about are:

  • Revise goals and objectives.
  • Adding accommodations.
  • Update progress timelines and data.
  • Review data, how it is collected, and what it is telling you
    Adding support time or related services.
  • Adding teacher training to the IEP to address specific areas of lacking knowledge about your child or their disability. (Did you even know you could do that?)

When to seek outside help

Consult a special education advocate
If you are not satisfied with the services provided by your child's school district, consider hiring an independent advocate who can help guide you through getting what your child needs to succeed in school. Here is a blog post about finding an advocate that is the right fit for you.

Find a special education attorney
If there are still major issues with your child's IEP after seeking advice from an advocate, consider hiring an attorney specializing in special education law (COPAA is an excellent resource for this).


In conclusion, navigating the ins and outs of your child's IEP can be a challenging and sometimes frustrating process. However, you can make a substantial difference in their educational experience with the right mindset, support, and resources.

Remember to be persistent; they are planning for the year, and you are planning for your child's life. Communicate openly with the IEP team, and be your child's strongest advocate. Don't hesitate to seek outside help if necessary, and always keep track of your child's progress. By taking these proactive steps, you'll be well-equipped to ensure your child's IEP is working effectively and helping them reach their full potential. Finally, stay positive, and never forget that you are not alone in this journey—there are countless other parents and professionals who share your commitment to supporting children with special needs.