Special education is specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.
"Specially designed instruction" means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction:
·         to address the unique needs of the child that result from the child's disability; and
·         to ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that the child can meet the educational standards that apply to all children within the jurisdiction of the local educational agency.
In general, special education services provide specially designed instruction that involves modifications to the curriculum itself and/or the way the curriculum is taught to meet the specific needs of the student.  Other special education-related services may include speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy.   These are just a few of the related services that could be provided through an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
What is an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?
Commonly referred to as an IEP, an Individualized Education Program is a written plan that is designed for any student who receives special education and related services.  IEPs are required for every special education student under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA.  The IEP describes the goals that are set for the student over the course of the school year and spells out any special supports needed to help achieve those goals.  Parents are an important part of the IEP process. 
The Maryland IEP Process Guide provides an overview of each section of the Maryland IEP.   Below are brief descriptions of the different sections of the IEP that will be reviewed at an IEP team meeting.
What is included in my child's IEP?
Present Levels of Performance
The Present Levels of Performance describe the unique needs of the child that will be addressed by special education and related services, and to establish a baseline of measurable information that serves as the starting point for developing goals and objectives.
IDEA requires that students with disabilities take part in state or district-wide assessments. The IEP team must decide if a child needs accommodations in testing or another type of assessment entirely.  In this component of the IEP, the team documents how the child will participate.
Supplementary Aids and Services
Supplementary aids and services are intended to improve children’s access to learning and their participation across the spectrum of academic, extracurricular, and nonacademic activities and settings.  The IEP team must determine what supplementary aids and services a child will need and specify them in the IEP.
Transition Planning
Beginning no later than a student’s 14th birthday (or younger, if appropriate), the IEP must contain transition-related plans designed to help the student prepare for life after secondary school.
Annual Goals
Once a child’s needs are identified, the IEP team works to develop appropriate goals to address those needs.  Annual goals describe what the child is expected to do or learn within a 12-month period.
Short-term Objectives
Objectives describe the steps as to how your child will reach his or her annual goals.  Objectives are developed and scaffolded based on the student’s instructional needs and will support the student achieving progress in meeting the annual goals.
Special Education and Related Services
This is where the details are specified about the services that a child with a disability will receive in order to address each annual goal.  The service delivery statement in the IEP includes:
·         how often the child will receive the service(s) (number of times per day or week);
·         how long each “session” will last (number of hours/minutes)
·         where services will be provided (in the general education classroom or another setting such as a special education resource room); and
·         when services will begin and end (starting and ending dates).
Least Restrictive Environment
Your child's Individual Education Program (IEP) team is responsible for determining the most appropriate educational placement in the least restrictive environment (LRE) that can meet his or her educational needs.  Many factors go into that decision, such as:
·         your child's ability to focus;
·         the type of skills he or she needs to learn;
·         how much individually designed instruction he or she needs; and
·         other education issues unique to your child.
Choosing the appropriate LRE is important to ensure that your child receives the instruction he or she needs, and federal special education regulations require that students with disabilities must be educated in the least restrictive environment.  The LRE is not any specific placement.  Rather, it is the most appropriate placement for a child that is chosen from a range of options.  All decisions regarding the placement of a child with a disability in a special education service delivery model will be made by the child’s IEP team in consultation with the parents or guardians of the child and consistent with the LRE requirements of the IDEA.
Upon request, the CCPS will provide parents or guardians with a written copy of the continuum of special education service delivery models.
How do I know if my child is making progress on their IEP goals?
Each child’s IEP must also contain a description of how his or her progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured.  The child’s service providers will measure the child’s progress toward the annual goals, as stated in the IEP, and regularly inform the parents of their child’s progress and whether that progress is sufficient for the child to achieve the annual goals by the end of the IEP year. These progress reports will be given to the parents at least as often as parents are informed of their nondisabled children’s progress.