Individualized Education Program
An IEP claims to be designed to meet the unique educational needs of one child, who may be disabled . The IEP helps children reach educational goals easier than they otherwise would. In all cases the IEP must be tailored to the individual student’s needs as identified by the IEP evaluation process, and must especially help teachers and related service providers understand the student’s disability and how the disability affects the learning process.
The IEP describes how the student learns, how the student best demonstrates that learning and what teachers and service providers will do to help the student learn more effectively. Key considerations in developing an IEP include assessing students in all areas related to the known disabilities, simultaneously considering ability to access the general curriculum, considering how the disability affects the student’s learning, developing goals and objectives that correspond to the needs of the student, and ultimately choosing a placement in the least restrictive environment possible for the student.
The results of an IEP, which must be regularly maintained and updated over the student’s primary educational years, result in a mix of “normal”, mainstream classes, and specialized classes or sub-specialties taught by a specifically-trained individual, such as a special education teacher, sometimes within a resource room .
An IEP is meant to ensure that students who aren’t inherently qualified only for special education classes, but are instead able to participate in at least several if not mainstream classes, aren’t unnecessarily and unilaterally shunted into the special education classrooms or special schools . It is meant to give the student a chance to participate in “normal” school culture and academics as much as is possible for that individual student. In this way, the student is able to have specialized assistance only when such assistance is absolutely necessary, and otherwise maintains the freedom to interact with and participate in the activities of his or her more general school peers.
An IEP must be written according to the needs of each student and must include the following:
- The child’s present levels of academic and functional performance
- Measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals
- How the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals are to be measured and reported to the parents
- Special education services, related services, and supplementary aids to be provided to the child
- Schedule of services to be provided, including when the services are to begin, the frequency, duration and location for the provision of services
- Program modifications or supports provided to school personnel on behalf of the child
- Least Restrictive Environment data which includes calculations of the amount of time student will spend in regular education settings verses time spent in special education settings each day
- Explanation of any time the child will not participate along with non-disabled children
- Accommodations to be provided during state and district assessments that are necessary to the measuring child’s academic and functional performance
Additionally, when the student is 16 years old, a statement of post-secondary goals and a plan for providing what the student needs to make a successful transition is required. This transition plan can be created at an earlier age if desired, but must be in place by the age of 16.
IEPs also include other pertinent information found necessary by the team, such as a health plan or a behavior plan for some students.
Procedural requirements for development
The outcome of the IEP development process is an official document that describes the education plan designed to meet the unique needs of one child with a disability.
Before an IEP is written for a child with a disability, the school must first determine whether the child qualifies for special education services. To qualify, the child’s disability must have an adverse effect on the child’s educational progress. Merely having a disability is not sufficient for eligibility.
To determine eligibility, the school must conduct a full evaluation of the child in all areas of suspected disability. Based in part on the results of the evaluation, the school along with the parents meet to review the results and the child’s current level of performance and to determine whether special education services are needed.
If the child is found eligible for services, the school is required to convene an IEP team and develop an appropriate educational plan for the child. The IEP should be implemented as soon as possible after the child is determined eligible. However, some IEPs have specific timelines that schools must follow for the eligibility, IEP development, and IEP implementation milestones.
Members of the IEP team
Teacher- The IEP team must include the student and student’s parent(s) or guardian(s), a special education teacher, at least one regular education teacher, and the school psychologist. The school may include related service providers such as speech and occupational therapists.
If appropriate, the child may also participate in IEP team meetings. For example, some children begin participating in their IEP meetings when they reach middle school age.
Role of the parents
Parents are considered to be full and equal members of the IEP team, along with school personnel. Parents are crucial members of the team because they have unique knowledge of their child’s strengths and needs. Parents have the right to be involved in meetings that discuss the identification, evaluation, IEP development and educational placement of their children. They also have the right to ask questions, dispute points, and request modifications to the plan, as do all members of the IEP team.
Although IEP teams are required to work toward consensus, school personnel ultimately are responsible for ensuring that the IEP includes the services that the student needs.
An IEP meeting is not to be confused with a Parent/Teacher conference in which the parent sits and listens as the teacher reports the student’s progress and performance. In order to fully participate in developing their child’s IEP, parents must be knowledgeable about their child’s specific disabilities. Few parents have this knowledge when their child is initially identified as having a disability.
The school must make a significant effort to ensure that one or both of the parents are present at each IEP team meeting. If parents are unable to attend, the school must be able to show that due diligence was made to enable the parents to attend, including notifying the parents early enough that they have an opportunity to attend, scheduling the meeting at a mutually agreed on time and place, and offering alternative means of participation, such as a phone conference. Grades may not be discussed during the IEP to the parent unless he or she is having a problem stated on the IEP.
Developing the child’s education plan
After the child is determined to be eligible for special education services, the IEP team must develop an individual education plan to be implemented as soon as possible after eligibility is determined. Using the results of the full individual evaluation (FIE), the IEP team works together to identify the child’s present level of educational performance, the child’s specific academic, and any related or special services that the child needs in order to benefit from their education.
When developing an IEP, the team must consider the strengths of the child, the concerns of the parent for their child’s education, results of the initial or most recent evaluation of the child (including private evaluations conducted by the parents), and the academic, developmental, and functional needs of the child. In the case of a child whose behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of other children, the team must consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports to address the behavior.
The IEP team must also consider the communication needs of the child. For example, if a child is blind or visually impaired, the IEP must provide for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille unless an evaluation of the child’s reading and writing skills, needs, and future needs indicate that this instruction is not appropriate for the child. If a child is deaf or hard of hearing, the team must consider the child’s language and communication needs, including the need to communicate with school personnel and peers, and the child’s need for direct instruction in the child’s language and communication mode. In the case of a child with limited English proficiency, the team must consider the language needs of the child as those needs relate to the child’s IEP.
A matrix is then drafted containing the student’s present level of performance, indicators about ways the student’s disability influences participation and progress in the general curriculum, a statement of measurable goals; including benchmarks or short-terms objectives, the specific educational services to be provided; including program modifications or supports, an explanation of the extent that the child will not participate in general education, a description of all modifications in official assessments, the projected date for initiation of the services and the expected duration of those services.
Determining the appropriate placement
After the IEP is developed, the IEP team then determines placement-that is, the environment in which the child’s IEP can most readily be implemented. The IEP must be complete before placement decisions are made so that the child’s educational needs drive the IEP development process. Schools may not develop a child’s IEP to fit into a pre-existing program for a particular classification of disability. The IEP is written to fit the student. The placement is chosen to fit the IEP.
After the IEP is developed and placement is determined, the child’s teachers are responsible for implementing all educational services, program modifications or supports as indicated by the individual education plan.
Schools must have an IEP in effect at the beginning of the school year. Initial IEPs must be developed within 30 days of the enrollment, and the services specified in the child’s IEP must be provided as soon as possible after the IEP is developed.
The IEP team is responsible for conducting an annual review to ensure that the student is meeting goals and/or making progress on the benchmarks specified for each objective. However, if the present IEP is not effectively helping the student in the classroom, an immediate revision is to occur. This is something all teachers should have in mind because of the consequences that not doing this would have, not only from a legal point of view, but also because if an immediate revision of the IEP is not requested the child will struggle through the rest of the year.
Acceptance and Amendments
The IEP is never set in stone; any member of the team may call a meeting at any time to edit the IEP.
Services that may be provided to a child with a disability
· Specially designed instruction
· Related services
· Program modifications
· Classroom accommodations
· Supplementary aids and services
· Resource room
Specially designed instruction
Specially designed instruction affects the instructional content, method of instructional delivery, and the performance methods and criteria that are necessary to assist the student make meaningful educational progress. This instruction is designed by or with an appropriately credentialed special education teacher or related service provider. Students may have better success with small-group instruction as presented in a resource room (mandated by program and placement outlined in the IEP) particularly with language-based instruction.
For some students, teachers may need to present information through the use of manipulative. For other students, teachers may need to select and teach only important key concepts and then alter evaluation activities and criteria to match this content change.
The IEP team should determine whether a specific type of instruction should be included in a student’s IEP. Generally, if the methodology is an essential part of what is required to meet the individualized needs of the student, the methodology should be included. For instance, if a student has a learning disability and has not learned to read using traditional methods, then another method may be required. When including such an IEP recommendation, the Team should describe the components of the appropriate type of methodology as opposed to naming a specific program.
If the child needs additional services in order to access or benefit from special education, schools are to provide the services as related services.
Services specified in IDEA include, but are not limited to, speech therapy, occupational or physical therapy, interpreters, medical services, orientation and mobility services, parent counseling and training to help parents support the implementation of their child’s IEP, psychological or counseling services, recreation services, rehabilitation, social work services, and transportation.
- Program modifications
- Modifications to the content of the program
- Lowered success criteria for academic success
- Increased emphasis on daily living skills
- Decrease alternative state assessments, such as off-grade level assessments
Some of a student’s educational needs may be met using accommodations. Accommodations are typically provided by general educators within the general education environment. Accommodations do not involve modifying the material content but do allow students to receive information or to demonstrate what they have learned in ways that work around their impairment, thereby minimizing the likelihood of a significant disability.
Accommodations may include such provisions as preferential seating, providing photocopies of teacher notes, giving oral rather than written quizzes, alternative or modified assignments, extended time for tests and assignments, use of a word processor or laptop, and taking tests in a quiet room.
The IEP team must reflect on the effect the disability(ies) has on educational progress and then identify accommodations, if any are needed, for the student to make effective progress.
Supplementary aids and services
Teacher’s aide in classroom that provide additional support for one or more specific students
If necessary a student will be provided with specialized transportation. This can be the case if the student has a severe disability and requires a wheelchair, or is identified with an emotional disability.