If your child is receiving special education services in the public schools here in Arizona, chances are your child has and Individualized Education Program, often referred to as an “IEP.” This plan can be extremely confusing to understand, with so many new terms, lengthy explanations, and will contain a lot of different legal terminology that can seem overwhelming.
If your child is not yet receiving services, but you believe your child may qualify for additional support from the special education department at your school, you cannot simply request an IEP. Your child must have a referral and then go through an evaluation process to determine whether or not your child may be found eligible to receive services. Here is an overview of the initial IEP evaluation process.
Jenny’s Speech and Learning Clinic can work with your child’s school team to help develop and revise any goals in the IEP that may be related to services your child receives at both clinic and school. Furthermore, please ask your therapist at Jenny’s clinic if he or she would like to attend your child’s IEP meeting. They are welcome, but not obligated to attend. Community members such as your child’s outside therapist may be helpful in providing input during the IEP meeting related to setting up annual goals.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, for short) requires public schools to provide services to every child with special needs who is eligible to receive them, should they be deemed eligible according to state requirements for special education.
IDEA is just one of the many acronyms you may run into in IEP paperwork, along with these special education acronyms:
FAPE – Free Appropriate Public Education
IEP – Individualized Education Program
IEE – Independent Educational Evaluation
BIP – Behavior Intervention Plan
PBS – Positive Behavior Supports
FBA – Functional Behavioral Assessment
LRE – Least Restrictive Environment
PLAAFP – Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance
ESY – Extended School Year
SLI – Speech/Language Impairment
SLD – Specific Learning Disability
RTI – Response to Intervention
The IEP team
The IEP team is the team that oversees the development of the individual child’s education program is to be implemented, and the team will consist of different members, depending on the needs of each child.
Team members: You! (the parent/guardian), your child’s case manager, which is often the special education teacher, a general education teacher, a representative of the school district who is aware of available resources, a representative who can interpret and explain testing results (often school psychologist), and related service providers services such as speech, occupational, or physical therapy. You as a parent are also allowed to invite other individuals to the IEP meeting that you feel may better serve, or advocate for your child. Many parents invite people such as other family members, outside therapists, or other professionals that may have worked with or evaluated your child. Parents, you are considered full, equal members of the team along with all the school educators there, and please don’t forget that your input at the meeting is very important! You know your child best, so you will be part of the team in developing or revising an education plan for your child.
Content of the IEP
Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAPF)
This section outlines your child’s current levels of performance in his or her academic setting. It will talk about how they are currently progressing in areas of academics (reading, writing, math), as well as areas of communication, motor, daily living skills, and social/emotional development.
These annual goals will be carefully selected academic and therapeutic goals (if both are necessary for your child) by you and your IEP team. The teachers and specialists that work with your child will work on developing and then implementing these goals for the school year, making sure that these goals are attainable, measureable, and suit your child’s needs, along with maintaining compliance with ADE.
Measurement of Progress
Each IEP goal should have a specific measurement being taken, and progress reports are sent home at minimum each quarter, one progress report per IEP goal. IEP goal progress reports are usually sent home the same time that your child’s classroom teacher sends home the academic progress reports.
These services are usually designated for therapy-type services, or otherwise non-academic services that your child may or may not receive, such as; speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, hearing/audiology support, vision support, counseling, adaptive PE, orientation and mobility, etc. The number of minutes of service per related service activity should be listed somewhere near the name (such as “occupational therapy: 30 minutes per week/120 minutes per month”).
Classroom accommodations are strategies and modifications that can be used with your child in their classroom at all times, whether it’s their general classroom, self-contained classroom, in the therapy room, etc. Some of the modifications are allowed for state standard assessments, and others are not. The modifications will be addressed with you and the rest of the IEP team during the meeting. These are types of strategies to support your child’s learning; it may be things like using a number line for students needing help in math, repeating oral directions to help ensure comprehension, or enlarged print for students with vision impairments.
Supplementary Aids and Services
This section is likely divided up numerically. What this section contains is the amount of support (such as adult support, some assistance, etc.) as well as quantity (15 minutes per day, 30 minutes, etc.) for students who require adult assistance in a variety of tasks throughout their school day. This is often for students who need help with toileting assistance (transferring from a wheelchair to a toilet), getting on and off the bus, help with feeding at mealtimes due to motor deficits or other difficulties, help with an AAC communication device and programming if the child is limited verbal output or non-verbal, hearing aid support, etc.
Beginning when your child is 15 years old, the IEP must state what transition services are needed to help the child prepare for leaving school.
Each child that is not in a general education classroom full-time (meaning, their primary classroom is a special education classroom), then each child in special education classrooms will have a plan for “mainstreaming”. This is a concept that has to do with the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE); your child will be included for some part of his or her day with non-disabled peers in a general education classroom. You can discuss with the IEP team when it might be the most appropriate, and what the goals are for your child during mainstreaming (socialization, working on reading skills, behavior, etc.).
Each meeting that is held whether it is an evaluation, annual IEP, re-evaluation, or a determination meeting, will all have meeting invitations and meeting participation pages. The invitation pages are sent to you, the parent/guardian notifying you of when the meeting will be held. The participation pages are like attendance pages; everyone at the IEP meeting or any other meeting is required to sign and date stating that they were in attendance.
Language of Instruction
Somewhere in your child’s IEP, it should state information about whether or not your child is considered an English Language Learner (ELL). If your child is bilingual and is ELL, then the IEP should state your child’s language needs in the document.