Individualized Education Program (Plan) - IEP

This is a written document that is designed to meet the unique needs of each student receiving special education services and related services. There are several steps to determine eligibility.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act guaranteed every child a free and appropriate education. Prior to the enactment of this law, many children with disabilities were denied an education and often lived in state institutions. This law initiated federal funding for special education and has resulted in progress towards designing effective programming to educate children with disabilities.


Involve changes in instructional methods, including alterations in the format of assignments or tests, without changing content, that allow students with disabilities to do the same work as their typical peers in the classroom. Accommodations and modifications are used in 504 Plans.


Is an individual or organization that actively offers support, acts on behalf of individuals with disabilities, and helps individuals and their families understand their rights. See Advocacy and Support Section for information regarding specific advocacy groups.



Assessment Plan

is part of the process in determining if a student qualifies for special education and related services. Information is gathered from a variety of sources in the areas of development that are of concern.

Assistive Technology (AT)

Is a piece of equipment, a tool, or system purchased or modified, that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  a range of pervasive developmental disorders, with onset in childhood, that adversely affect a pupil's functioning and result in the need for special education instruction and related services. ASD is a disability category characterized by an uneven developmental profile and a pattern of qualitative impairments in several areas of development, including social interaction, communication, or the presence of restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. These core features may present themselves in a wide variety of combinations that range from mild to severe, and the number of behavioral indicators present may vary. ASD may include Autistic Disorder, Childhood Autism, Atypical Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, Asperger's Disorder, or other related pervasive developmental disorders.

Case Manager

Is the person who is in charge of overseeing a special education student’s education, coordinates services on the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and ensures that services are delivered.

Child Find

Is the process used by a school district to locate, identify, and evaluate all children with disabilities in their districts who need special education and related services. Child Find is mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Cumulative File

Are records, maintained by the school district, that contain general information about a student along with grades, attendance, assessments, information about the student’s disability and placement. Parents have the right to view their child’s cumulative file.


Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as: medically verified visual loss coupled with medically verified hearing loss that, together, interfere with acquiring information or interacting in the environment. Both conditions need to be present simultaneously, and the pupil must meet the criteria for both visually impaired and deaf and hard of hearing to be eligible for special education and services under this category.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota State and is defined as:  diminished sensitivity to sound, or hearing loss, that is expressed in terms of standard audiological measures. Hearing loss has the potential to affect educational, communicative, or social functioning that may result in the need for special education instruction and related services.

Developmental Adapted Physical Education -(DAPE)

Are programs specially designed or modified to meet the unique needs of students in special education to enable them to benefit from physical fitness activities. DAPE is a related service.

Developmental Cognitive Disability

Is one of the 13 special education categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  a condition resulting in significantly below average intellectual functioning and concurrent deficits in adaptive behavior that adversely affects educational performance and requires special education and related services. DCD does not include conditions primarily due to a sensory or physical impairment, traumatic brain injury, autism spectrum disorders, severe multiple impairments, cultural influences, or inconsistent educational programming.

Developmental Delay

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  The team shall determine that a child from birth through the age of two years is eligible for infant and toddler intervention services if:  A. the child meets the criteria of one of the disability categories in United States Code, title 20, chapter 33, sections 1400, et seq., as defined in Minnesota Rules; or  B. the child meets one of the criteria for developmental delay in subitem (1) or the criteria in subitem (2):  (1)  the child has a diagnosed physical or mental condition or disorder that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay regardless of whether the child has a demonstrated need or delay; or  (2)  the child is experiencing a developmental delay that is demonstrated by a score of 1.5 standard deviations or more below the mean, as measured by the appropriate diagnostic measures and procedures, in one or more of the following areas:  (a) cognitive development;  (b) physical development, including vision and hearing;  (c)  communication development;  (d)  social or emotional development; and  (e) adaptive development.

Developmental Disability

Is a mental and/or physical condition that substantially affects functioning in several major life activities and is expected to continue indefinitely. A developmental disability differs from a developmental delay.

Direct Services

Are services provided directly to the student. Direct services are not the same as one-to-one services and more than one student can receive direct services at the same time.

Due Process

Is a legal option parents can utilize to solve conflicts with the school district regarding their child’s education. Due process is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Early Intervention Services

Identifies and provide services to children under three who are showing signs or are at risk for developmental delays in order to minimize the potential for problems in the future. Early intervention services take a family-centered approach.

Emotional or Behavioral Disorders

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  an established pattern of one or more of the following emotional or behavioral responses:  A. withdrawal or anxiety, depression, problems with mood, or feelings of self-worth;  B. disordered thought processes with unusual behavior patterns and atypical communication styles; or  C. aggression, hyperactivity, or impulsivity. The established pattern of emotional or behavioral responses must adversely affect educational or developmental performance, including intrapersonal, academic, vocational, or social skills; be significantly different from appropriate age, cultural, or ethnic norms; and be more than temporary, expected responses to stressful events in the environment. The emotional or behavioral responses must be consistently exhibited in at least three different settings, two of which must be educational settings, and one other setting in either the home, child care, or community. The responses must not be primarily the result of intellectual, sensory, or acute or chronic physical health conditions.
Endocrinologist – is a medical doctor whose specialty is the diagnosis and treatment of growth, puberty, diabetes and other hormonal disorders of the endocrine glands.


Is the testing and observations used to find out if a student’s disability makes them eligible for special education and related services.

Extended School Year Services - ESY

Are for students in special education who require services beyond the normal school year. Services are provided at no cost and are specified in the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). ESY services are not the same as summer school.

Fine Motor Skills

Involve the coordination of small muscles of the body to complete functional tasks. Development of fine motor skills, including the dexterity of small muscles of the hands, fingers, feet, toes, lips and tongue normally develop as a child grows.

Free Appropriate Public Education - FAPE

Is a provision of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (IDEA) that ensures special education and related services to qualifying students free of charge.

Functional Behavioral Assessment - FBA

Is the problem-solving process of identifying the relationship between the environment and a student’s disability-related behavior that is negatively impacting their education. When the function and communicative intent is determined, strategies can be developed to address inappropriate behavior.

Gross Motor Skills

Are the abilities required to control the large muscles of the body and whole body movement and are dependent on muscle tone and strength.

IEP Team

Is the group of people, including parents and school district staff that are responsible for creating a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Indirect Services

Is the time spent by special education staff discussing and modifying the student’s education plan and curriculum. Indirect services do not include time working directly with the student.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - IDEA

Is federal legislation passed in 1975 and most recently revised in 2004 that guarantees every child a free and appropriate education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) and special education and related services for qualifying students.

Independent Educational Evaluation - IEE

Can be considered when parents do not agree with the school district’s evaluation of their child. The evaluation is conducted by an examiner not employed by the school district and chosen by the parents. The results must be considered when developing the IEP and is completed at the school district’s expense unless they can prove their original assessment was correct.

Independent Interagency Intervention Plan - IIIP

Is an option to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for children 0-3 who are using multiple state agencies and would like to coordinate care with school, home and community.

Individualized Family Service Plan - IFSP

Is the process of finding, evaluating, documenting and providing early intervention services for children 0-3 with special needs who qualify under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). An IFSP is centered around the child and his/her family. Children over age 3 have an IEP instead of an IFSP.

Interagency Early Intervention Committee - IEIC

Through the Child Find process, seeks out, identifies and finds children 0-5 suspected of having a developmental disability or delay.

Least Restrictive Environment - LRE

Requires students with disabilities to be educated in a setting with their peers without disabilities to the maximum extent possible.


Is a voluntary meeting between the parents and the school district to resolve differences regarding a student’s education.

Modifications - 504 Plan

Is the altering of education materials to allow students with 504 Plans to participate more fully in the classroom. Accommodations and modifications are used in 504 Plans.

Multidisciplinary Team

Is a group of people, each having unique expertise, that work together to observe, test, interview and gather information to determine if a child qualifies for special education and related services.

Occupational Therapist - OT

Is a healthcare professional trained to work with clients to develop, improve, sustain or restore independence with activities of daily living related to fine motor, gross motor and sensory integration development. OT is a related service.

Office of Civil Rights

Is part of the United States Department of Education that ensures equal access to education, protects civil rights, and prohibits discrimination.

Other Health Disabilities

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  having limited strength, endurance, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened or diminished alertness to environmental stimuli, with respect to the educational environment that is due to a broad range of medically diagnosed chronic or acute health conditions that adversely affect a pupil's educational performance.


Works with special education students under the direction of the teacher, special education teacher or related service provider. Paraprofessionals may work with several students at the same time or may be assigned to work one-to-one with a student, as stipulated in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Physical Therapist - PT

Is a healthcare professional trained to provide treatment and management of physical disabilities or impairments to enhance and restore functional ability in the school setting. PT is a related service.

Physically Impaired

Is one of 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  a medically diagnosed chronic, physical impairment, either congenital or acquired, that may adversely affect physical or academic functioning and result in the need for special education and related services

Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance - PLAAFP

Is a section of the IEP that explains the special education student’s current level of functioning. It includes both the student’s strengths and needs.

Private Health Insurance

Provides coverage through a parent’s or employee’s employer or through a private plan.

Procedural Safeguards

Is a document given to parents that explains the special education process and gives information regarding their rights under the law.

Progress Reports

Is a document that states if a student is making adequate progress in meeting annual goals on his/her Individualized Education Plan (IEP). A progress report must be given to parents of students in special education at least as often as their non-disabled peers.

Public Health Insurance

Plans are offered by a government program, such as Medical Assistance.

Related Services

Are services that students require in order for them to benefit from special education services. Examples of related services are Adapted Physical Education (APE), Occupational Therapy (OT), Physical Therapy (PT), Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) and Transportation.

Section 504

Is a federal civil rights law that protects the rights of individuals with disabilities. In the school setting, students with qualifying disabilities can receive accommodations and modifications to allow them the opportunity to perform at the same level as their peers without disabilities. Section 504 does not fall under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), so students do not benefit from the same protections as students on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

Severely Multiply Impaired

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  a pupil who has severe learning and developmental problems resulting from two or more disability conditions determined by an evaluation as defined by part 3525.2710. Subp. 2. Criteria. The team shall determine that a pupil is eligible as being severely multiply impaired if the pupil meets the criteria for two or more of the following disabilities:  A. deaf or hard of hearing, part 3525.1331;  B. physically impaired, part 3525.1337;  C. developmental cognitive disability: severe-profound range, part 3525.1333;  D. visually impaired, part 3525.1345;  E. emotional or behavioral disorders, part 3525.1329; or  F. autism spectrum disorders, part 3525.1325.

Special Education

Is instruction given to students with disabilities who qualify for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Special Education Director

Oversees and makes decisions for all of the special education programs in the school district.

Specific Learning Disability

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota statute and is defined as:  a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

Speech and Language Pathologist or Therapist - SLT

Is a specialist trained to evaluate and diagnose speech, articulation, communication and swallowing disorders. SLT is a related services.

Speech or Language Impairment

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined under several criteria including:  Fluency disorder, Voice disorder, Articulation Disorder, and Language Disorder.

Stay Put

Is the right of a student to remain in their current special education placement and continue to receive services while any disputes between the parents and school district are being resolved, unless parents and the school district both agree to the change. There are exceptions to this rule for serious offenses.

Summer School

Differs from Extended School Year (ESY) services. ESY provides services specifically designed to meet the goals on a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) during school breaks, while summer school does not.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that may adversely affect a pupil's educational performance and may result in the need for special education and related services. The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as: cognition, speech/language, memory, attention, reasoning, abstract thinking, judgment, problem-solving, sensory, perceptual and motor abilities, psychosocial behavior, physical functions, and information processing. The term does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or brain injuries induced by birth trauma.

Visually Impaired

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  Visual Impairment Including Blindness - is one of the 13 disability categories under IDEA and is defined as: impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.


Bullying of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities is an issue that we all need to be aware of, educated about, and help stop from occurring. Once we learn what bullying is, we can learn how to address it at home, online, at school and in the community.

What does bullying look like?

When we imagine what a bully looks like, many of us think of the stereotypical big, mean kid who is punching a smaller child on the playground. This is bullying, of course, but this is only one face of what bullying can be. It’s important to know how other types can look in order to be effective in spotting and intervening bullying behavior.

Bullying occurs on a spectrum and includes more than just physical acts. Bullying is repeated, aggressive behavior by one or more people that is intended to cause harm, recurs and creates an imbalance of power. It can be physical or psychological and includes verbal acts as well as social exclusion. It can happen at any age and doesn’t occur just on the playground. Today, cyberbullying is a new and growing type of bullying that can be done anonymously through the use of technologies such as texting and social networking sites.The manipulation of students with cognitive challenges by other students is a form of bullying.

Why do we need to treat bullying as a serious problem?

Bullying was once thought to be a relatively harmless rite of passage: boys will be boys; it will make children more resilient; it’s just a stage kids go through, etc. We now realize the long-term consequences of bullying can be damaging to the individuals being bullied as well as the bullies themselves.

  • Children that are bullied are more likely than their peers to have fewer friends, be depressed, have low self-esteem and confidence, experience health problems, get lower grades and miss or drop out of school, and may consider self-harm and suicidal thinking.
  • Children that are bullied often start to bully others.
  • Besides affecting the victim, bullying has an impact on bystanders and can create a negative learning environment for all students.

Why are individuals with disabilities frequent targets of bullying?

  • Bullies look for victims that appear vulnerable, isolated, sensitive or unusual. This description fits many children with special needs. They often stand out from their peers and this can make them more likely to be bullied.
  • Some children with disabilities have difficulty with communication, understanding social situations and interpreting body language.
  • Children with cognitive disabilities may think a peer is their friend and may be unaware they are being teased.

Who are the bullies?

This may surprise you. Although children with disabilities are often the targets of bullying, some children with disabilities bully others, including other children with special needs.

  • Children with ADHD and autism are more likely to exhibit bully-like behavior than other disability groups. It is suggested this is due to impulsivity, intolerance for frustration, and the challenges they face with social and emotional development related to their disability. They may simply not be aware their behavior could be harming others.
  • A lack of communication skills, in both expressing and understanding language, can create confusion and frustration that can lead to bullying behavior.
  • Everyone wants to feel like they belong. Individuals who do not feel part of the group may act out as a way to get attention. Being isolated also makes children a target for bullying.

Dealing with bullying on an Individual Level

  • Look for signs of bullying.  Changes in mood, eating or sleeping habits, missing or damaged clothes or items, and unexplained bruises/injuries can be signs of bullying. A child may not want to go to school or begins to struggle with completing their assignments.
  • Ask questions. Some individuals with disabilities lack the awareness that they are being bullied as they may not understand the social rules regarding friendships. Children who are bullying may also be unaware of the consequences of their actions. Keep the lines of communication open with your child throughout the school year and check in often to see how things are going.

For individuals that are non-verbal or lack communication skills, you need to rely on observation, reports from friends, school staff or your own instincts for information.

  • Make your home a bully-free zone. Teach your child(ren) in a positive and open way how to respect their siblings and other children and empower them to stop any play that they feel is too rough or any conversations they are uncomfortable with. Teach them to respect others right to do this as well.
  • Be proactive. Take the opportunity at school conferences to talk with your child’s teacher about your concerns about bullying and to keep you informed if they see anything new occurring or notice a change in your child’s demeanor.
  • Provide the right tools. Kids need tools to handle bullying should they witness it. Teach children to report bullying to a trusted adult, encourage the child to stay with a group whenever possible, and advise them not bully back as it may make the situation worse.
  • Teach empowerment. Children who feel empowered and have a healthy self-esteem are less likely to be victimized by bullies. Let them know where to go to get help if someone is bullying them. Social stories can help children with autism spectrum disorders to better understand social norms and how to respond to bullying in an appropriate way.
  • Become educated. Learn your rights about bullying. Check to see if your school has an anti-bullying policy in place and responsibilities and training they are providing for staff and students. If you feel your child is being bullied due to his/her disability and is affecting learning, convene an IEP meeting. Disability harassment is illegal and students are protected by Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Goals can be written into an IEP to address bullying issues, including strategies on intervention.Check your school district website for anti-bullying policies.
  • Write it down. Document everything – where it occurred, when it occurred, who was involved, and what happened. Also record discussions with school staff, including how they responded to your concerns. This could be valuable later on when communicating with school staff, advocacy organizations or the Office of Civil Rights if harassment is suspected.

Ways to deal with bullying on a School/Community Level

At School

  • A whole-school approach utilizes a consistent set of routines, rules and strategies to deal with and prevent bullying and is considered to work better than curriculum alone. An example of one of these programs, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program has been found to be effective in reducing bullying.
  • Disability awareness programs used to educate students about bullying need to be presented at appropriate developmental and maturity levels.
  • School staff should receive training so they know how to spot what bullying looks like and learn how to intervene appropriately. They also should model a positive climate for all students while reinforcing a no-tolerance bullying policy that promotes inclusive practices which promotes respect and understanding of differences.
  • Experiential activities can help non-disabled peers gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by students with disabilities.
  • Presentations can be made by parents and/or staff to educate peers about specific disabilities and explain why some students act or learn differently and how we’re really more the same than different from each other.

In the Community

  • Individuals with disabilities included as valued members within their communities foster a sense of belonging. This can help to reduce the isolation that can make children more susceptible to being bullied.

Minnesota has its own anti-bullying legislation.  You can find a link to it here.

  • Bystanders need information on how to spot bullying behavior along with tools necessary to respond appropriately and effectively when they see it occurring.


There have been positive advances in the area of technology in the last few years, but has created the negative byproduct of cyberbullying. Social networking sites, instant messaging and other types of technology has created an environment for anonymous bullying.

What can parents do about cyberbullying?

  • Have open and frequent discussions with your child about which sites are allowed and not allowed to view online.
  • Keep the computer in a central location where activity can be monitored.
  • Increase security and privacy protection on your computer through the use of software and explain to your child not to give out private information or passwords. Block access to areas you do not want your child visiting, if possible.
  • Teach your child basic online safety rules, including not disclosing private information.

Need more information?

PACER Center’s National Bullying Prevention Center

Just Like You Foundation

Stomp Out Bullying - Special Needs Kids and Bullying


National Education Association's Bully Free:  It Starts With Me