Helping You Become All You are Capable of Becoming
The Individual Education Plan (IEP)
9. The Individual Education Plan (IEP) Tools for Getting Parents Involved in the Exceptional Education Process By James J. Messina, Ph.D. & Constance M. Messina, Ph.D.
The Individiual Education Plan (IEP)
A. Information in my child's IEP paperwork:
1. Exceptional Student Education Program - child is enrolled in
2. Related Services - special help child may need. Related services means transportation and such developmental, corrective and other supportive services that are required to assist a child with special needs to benefit from special education. These related services can include speech pathology and audiology, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation and extracurricular activities, early identification and assessment of disabilities in children, counseling services, and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes. The term also includes school health services, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training. The IEP should specify the services to be provided, the extent to which they are necessary, and who will provide the services.
3. Participation in Regular Education: The law required that handicapped students be educated to the maximum extent appropriate with students who are not handicapped. The committee must keep in mind that each child must be provided with the required services in the least restrictive environment. The exact percent of time spent with normal children must be specified on the IEP.
Initiation of IEP
Duration of IEP
When IEP written
When Signature Written
Time lines must be developed for each service provided. This allows for accountability by you and other program monitors. It also reduces the possibility of never ending delays or postponements of needed services. The law also requires that there must be an annual review of your child's IEP. At that time, your child's progress should be discussed with you as well as whether or not the placement and services were appropriate. As a result of the annual review, you should expect a new IEP, one with an updated level of educational performance, and revised annual goals, short-term objectives, and statement of services to he provided for the coming year.
Given - Why?
Not given - Why not?
6. Present Level of Performance
The people at the IEP conference should carefully review all the educational related information they have about the child, and identify the skills or subject areas for which special education is needed. Then, within each identified skill or subject area, the child's strengths or weaknesses should be specified in terms of present ability levels.
In different areas of learning such as:
Speech and language
7. Annual Goals: The IEP must include a statement about what is expected of your child by the end of the school year. This represents the "best guess'' of the IEP committee members as to possible progress, and is not legally binding. In other words, the annual goals set should be stated in such a way that you will be able to see the specific changes that this education will produce in your child's behavior. For example, a goal for self-help skills might be, ''Suzanne will independently dress herself except for working back buttons and zippers.'' A good way to check to see if the goals are appropriate is to ask "What do I want my child to do at the end of this year?''
8. Short Term Instructional Objectives: The short term instructional objectives generally refer to expected outcomes of instruction to be accomplished in one grading period. Each instructional objective should be written in such a way that you will be able to judge if your child has mastered the objective. It should include a specific behavior and the criteria for meeting the objective. This criteria might be a percentage or across time. For example, 80 percent of words spelled correctly, or hopping ten feet on four out of five days. If you don't understand any of your child's objectives, ask that they be rewritten to clear up confusion.
9. Evaluation Criteria and Procedures: The evaluation procedures should be determined directly from the goals and short term instructional objectives listed in the IEP, Possible evaluation strategies include: formal testing, observation, dated samples of the student's work, regularly scheduled informal tests, or checklist. Each objective should be stated in measurable terms. An example of the evaluation strategy for adding sums might be to give a test every week and to keep track of the student's scores. Another strategy might be to mark beside the stated objective on the IEP form the date that task was achieved and by what means the achievement was determined (e.g., if the stated objective is: ''Ethan will be able to read and identify ten safety signs found in the community,'' then the teacher can mark ''March 10, 1999'' next to the objective when Ethan is able to accomplish that task).
B. Parents' Information Needed for IEP Meeting
1. Who is attending the IEP Meeting: Federal guidelines require that certain people participate in the IEP meeting. These include:
a representative of the local education agency other than the child's teacher(s) who shall be qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of specifically designed instruction to meet the unique needs of the child (this is usually the school principal; if this is the first time your child has been evaluated, and if this representative is not an expert on evaluations, then one of the people who participated in the actual testing of the child must also be present)
the teacher(s) of the child responsible for implementing the IEP
the parent or surrogate parent of the child
the child, when appropriate.
In addition the school must allow any other individual whom you wish to invite to attend the meeting. This may be a case worker involved with your family, people involved with the day to day care of your child, or any person whom you feel can contribute vital information to the meeting. You may also choose to bring with you someone to aid you in understanding the IEP or the IEP process, for example, a lawyer experienced with educational advocacy or parent advocate. The school also has the right to invite other individuals who may contribute additional information about the child, a speech therapist for example.
2. When is the IEP meeting scheduled? Within thirty days after being informed that your child qualifies for exceptional education, you should be invited to attend a meeting to develop the school program that is going to best meet your child's individual education needs. If the meeting time suggested by the school is inconvenient for you, you may request a change of time or date. Make sure there is adequate time scheduled so that the meeting will not be rushed. If it is impossible for you to attend any meeting, you may request that a conference call be arranged so that you can talk to committee members by telephone. This, however, should be a last alternative. The IEP must be in effect at the beginning of each school year and be reviewed at least annually, which means that the IEP should be reviewed at the end of each school year, or during the summer. However, if there are significant changes in your child during the school year, you may request an IEP conference be held at any time. In addition, a child must have a complete diagnostic examination at least every three years.
3. What are my goals for this IEP meeting: It is essential that you participate in the development of your child's individualized education program. You have two very important jobs at this meeting.
First to make sure that the most appropriate IEP is developed for your child
Second to contribute valuable information. You may want to provide additional background history on your child or talk about the child's strengths and weaknesses in the home and community.
4. What are the statements I want included in my child's IEP:
Long Term Goals
Short Term Instructional Objectives
5. Steps I will take if I do not agree with the IEP:
If you cannot come to an agreement, and you are running out of time. Or if you feel you need time to consider the situation, you have the right to request another meeting. Do not feel pressured to make a decision.
Most schools ask that you sign the IEP form. If you refuse to sign, the IEP can still be implemented as is. If you don't agree, simply sign your attendance sheet at the IEP meeting to document your presence. Specify that you are not in approval of the present IEP.
If school personnel refuse to include needed services in the IEP, inform them that you intend to file for a due process hearing and that you will file a written complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and write to the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped.
6. After you get a copy of the IEP, then what? After the meeting, keep your child's IEP in a convenient place. Refer to it often. Make sure the services that were listed on the IEP are actually being provided as stated. For example, if the IEP indicates that "Charles is supposed to be receiving speech therapy for twenty minutes three times a week," but he is only scheduled for therapy twice a week, contact the school, show the therapist the IEP, and ask that these changes be initiated. Your IEP is your guarantee that the needed services will be provided to your child. The IEP also allows you to watch your child's progress.
Periodically, re-read the IEP goals and objectives.
Is your child making progress in the areas stated in the IEP?
Does child's school work seem to be emphasizing the right skills?
Do child's activities in therapy make sense to you? If not, contact the teacher or therapist and express your concern.
C. Sample Parent IEP Statement:
Parental input on the individualized education program for Jamie Green:
Placement: in a class of 4 to 6 students with a teacher who is skilled in "Floor Time," play therapy, intrusion therapy, consistency, and positive reinforcements. The teacher and the teacher's aid must be proficient in sign language.
It is crucial that Jamie have contact with peers with typical communications skills who can function as role models on a daily basis.
Long Term Goals:
Increase in relating and socializing abilities
Increase in communication skills
Improvement in self-help and survival skills
Development of Pre-Vocational skills
Short term Instructional objectives:
To increase relating and socializing abilities:" Floor Time," intrusion/play therapy, using simultaneous communication should be provided for 30 minutes, 5 times a week on a one-to-one basis. Doll play, tickling, picture book sign language stories, etc., should be utilized.
To increase communication skills: art therapy, utilizing drawing, should be used on a one-to- one basis for 20 minutes, daily. Jamie expresses herself through her cravings more so than through any other means.
To improve self-help and survival skills: 40 minutes daily should be spent on activities such as washing dishes, bathing, and crossing the street.
To develop Pre-Vocational skills: crafts should be used for 45 minutes, 3 times a week. The curriculum should include macrame, pottery, weaving, and basket weaving.
Which of the following do you think are good statements of instructional objectives? Remember, an objective should be a specific behavior which you can see and judge for yourself if your child can do. Put a Check the good objectives.
1. What is the difference between a well written and poorly written objective?
2. Why is it important to be able to judge if your child can do a specific behavior?
3. Why are objectives so important to my child's future?
4. How can I use these objectives to evaluate if my child is making progress?
Answer Key:Exercise 1 The good objectives are 1, 2, and 5.
Exercise 2: Parent Input into the IEP
How well have these following parents understood their rights and responsibilities in the IEP development, writing, and review for their children. Check the box in front of the parents' statement which shows understanding for the requirements of the IEP and the importance of it to their child's education.
1. I had a dentist appointment on the day the school wanted to meet with me about my child's IEP, so I didn't go to the IEP meeting. It wasn't that important, anyway.
2. Karen's first IEP conference was in September. Then she had leg surgery in January. Now she needs physical therapy, although I didn't ask for physical therapy in the beginning of the school year, I'm going to call and ask for a new IEP meeting right away, to request physical therapy.
3. I wanted to think about my child's IEP alone so I brought it home from the conference and looked it over. After I decided that it looked like the best program for my son, I made another appointment to sign it with the principal and teacher.
4. My child's teacher said, in the meeting, that Chuck couldn't button his shirt. I know, however, that he buttons up at home most of the time. I said this, and now the teacher says we'll work on a harder skill instead.
5. My child's been in a special education class since September. It is now the end of October, but I haven't participated in an IEP conference yet. I'm not worried about it; I think the school always knows best.
1. Why is it important for me to attend all meetings about my child at school?
2. Why is it important to know the laws governing my child's IEP?
3. Why is it important to take my time in deciding if I approve of my child's IEP?
4. Why are my observations concerning my child at home and in the community important to the development of my child's IEP?
5. Why is it foolhardy to blindly place your child's welfare into the hands of professionals?
Answer key: Exercise 2 The educated responsible and assertively advocating parents are 2, 3, and 4.
Exercise 3: Productive Communication at the IEP Meeting
Productive communication at an IEP meeting focuses on the child's needs. Non-productive communication causes anger, defensiveness or withdrawal and the child's needs are often ignored, disregarded or discarded. Read each of the following five statements concerning the IEP process and respond with a productive child focus response to the speaker.
1. Parent: "I do not understand why I am always being called into school about Robbie? Can't you write his IEP without me, just this once?''
2. Teacher: ''During the staffing on your child, the speech therapist, occupational therapists and I identified these goals and objectives. You can read this IEP we worked out, then
3. Teacher: "I find that objective unrealistic for your child. I've observed him and I know he can't do that.''
4. Special education administrator: ''All right, we have defined goals and objectives as well as present levels of functioning. I have taken notes on everything. I'll finish the IEP and send a copy to you in the mail.''
5. Teacher: ''We have four IEP meetings scheduled this morning. Another child's parents will be here in 30 minutes. I'm sure we can finish well within that time.''
1. How easy is it to think of something productive to say when you are feeling resentful, angry or defensive with the other person?
2. How important is it for a parent to maintain composure, calmness, and rationality in the IEP process?
3. How often do you think teachers have parents like the one above, tell them they don't want to get involved in their child's IEP development? How does that make the teachers' feel about parents?
4. How important is it for parents to be informed about their children's behaviors at home, in the community and school as well as being informed about the legal rights the child has in the IEP process? Is this too much to ask of parents?
Exercise 4: Problem Solving
Read each of these case studies and then decide what can be done in each case.
1. At the IEP meeting, the Special Education Director said that inclusion opportunities for Mike Smith would be arranged ''once the school year gets underway.'' It is now Thanksgiving and Mike's full school day is taking place in the self-contained classroom for children who have mental handicaps. Mike's teacher says she has no authority. What can the Smiths do?
2. Bobby Boswell is in a new classroom in a new school. He seems very happy to go to school each day, but because of his language problems, he can't tell his parents about it. Mr. and Mrs. Boswell want to learn more about Bobby's school day. What actions might they take?
3. Mrs. Hughes is concerned that her daughter Lisa does not have enough motor activity included in her classroom schedule. Although she is pleased with the teacher's instruction for Lisa in the other learning areas, she would like Lisa to have more daily experiences to help her achieve her motor development goals. How might Mrs. Hughes address this concern?
4. John Smith's IEP includes speech therapy three times a week. John has been in school two months now. Mrs. Smith hasn't heard from the speech therapist and John has not mentioned going to therapy. What steps could Mrs. Smith take to check up on John's speech therapy program?