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The ABCs of IEPs

iepIt is important to understand what an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is and what an IEP means for our students. An IEP is a written statement for a child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with state law.

There are 14 types of disabilities, defined by the state, in which students can be identified, in accordance with NC 1503-2 through NC 1503-3:


1.) Autism

2.) Deaf-Blindness

3.) Deafness

4.) Developmental Delay (ages 3-7 only)

5.) Hearing Impairment

6.) Intellectual Disability (Mild, Moderate, and Severe)

7.) Multiple Disabilities

8.) Orthopedic Impairment

9.) Other Health Impairment

10.) Serious Emotional Disability

11.) Specific Learning Disability

12.) Speech or Language Impairment

13.) Traumatic Brain Injury

14.) Visual Impairment (Blindness)


IEP MeetingProcess for Identifying Students for EC Services:

Once a student has been assessed and proven to need services in the areas of eligibility, a group of school personnel, family members, therapists, etc. will form an IEP team to create goals for the student in their area of eligibility.  After documenting the use of a process based on a child’s response to scientific researched-based intervention, an IEP Team must determine that the child needs resources beyond what can reasonably be provided in general education.

An Individualized Education Program team, or IEP Team, is a group of individuals described in Sec. 300.321 that is responsible for developing, reviewing, or revising an IEP for a child with a disability.  This team meets annually to discuss the student’s plan and every three years to re-evaluate the needs of the student. The team can meet more often than that if a team member finds it necessary to reconvene in order to provide the most appropriate support to the student.

The IEP Team decides what the students’ annual goals will be, what related services that student needs (OT, PT, Speech, etc.), how much time a student needs to work with an EC teacher/therapist(s), what setting is most appropriate for that student, and how that student will be assessed (type of testing, testing accommodations, equipment and assistive technology needed, etc.). Possible modifications and adaptations to instruction might include:

  • Adapted PE equipment/games
  • Adapted furniture/seating/positioning
  • Adapted utensils for eating and writing (weighted pencils, weighted spoons, jigs, mats)
  • Modified diets (puree, liquid, gluten-free, dairy-free, wheat free, etc.)
  • Therapies (speech, occupational, physical, vision)


The following are appropriate reasons to create an IEP for a student.

(A) The child does not achieve adequately for the child’s age, intellectual development, or to meet State-approved grade-level standards in one or more of the following areas when provided with learning experiences and instruction appropriate for the child’s age or State-approved grade-level standards:  a. Listening comprehension. b. Oral expression. c. Written expression. d. Basic reading skills. e. Reading fluency skills. f. Reading comprehension. g. Mathematics calculation. h. Mathematics problem solving.

(B) (i) The child does not make sufficient progress to meet age or State-approved grade-level standards in one or more of the areas identified above in paragraph (a) when using a process based on the child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention; or (ii) The child exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement, or both, relative to age, State-approved grade-level standards, or intellectual development, that is determined by the group to be relevant to the identification of a specific learning disability, using appropriate assessments, consistent with NC 1503-2.5 (d)(11)(i) or (ii).

(C) The disability must not be the primary result of: 1. Sensory deficits; 2. Motor deficits; 3. Intellectual disability; 4. Serious emotional disability; 5. Environmental influences; 6. Cultural factors; 7. Economic influences; 8. Lack of appropriate instruction in reading or math; and/or 9. Limited English Proficiency.

(D) The disability must have an adverse effect on educational performance and require specially designed instruction.


For more information, contact Dr. Betsy Rosenbalm, Director of Exceptional Children –


North Carolina Department of Public Instruction: Exceptional Children Division (n.d.). North Carolina special education reference. Retrieved from{1}&softpage=PL_frame

About Heather Mullins

Dr. Heather Mullins is the Chief Academic Officer in Newton-Conover City Schools. She is a North Carolina Teaching Fellow who spent 12 years as a high school English Teacher. She received her B.S.Ed. in Secondary English Education from Western Carolina University. Heather completed her National Board Certification in Adolescent Young Adult English Language Arts in 2002. She holds an M.Ed. in Academically and Intellectually Gifted from UNC-Charlotte. She completed her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership through Western Carolina University. Her dissertation focused on improving principal practice through strategic professional development. Heather has served as a Curriculum Specialist in Hickory City Schools, an adjunct professor at Lenoir-Rhyne University, and a Professional Development Consultant for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Heather is one of the co-founders of #NCed Chat, North Carolina’s first Twitter chat for teachers. She is passionate about innovative practices, instructional technology, student ownership of learning, and supporting teachers. Heather serves on the advisory board for the North Carolina Digital Learning Plan, North Carolina School for the Deaf and Catawba Science Center. She is a recipient of the 2015 NCMLE Central Office Administrator to Watch Award. She also received the 2016 Don Chalker Award for Excellence in Educational Leadership. Heather is the proud mother of one son, Jackson.

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