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Individualized education program (IEP)


An individualized education program, also called an IEP, is a special education plan for your child. It is part of a federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). If your child’s school receives federal funds, an education team can consider whether she qualifies for an IEP. This fact sheet tells you more about what an IEP is and what you can do to find out if your child qualifies.

Does my child qualify for an IEP?

Your child might qualify for an IEP if she has both of the following.

  • A disability, and,
  • A need for help with school. The need can be related to your child’s learning, behavior, or social and emotional needs. St. Jude psychology staff members can help learn if she has these needs by doing tests, talking with you and your child, and in other ways. Your child’s school staff will decide if she qualifies.

Below is a list of the categories to qualify for an IEP. These are from the law called the IDEA. They are called “eligibility categories” because to qualify for an IEP, your child must have a disability in at least one (1) of these areas.

  • Autism
  • Deafness
  • Deaf-blindness
  • Emotional disturbance (problem)
  • Hearing impairment (problem)
  • Intellectual (mental, thinking) disability
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Orthopedic (bone and joint) impairment (problem) 
  • Other health impairment (problem) 
  • Specific learning disability
  • Speech or language impairment (problem)
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairment (vision problem)

What could my child receive with an IEP?

Your child might receive services to help with her education. Some examples are:

  • Teaching or tutoring, such as specialized reading help,
  • Speech therapy, physical therapy, or occupational therapy,
  • Help with hearing, including an interpreter if needed,
  • Counseling,
  • Safe transportation for students with physical needs, and
  • Job training

How can I request an IEP?

You can request an IEP by writing a letter to the school asking for an evaluation. Ask for a “full and individual evaluation” in your letter. Make sure the letter has the date on it, and keep a copy of it. If you have a psychological or neuropsychological report, you can include a copy of it with your letter.

The next steps in the process include the following:

  1. School staff will do a full and individual evaluation or answer your letter another way. Feel free to ask questions about the process.
  2. If school staff do an evaluation, the school’s IEP committee will meet and review the results and recommendations. If your child qualifies for an IEP, they will create one. If not, you can talk with them about other types of help your child might qualify for, such as a “Section 504 plan.”
  3. If an IEP is created, you should have an IEP meeting each school year to talk about how the plan is working. You can ask for meetings more often if you need them.
  4. Your child will have a new evaluation every 3 years, or more often if needed. This is to make sure the IEP is still needed and appropriate.

Helpful IEP tips and resources

Talk to the special education coordinator at your child’s school about an IEP. At any time, you can submit a letter requesting a “full and individual evaluation.” If the school does not have a special education coordinator, you may talk to the school administrators, counselors, or teachers.


  • “The Complete IEP Guide” by Lawrence M. Siegel
  • “The IEP A to Z—How to Create Meaningful and Measureable Goals and Objectives” by Diane Twachtman-Cullen and Jennifer Twachtman-Bassett



If you have questions about an IEP, ask your child’s psychologist, neuropsychologist, teacher, school counselor, or principal. You may also call the St. Jude Psychology Clinic at 901-595-3581.

Important terms to know about IEPs

Eligibility categories: The 13 disability categories that qualify for an IEP.

Educational need: An academic, social, or behavioral and emotional need for specialized instruction or intervention (help).

Full and individual evaluation: The evaluation to determine whether a child qualifies for an IEP.

Individualized education program: Specialized instruction or intervention (help) for students in federally funded schools.

Special education coordinator: The school staff member responsible for special education programs, including IEPs. If the school does not have a special education coordinator, talk to the school administrators, counselors, or teachers. 


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

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