Contents of an IEP (Individual Education Program)

In Delaware, IEPs include:

  •  Amount of hours in special education
  • Type of placement (from regular education to private placement or home/hospital based service
  • Related services (occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, physical therapy, social skills, counseling services, etc.) (if needed)
  •  Assistive technology, including specific learning devices and services (if needed)
  •  Behavior intervention plans and supports, Functional Behavior Assessments (if needed)
  •  Language needs for students who have limited English proficiency
  •  For students who is blind or visually impaired: instruction in Braille and the use of Braille unless it has been determined that it is not appropriate for the student
  •  Communication needs, including for those who are deaf or hard of hearing (if needed)
  •  Need for accessible instructional materials
  •  Transition planning (for students 14+ or 8th grade +)
  •  Unique educational needs and characteristics of the student
  •  Special education and related services that will be provided, including any accommodations or modifications
  •  Present level of educational performance (“PLEP”) – how the student is currently doing in targeted areas, as well as an annual goal for those targeted areas, and four benchmarks that the student should be able to reach (between the current performance level and the annual goal for a year later)
  •  Special transportation needs (if any)
  •  For students with certain disability classifications, whether the parent/guardian/student (if over 18) chooses a 12-month program which does not exceed 217 school days (eligible classifications: Severe Mental Disability; Trainable Mental Disability; Orthopedic Impairment; Traumatic Brain Injury; Deaf-Blind) or 241 school days (eligible classification: Autism).
  •  Whether the student requires extended school year services (after the regular school year ends).
  •   Testing accommodations

You can view Delaware’s IEP forms online at the Department of Education’s website:  This website includes an annotated Transition IEP, which is a helpful guide to the different parts of the IEP (the annotations include a description of all the different areas on the IEP form).

The Transition IEP

Transition IEPs are IEPs that include transition services.  Transition services are defined by federal regulation as “a coordinated set of activities for a [student] with a  disability… to facilitate movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.”[1]  In Delaware, IEPs must include transition services, beginning with the IEP that is in effect when you turn 14 or start 8th grade (whichever is first).[2]  IEP teams can decide to start transition services even earlier if appropriate for a particular student’s individual needs.  If the IEP team decides to start transition services earlier than age 14/8th grade, the IEP for that student must meet the requirements of the transition regulations, which are described below.[3]

Transition services must be updated in the IEP at least annually.  The transition services in the IEP must include:

  • Appropriate, measurable postsecondary (after high school) goals.
  • These goals must be based on age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and (where appropriate) independent living skills.
  • Transition services and activities, including classes, needed to help you reach your transition goals.
  • Your strengths, interests, and postsecondary preferences (what you want to do after high school, like go to college to study biology, or, find a job working with children).
  • If you plan to graduate with a diploma or a certificate.

Transition planning must be individualized and take into account the student’s strengths, preferences, and interests.  Transition services can include instruction, including special education or a related service(s) [4], community experiences, development of employment and other adult living objectives, and (if appropriate) acquisition of daily living skills and a functional vocational evaluation.  For example, community access skills may be necessary for a particular student to receive FAPE, based on their independent living skills and needs; if necessary these skills must be addressed with the student’s transition services in the student’s IEP.[5]

More on transition goals

As explained above, the IDEA requires a student’s IEP to include measurable postsecondary goals in the areas of training, education, and employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills. It is important to know that, independent living skills are the only area in which postsecondary goals are not required but are left up to the student’s IEP Team “to determine whether IEP goals related to the development of independent living skills are appropriate and necessary for the child to receive FAPE.”[6]  Training and education goals may overlap, depending on the needs of the student and the student’s plans after high school.  The IEP team can combine the training and education goals if the IEP team determines that separate education and training post high school goals are not needed[7].  The U.S. Department of Education gives the example that if a student wants to pursue a teacher certification program after high school that program will contain both training and education and thus the student may not need separate goals in the IEP. [8]  However, every IEP must include a separate postsecondary goal in the area of employment; this may not be combined with training and education.

Many IEP teams rush through the transition part of an IEP but it is actually very important.  The whole point of an IEP is to prepare you for further education, employment, and independent living!  The transition portion of an IEP goes into detail about what your interests and goals are for further education, employment and independent living, and the steps you and your school need to take to help you meet your goals.  Your transition plan should help to frame the rest of your IEP.  You will likely need to advocate for yourself, to make sure your transition plan is thorough and appropriate… and that the rest of your IEP is designed with your transition goals in mind.

Summary of Performance

You should also be aware that when a student either graduates with a regular diploma or ages out of special education, the school must provide the student with a summary of the student’s academic achievement and functional performance.[9]  This is also called the Summary of Performance or SOP.  The SOP must include recommendations on how to assist the student in meeting the student’s post-high school goals.  The SOP requirement does not apply to a student who graduates with a GED or alternate diploma.[10]

IEP meetings

Initial IEP meeting, after a student is found eligible for special education services

Once the school determines that a student needs special education, it must hold an initial IEP meeting within 30 days of that determination.  This meeting is to develop a student’s IEP document.

Subsequent IEP meetings

After the initial IEP meeting, IEP meetings must be held at least annually to make changes to and update the IEP.  However, the parent / guardian / student (if over 18) or school may convene an IEP meeting at any time.  If your IEP plan is not working out, such as if you need new or different services, you can address this by requesting an IEP meeting.   It is best (although not required) to make your request for an IEP meeting in writing, and to list the topics you want to address at the meeting, such as requesting a behavior evaluation and plan, assistive technology, or an aide.  This helps the school to be prepared to address your concerns at the meeting and serves as documentation of your request should you need to file a complaint against the school later.  There is a sample IEP meeting request letter at the end of this guide.

People who attend an IEP meeting

The IEP meeting is attended by the IEP team.  The IEP team consists of the parents/guardian, at least one regular education teacher, at least one special education teacher or one special education provider (i.e. a speech therapist or occupational therapist), a representative from the school (i.e. the principal or assistant principal), an individual who is qualified to interpret diagnostic evaluations (i.e. the educational diagnostician or school psychologist), and, if appropriate, the student.  As students get older it becomes more appropriate for them to participate.  When a student is in the teenage years they should generally be part of the IEP team meetings (in fact, in some schools, they lead the IEP meetings – see the discussion of student led IEPs, below).  If the IEP team is discussing postsecondary (after high school) goals and/or transition services, then the student MUST be invited to the meeting.[11]

Parents/guardians/student may also invite any expert or individuals with special knowledge of the student that the parents/guardian/student would like to invite.  This may include a doctor or therapist, relative, or caseworker.  Typically it is helpful to invite caseworkers from other service providers, such as Delaware Developmental Disabilities Services (DDDS) or the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health (DPBHS), as often the services you receive outside of school impact how you do at school.  If you have a mental or behavioral health disorder, it can be very helpful to invite your therapist/counselor, to help the IEP team understand how your disability affects you and how to best accommodate it.  If you have a professional, such as a doctor, therapist, or caseworker that you want to attend your IEP meeting, but they are unable to attend in person, you can request that the school arrange for them to participate by telephone.  Another option you have is to obtain a letter or other written documentation from your doctor, therapist, etc., if she cannot participate in your IEP meeting, but has recommendations for the IEP team.

If you are a high school student, you should know that there is a Division of Vocational Rehabilitation counselor in every high school; you can request that this person be invited to your IEP meeting to help with transition planning.  Your school district may also have a transition coordinator, or other transition staff, who you can request to be invited to your meeting.[12]

All IEP team members must attend your child’s IEP meeting. An IEP team member can only miss a meeting if he or she requests excusal in writing and if the parent/guardian consents.  If a parent/guardian cannot attend in person, such as due to work obligations, they can attend by telephone.

Amendments to the IEP

As discussed above, the IEP can be amended (changed) at an IEP meeting.  IEPs can also be amended without an IEP meeting.  However, any changes/revisions to an IEP without a formal meeting must be agreed to in writing by the parent(s) or student (if over 18).

You should always request a copy of the amended IEP, since one will not necessarily be provided to you after it is amended.


Although you will be scheduled to have an IEP meeting every year, you are entitled to a reevaluation of tests, services, or diagnoses every three years.  However, at any time you can request a reevaluation if you believe you are not adequately placed, do not have appropriate services, or need additional accommodations.  Your request for a reevaluation can include a request for a specific type of specialized evaluation, such as a speech/language evaluation, neuropsychological evaluation, or assistive technology evaluation.  If the school recently did an evaluation but you disagree with it, you can request an independent evaluation, meaning one done by someone who is not employed by the school (a sample independent evaluation request is provided at the end of this guide).  Independent evaluations are discussed further, below.  You should always put your request for reevaluations or independent evaluations in writing.

To ensure that you have appropriate IEP goals and services, you should request a yearly meeting to go through your progress. At that meeting you will be able to assess if your goals or services need to change or if a reevaluation is warranted. You are also entitled to meet with the IEP team at any time; it is helpful to make the request in writing.

Student Led IEPs

Student led IEPs, sometimes called student directed IEPs, are a current trend in special education.  The idea behind student led IEPs is that high school students should take a more active role in their own IEP meetings.  Students at schools that use a student led IEP approach get to be the leader at their IEP meeting, instead of school staff.  Students who participate in student led IEPs learn to advocate for themselves.  They also may be more invested in their education because they have a key role in directing it, instead of it being something that they are just told they have to do.  Student led IEPs help students to take more control over their future.  You should talk to staff at your school, such as your principal or teacher, about whether a student led IEP could be arranged at your school.  If your school is not already doing them, you should tell your school you want student led IEPs to be a part of your school!

The Delaware Department of Education has a 10 step guide to Student Directed IEPs, available at:  They also have a brief explanation of IEPs for students:

Transfer of rights at age 18

Generally, when a student turns 18, the student’s rights under the federal and state special education laws transfer from the student’s parents/guardian to the student.  At least one year before a student with an IEP turns 18 the law requires that a student be informed of this transfer of rights.

While many students are ready and able to take on the responsibility of advocating for their own education, some students prefer or benefit from continued assistance from their parent or guardian.  This may simply be a matter of a student wanting to continue to have a parent involved in IEP meetings.  Under the law, a student can continue to invite a parent to IEP meetings.  A student can even request that the school send copies of IEP documents to a parent (the school would require the student to sign a release).    Another alternative would be for students to appoint a parent through a power of attorney as a representative for educational purposes, or similar grant of authority, so that the parent can continue to act on the student’s behalf.

If a student is over the age of 18 and has a guardian of the person[13], the student’s guardian would continue to control the student’s IEP rights, instead of the student.  For students who do not have a guardian after the age of 18, there is a federal regulation[14] that requires states to have a procedure to allow parents to continue to exercise a student’s special education rights without having to be appointed guardian, if the student lacks the ability to provide informed consent regarding their education.  The comments to this regulation support allowing a student to voluntarily grant this authority to a parent or other trusted adult.  Unfortunately, at the time of the writing of this guide, Delaware has not yet made such a procedure official.   However, students who are able to understand and sign a Power of Attorney may appoint their parents or guardians to act on their behalf for educational purposes.

Before you turned 18, if you did not have a parent available to make your school decisions, you may have had an educational surrogate parent.[15] If you had an educational surrogate parents prior to the age of 18, you will remain eligible for the services of an educational surrogate parent appointed by the Department of Education, through the age of 21.  Unless you are declared incompetent by a court, you have the right to have access to an educational surrogate parent, the right to refuse to have an educational surrogate parent, the right to pick your educational surrogate parent, and the right to terminate the appointment your educational surrogate parent.[16]

Transfer students

If a student transfers to a new school, the school must review the IEP from the former school.  In Delaware, the new school must adopt, modify, or draft a new IEP and any behavior plans within 60 days of when the student started school in the new school[17].  The new school must also provide comparable services to the previous placement until the new school assembles an IEP team to adopt or revise your child’s IEP to fit the new school’s services.

Homeless students

Students that are homeless have certain protections through a law called the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act[18].  Homeless students can enroll in school immediately even if they cannot give the school records that they normally require (proof of residency, medical records, records from last school, etc.).  Homeless children must have services that are like that provided to non-homeless children, including special education services.  Students can either continue enrollment at the school that they were attending prior to becoming homeless, or enroll in any public school that students living in the same attendance area are eligible to attend.  This decision is made by the school districts; the decision must be made in the best interest of the student.  Whenever possible, continued attendance at the school the student was attending prior to becoming homeless is considered to be in the student’s best interest (unless against the wishes of the parent/guardian/student (if 18+)).  You can learn more about the protections for students with disabilities who are homeless by reading the U.S. Department of Education’s Q&A guide on this topic, available at:

[1] 34 C.F.R. §300.43.

[2] 14 Del.  Admin. C. § 925.20.2; this Delaware regulation requires transition planning to occur earlier than what is required under the federal regulation that addresses transition services, 34. C.F.R. § 300.320(b).

[3] Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), U.S. Department of Education, Questions and Answers On Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Evaluations, and Reevaluations, Revised September 2011, pg. 27; available online at:,root,dynamic,QaCorner,3,

[4] 34 C.F.R. §300.43.

[5] OSERS, Questions and Answers On Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Evaluations, and Reevaluations, pg. 26.

[6] U.S. Department of Education, Questions and Answers on Secondary Transition (Revised 2011), pg. 5, available at

[7] Questions and Answers on Secondary Transition, pgs. 5-6.

[8] Questions and Answers on Secondary Transition, pgs. 5-6.

[9] 34 C.F.R. § 300.305(e)(3); 14 Del. Admin. C. § 925.5.5.2.

[10] U.S. Department of Education, Questions and Answers on Secondary Transition (Revised 2011), pg. 7, available at

[11] 14 Del. Admin. C. § 925.21.2.

[12] You can find a directory of transition staff in the different school districts at:

[13] In Delaware there are two types of guardianships for individuals over the age of 18: 1) a guardian of the person (this type of guardian controls decisions about the person’s care, education, residence, etc.); and 2) a guardian of the property (this type of guardian handles a person’s finances and property).  A person can have a guardian of one or both of those two types of guardianship.  Guardianships are ordered through the Court of Chancery; they cannot be set up informally, outside of court.

[14]34 C.F.R. § 300.520.

[15] A surrogate parent is someone appointed by the Department of Education to take the role of your parent for the purposes of your education.  This may happen if you are placed into Division of Family Services custody, such as in foster care.

[16] 14 Del. Admin. C. § 926.19.5.

[17] 14 Del. Admin. C. § 925.23.4.1.

[18] 42 U.S.C. § 11431 et seq.