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What is an IEP Meeting (or ARD in Texas)? Special Education Programs Explained

What is an IEP Meeting (or ARD in Texas)? Special Education Programs Explained

Posted on Aug 31st, 2023.

(Updated Oct 26th, 2023.)

In the realm of education, every child's journey is unique. 

For some students, specially designed instruction is required to ensure their academic success and overall development.

According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website, "Special education is not a separate and special place for learning, but services and supports that are individually designed to help students access the general education program. Students may be accessing the curriculum at different levels of complexity, at different paces, and/or in different ways, but they should all be working toward rigorous goals."

This is where IEP meetings come into play – Individualized Education Program meetings, also known as ARD meetings in Texas (which stands for Admission, Review, and Dismissal). 

These meetings are pivotal in tailoring education to meet the specific needs of students with disabilities. It's the first step to help the student access special education services, including speech therapy and other related services (occupational therapy, physical therapy, etc.) through the public school system at no cost. 

In this article, we'll dive into the world of IEP and ARD meetings, exploring their purpose, what happens during these sessions, and how they empower students to thrive within special education programs.

What is an IEP Meeting?

IEP stands for Individualized Education Program, and it represents a cornerstone in the realm of special education. This collaborative meeting brings together educators in both general and special education, school administrators, evaluation personnel, parents, other specialists, and even the student to create a tailored educational roadmap for the student with a disability. The central purpose of an IEP meeting is to ensure that every student receives an education that addresses their unique needs, fosters their growth, and provides them with equal opportunities for academic success.

Understanding the Purpose

The overarching purpose of an IEP meeting is to develop, review, and revise an individualized education plan that caters to the specific requirements of a student with a disability. These disabilities can encompass a wide range, including speech and language impairment, intellectual disability, learning disability, autism, and more. The goal is to create an educational framework that empowers the student to access the curriculum, participate in classroom activities, and achieve their highest academic potential.

Collaborative Approach

IEP meetings epitomize collaboration. The IEP team is comprised of various stakeholders who come together to contribute their insights, expertise, and perspectives to create a comprehensive plan that addresses the student's holistic needs. The team works together to gather data, teacher/parent feedback, observations, and work samples so that they can develop an appropriate program that is individualized to the student's particular educational strengths and weaknesses. This collaborative spirit ensures that the educational journey is not just a solitary effort by educators but a collective team endeavor aimed at nurturing the student's growth and unique capabilities.

What is an ARD Meeting?

In the state of Texas, the term ARD holds significant importance in the context of special education. ARD stands for Admission, Review, and Dismissal. The development of an IEP (Individualized Education Program) is just one component of an ARD meeting.

Just like an IEP meeting, an ARD meeting is a pivotal event in a student's educational journey, particularly for those with disabilities. The ARD meeting serves as a collaborative platform that brings together educators, specialists, administrators, parents, and sometimes the student to discuss the student's unique educational needs. The purpose of an ARD meeting aligns closely with that of an IEP meeting – to ensure that students with disabilities receive the tailored support they need to excel academically at their fullest potential.

An ARD meeting could also occur to review results of an evaluation or even to discuss if a student is ready to exit from special education services altogether. Hence, this is the importance of the words review and dismissal in Admission, Review, and Dismissal. The ARD committee determines at each meeting if the student continues to meet the eligibility requirements that allow them to access their specialized curriculum. That is, does the student continue to have a disability and does that disability continue to have a significant educational impact?

What Happens in an IEP Meeting (or ARD Meeting)?

Once the foundation of an IEP (Individualized Education Program) or ARD (Admission, Review, and Dismissal) meeting is understood, it's time to delve into the heart of these sessions. These collaborative gatherings serve as dynamic platforms where team members join forces to shape an educational journey tailored to unique needs. Through open dialogue, strategic planning, and shared insights, the goal of IEP or ARD meetings is to create an environment where every student can thrive within the realm of special education support. Let's explore the key components of what unfolds during these important sessions.

1. Identification and Assessment

The process begins with identifying whether or not a student has a disability and if so, which eligibility category should be assigned. Various assessments are conducted to evaluate the student's strengths, challenges, and the extent to which their disabilities affect their education. This evaluation process is called an FIE (Full Individual Evaluation) and the information gathered is what drives the creation of IEP goals. Teachers are often the first to voice their concerns and initiate the evaluation process. However, feedback from parents is also valued and parents have the right to request a special education evaluation if they have concerns regarding their child. This process should begin as soon as possible and can begin when the child is as young as three years old

2. Setting Goals

Based on assessment results and other data, specific goals are established while taking into consideration the student's present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFP). These goals are tailored to address the student's unique educational and functional needs. Academic areas such as reading, math, and science are all important, but so are other everyday skills such as improving speech and language, social interactions, and activities of daily living. Goals should always be measurable and attainable. To ensure goals are being properly addressed, data is reported at set benchmarks to monitor if the student is making adequate progress. If at any point during the school year the student is not making enough progress to meet their goals, the IEP should be modified so that the student can be successful.

3. Developing Strategies

Educators and specialists collaborate to devise strategies that align with the student's goals. These strategies encompass instructional accommodations, modifications, or supplementary aids and services that will facilitate the student's progress. For example, a student might be allowed to have reduced assignments, extra time when taking tests, or access to assistive technology such as a speech generating device. Furthermore, the student's least restrictive environment (LRE) must be considered. That is, the committee must decide which settings and services will provide enough support to make sure the student is capable of learning while minimizing the time and space away from peers who are not identified as having disabilities.

4. Regular Review

Periodic review is an integral part of IEP or ARD meetings. At least once yearly, the team is required to assess the student's progress, evaluate the effectiveness of strategies, and adjust the plan as needed. Every three years (triennial review), a student's disability must be re-evaluated through formal testing or review of records. Anytime there is a new need or concern, the team can meet again, even if they have already met during the school year.

5. Parental Involvement

Parents play a crucial role in IEP and ARD meetings. Their insights and concerns provide valuable context, ensuring that the education plan reflects the student's holistic needs. Parents are their child's best advocates and should attend and participate in IEP/ARD meetings whenever possible. If the meeting date given by the school does not match the parents' schedules, the parents have the right to request an alternative date.

6. Transition Planning

As students advance through different grade levels, transition planning becomes essential. IEP or ARD meetings may focus on preparing students for transitions, whether it's moving from elementary to middle school or preparing for post-secondary education. The school will assist parents along the way and connect the student's family with community and governmental resources as appropriate.

How IEP Meetings Empower Students

At the core of IEP (Individualized Education Program) or ARD (Admission, Review, and Dismissal) meetings lies a powerful mission: to empower students with disabilities to reach their full potential. These meetings are not mere administrative gatherings; they are platforms where educators, specialists, parents, and sometimes the students themselves collaborate to design an educational journey that caters to individual strengths and challenges. In this section, we'll explore how the process of IEP or ARD meetings translates into empowerment for students, fostering a path of growth, achievement, and self-discovery.

Tailored Education

The hallmark of IEP and ARD meetings is the individualized approach to education. Students receive a curriculum that's tailored to their strengths and tailored to address their challenges. Free and appropriate public education (FAPE) is available to any eligible student with a disability who is 3 to 21 years of age.

Collaborative Learning Environment

By bringing together a diverse team of professionals, parents, and the student themselves, IEP and ARD meetings foster a team spirit that enhances the learning experience.

Holistic Development

IEP and ARD meetings go beyond academics. They recognize the importance of speech and language development, social skills, motor skills, and overall well-being in a student's educational journey.


IEP and ARD meetings are bridges to inclusive education. Through these collaborative sessions, students with disabilities receive the support they need to thrive in their academic pursuits. 

If you're a parent seeking specialized services for your child's speech and language development, we at Tryumph Speech Therapy are here to support you. Contact us at (512) 898-9858 or [email protected] to learn more about how our comprehensive services can contribute to your child's educational journey.

At Tryumph Speech Therapy, we believe in transforming 'try' into TRYUMPH. Through the power of speech and language development, we're dedicated to helping every child reach their fullest potential.

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