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A Guide to Individual Education Plans (IEPs) in BC

September 20th, 2021


For Caregivers, Educators

Do you want to gain understanding of Individual Education Plans (IEP) and Core Competencies in BC? We know IEPs can be overwhelming and confusing, so we have outlined the process to help you develop a deeper knowledge of your child's educational rights.

The start of the school year new to an autism diagnosis can stir anxiety and leave you with a lot of questions about how your child will be academically supported. It can be difficult to know what information to ask for and what information to provide to the school team. 

You will quickly discover that the most important document that will follow your child through their school career is the IEP (Individualized Education Plan). 

The following resource blog will familiarize you with IEPs and the BC Ministry of Education’s core competencies.  


What is an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)?

IEP is defined as the following according to the Ministry of Education,

“An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a documented plan developed for a student with special needs that describes individualized goals, adaptations, modifications, the services to be provided, and includes measures for tracking achievement.”   

If your child requires an IEP, you will be asked to attend IEP meeting(s) typically 1 – 2x per school calendar year (Fall/Spring). As a parent/caregiver, your input is very valuable to the school team. Discussion with your child about their education goals before your meeting is also important.  

The Ministry of Education states the purpose of an IEP as:   

  • Formalizing planning decisions and processes, linking assessment with programming. It provides teachers, parents, and students with a record of the educational program for an individual student with special needs and serves as the basis for reporting the student’s progress.   
  • Serving as a tool for tracking an individual student’s learning in terms of agreed-upon goals and objectives.  
  • Documenting the relationships between any support services being provided and the student’s educational program.  
  • Providing parents and students with a mechanism for input into the individualized planning process.  

To prepare for the IEP meeting, consider the following:   

  • What are some short and long-term goals for your child?  
  • What motivates your child? 
  • What are your child’s strengths and stretches? 
  • What are your child’s interests? 
  • How will my child’s progress be measured, and by whom? 
  • Who is responsible for measuring each goal?
  • What supports, modifications, or adaptations are needed? 

Write out your answers in a document and bring them to the IEP meeting. 

When thinking about goals for your IEP, it can help to think in terms of SMART goals. 

“SMART” IEPs are a way for parents to check that their children’s IEPs are the best they can be to support their learning, social and emotional goals. 


IEP SMART GOALS infographics


SMART Goals   

S — Specific:    

IEPs should address both your child’s strengths and needs. An example, it is not specific enough for the IEP to state that your child “has a reading problem.” It should specify the nature of the reading problem-decoding, fluency, comprehension, etc.     

M — Measurable:  

Three areas of the IEP should be consistently and objectively measured:   

  • Present level of your child’s performance   
  • Progress your child is making toward the goals 
  • Achievement of the goals    

A — Actionable: 

The IEP uses actionable language to describe what will be done to support your child. An example, “Ms. X will provide phonics instruction twice a week for one hour each session.”    

R — Realistic and Relevant: 

The outlined goals in your child’s IEP should be relevant to their needs and set at high but attainable levels.    

T — Time Sensitive:   

There are reasonable review times identified in your child’s IEP (e.g., initial, mid-year, end of the year) when you will meet with the school team who work with your child. This is the time to discuss progress, and challenges, and possibly update timelines or modify goals.   

How to Survive and Thrive in Your IEP Meeting   

  • Before your meeting, make notes of your concerns and questions. Speak with your child and document their questions, concerns, needs and wants (if appropriate include them in the meeting).  
  • Take someone with you to take notes. 
  • Remember, this meeting is your meeting with your child’s needs being the driving force. 
  • Know what you can ask for: OT, SLP, a Psych Ed, EA support, Learning support. 
  • Get the names and contact emails for your child’s school team, including administration. This is typically their teacher, a learning support teacher/resource teacher (LST/LRT), a classroom education assistant (CSA/EA), and a principal. You should also include any external service providers working with your family out of school. 
  • Ask for EVERYTHING discussed in writing. Follow up every meeting with an email highlighting what was discussed and copy all meeting attendants and ensure you receive a copy of the IEP
  • NEVER make plans or changes on the phone or in person with school staff unless documented. Have all discussions in writing and send them to your email. If something was discussed, follow up with an email to help keep everyone on the same page and accountable. Get in this habit from the beginning, even when things are great, and your team is terrific. Having this documenting skill will make all the difference, especially when communication gets difficult. 
  • Talk to other parents. Learn from their experiences and know that each school year and school team are different. All information is valuable however keep your family’s unique needs at the forefront. 
  • Ask for timelines, expected completion dates, and data. If you do not know why something is happening or what is being discussed, ask! Do not be afraid to ask for more information, as there will be a lot of things you do not know. Always take the time to slow things down and get some clarity. 
  • Reach out to a community advocate for some guidance and support. 
  • ASD Instructional Support Planning Process 

What Accommodations can I ask for? 

Here are some sample accommodations that may help support your child 

  • Fidget toys/comfort items in the classroom 
  • Quiet area to complete the work or take a test  
  • Having someone read a test to them or scribe their answers 
  • Preferential seating for hearing/audio or while on the carpet 
  • Extra time to complete the assigned work
  • Early dismissal from class to get to the locker and to the next class before other students 
  • High contrast materials, enlarged text, limited visual clutter  
  • Adapted lunch setting to reduce sensory stressors  
  • Adapted recess with adult lead activities to increase peer interactions  
  • Structured seating arrangements  
  • Small group instruction  
  • Access to resource room or learning support room 


Image source: Core Competencies | Building Student Success – B.C. Curriculum (

Newly Structured IEPs and Core Competencies   

School districts across BC are slowly moving towards a new structure and outline for Individualized Education Plans (IEP). All BC school districts will eventually use these competencies and strive to include student input to drive IEP goals. 

BC New Curriculum: Core Competencies   

The Core Competencies  

Becoming familiar with the Core Competencies your school team will use is a great start to understanding how your child’s IEP will be written and what the focus is.     

Communication -The Communication competency encompasses the knowledge, skills, processes, and dispositions we associate with interactions with others. Through their communication, students acquire, develop and transform ideas and information, and make connections with others to share their ideas, express their individuality, further their learning, and get things done. Communication competency is fundamental to finding satisfaction, purpose, and joy.

Thinking – The Thinking competency encompasses the knowledge, skills, and processes we associate with intellectual development. It is through their competency as thinkers that students take subject-specific concepts and content and transform them into a new understanding. Thinking competence includes specific thinking skills as well as habits of mind, and metacognitive awareness. These are used to process information from a variety of sources, including thoughts and feelings that arise from the subconscious and unconscious mind and from embodied cognition, to create new understandings.

Personal and Social – Personal and Social competency is the set of abilities that relate to student’s identity in the world, both as individuals and as members of their community and society. Personal and social competency encompasses what students need to thrive as individuals, to understand and care about themselves and others, and to find and achieve their purposes in the world.


Adapted and Modified Programs: What is the Difference?  

Adapted: Any changes or supports needed to help a student meet Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLO) and obtain a Dogwood diploma. All accommodations should be noted in a student’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan).  

“Teaching and assessment strategies made to accommodate a student’s special needs, and may include alternate formats (e.g., Braille, books-on-tape), instructional strategies (e.g., use of interpreters, visual cues and aids) and assessment procedures (e.g., oral exams, additional time, assistive technologies). Adaptations enable achievement toward the learning outcomes of the provincially prescribed curriculum.” Government of BC 2021  

Modified: Changes to a student’s learning plan that work towards personal goals and don’t require meeting Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLO). Students on modified programs work towards an Evergreen Certificate.  

“Modifications are a form of accommodation which establish learning outcomes specifically designed to meet a student’s special needs. Modified learning outcomes are substantially different from those within the provincially prescribed curriculum.” Government of BC 2021 


Taking some time for self-assessment will help you and your child prepare for your IEP meeting and discover goals together. These assessments will help you focus on a child’s interests and strengths, and help your school team become familiar with who your child is and how they can support them to reach their IEP goals.   

You may want to come prepared for the IEP meeting having thought of these questions: 

• What are my child’s strengths and stretches?
• What are my child’s interests?
• What motivates my child?
• Do I know how my child’s school team is preparing for the IEP? (i.e. how are they gathering info, are they conducting an interview with my child, are they creating a draft version of goals ahead of time, etc.)
• What are my priorities for my child in terms of the Core Competencies?
• What are my priorities for my child in terms of academics (i.e. reading, writing, numeracy, specific subject areas)?
• When would I like to see the IEP reviewed?


Learn more about the various learning options in BC: 

Online Learning, Alternative Learning and Homeschool  — Autism Q & A, Blog, Caregivers, Resource Guide — AutismBC 


Additional Resources:  

POPARD 1 Hour FSL Workshop_Individual Education Plan_SEPT2022

Individual Education Plans: A Guide for Parents 

Inclusive Education Handbook 

What Is an IEP? | Individualized Education Program Explained

BCEdAccess – Collective action for equitable education.

BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) 

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