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SSD Parent Handbook (Section 3) – IEP Process
What is an IEP?
An IEP is the Individualized Education Program that details the plan of special education instruction, supports and services that a student will need to reach their educational goals.
The IEP answers the following questions:
- Where are we going (what is the vision for this child)?
- Where are we now (what he or she knows and does well; i.e., present level of performance)?
- How far can we get this year (what will be this year’s annual goals and objectives or benchmarks)?
- How will we get there (what services will be provided)?
- What route will we take (how services will be provided)?
The IEP is not:
- a daily lesson plan — but it does cover a whole year.
- an evaluation report — an evaluation report describes your child’s strengths and needs. The information from an evaluation report is used to help write the IEP.
- a contract — it does describe things you and the school have agreed to do for your child, but it cannot guarantee that all the special help will be successful.
- a comprehensive curriculum — it relates to special considerations within your child’s overall education.
- going to stay the same. As your child grows and learns and changes, the IEP will need to reflect these changes.
Who develops the IEP?
Your school is required to notify you to arrange an IEP meeting at least annually. Those who will participate in the meeting should include:
- The parents or guardian of the child
- At least one regular education teacher of the child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment)
- At least one special education teacher
- A representative of the local district who is knowledgeable about resources and curriculum of the district
- An individual to interpret instructional implications of evaluation results
- At the discretion of the parent or local education agency, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child
- The child if appropriate
- At transition, other agencies needed to plan for the child's future
About Standards-Based IEPs
- Developed to link goal-setting directly to state and district standards
- Goal tied to a specific academic area or grade-level expectations
- Benefits include:
- Raising expectations for the student’s academic success and achievement
- Provides a better understanding on how your child is achieving compared to grade-level peers and standards
- Creating a closer working relationship between special and general educators to develop annual goals to meet those needs
What is included in an IEP?
1. Your Child’s Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP)
A student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team expects special education services to help the student meet their unique needs and prepare him or her for further education, employment, and independent living. As a foundation for higher achievement and IEP goals, the IEP team will identify:
- The child’s current levels of learning or performance
- The effect or impact of the child’s disability on learning
This process can be compared to planning a trip to another city: You need to know where you are beginning as well what may make your trip more challenging. The team will see where your child is beginning and how the disability impacts learning.
The IEP team, including the parents, will ask these important questions at the annual IEP meeting:
- What are the disability-related challenges affecting the student’s progress and participation in the general education curriculum?
- At what academic and functional levels is the student performing right now? (Where is the student’s starting point?)
- What strategies, accommodations, and assistive technology have already been successful for the student’s learning? Has the student had an assistive technology evaluation?
- What are the grade-level academic standards for the student’s grade? How do the student’s skills compare to those standards?
- Does the student behave and learn with age-appropriate developmental skills?
- How does the student perform in non-school environments? (Information provided by family)
- What does the student think is working or not working during the school day?
- Is there any other information we need to provide a complete picture of the student?
The answers to these questions will be documented every year as the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFP) statement on the IEP. A student’s annual IEP will be the map guiding him or her from beginning levels of performance to higher levels of performance (IEP goals).
The PLAAFP statement will provide a snapshot of the student at a particular time and place. It will describe the levels at which the student is currently working academically and functionally. This includes a description of a student’s strengths and needs. Areas the team will consider include:
- General intelligence
- Motor or physical
- Sensory (such as vision and hearing)
- Social and emotional
- Transition to postsecondary adult living (beginning in ninth grade)
The PLAAFP statement will include information gathered from various sources including:
- Ending levels of performance on last year’s goals
- Any new special education assessment results
- Performance on district and statewide assessments, including identification of skills and knowledge already attained in relation to academic grade-level standards
- Classroom grades and observations, including behavior data
- Information from the student and parents (you have important information to share about your child and you and school professionals may see your child in different ways in different environments and situations)
- Interests and strengths, including non-curricular areas (these can provide valuable information about a student’s abilities, potential for learning, and possible motivators)
- Any strategies, accommodations, or assistive technology devices or services that have already shown success.
It is important to note that the student’s regular education teacher, a required member of the IEP team, is a key team member.
- This teacher is familiar with grade-level and age-level expectations for all children so he or she will know how a student is doing on grade-level skills compared to peers.
- The team will want to make sure that the designated regular education teacher brings the appropriate information to the IEP meeting. For example, an art teacher may be a child’s regular education teacher but may not be familiar with the child’s reading and math skills.
- Depending on the time of year that the meeting is held, a regular education teacher for the next grade level may be the best source of regular education information needed for development of this IEP.
- Other teachers may attend or submit written information as well.
The information in the PLAAFP section of the IEP should be written in brief, clear, specific, and accurate statements with enough information to describe the student’s current skill levels in objective, measurable terms. If scores are reported, they should either be self-explanatory or explained.
The PLAAFP statement will lead to the development of annual goals, accommodations, modifications, and other IEP services. All IEP goals should be connected to the PLAAFP statement. Parents knowledgeable about the PLAAFP statement and the IEP process can be an effective part of the IEP team and help their child work toward higher achievement.
2. Special Considerations
The IEP development process is comprised of specific considerations that are federal and state requirements that need to be addressed to produce the written IEP document. All of these items must be considered annually.
Needs of students who:
- are blind or visually impaired
- are deaf or hearing impaired
- who exhibit behaviors that impede his or learning or that of others (strategies including positive behavior interventions and supports — if a behavior intervention plan is developed it becomes a part of the IEP)
- have limited English proficiency
- have communication difficulties
- may need assistive technology devices and/or services
- Student eligibility for Extended School Year (ESY)
- Whether Post-secondary Transition Services for students 16 and older are required
- Whether notification of the Transfer of Rights has been given (must be given 1 year before student’s 18th birthday)
- Whether state or district-wide assessments are administered for the student’s age or grade level.
3. Your Child’s Annual Goals
Annual goals are the targets toward which your child's special education program is directed.
They describe what he or she can be expected to accomplish within an academic year.
They are written to increase your child's successful participation in the regular education curriculum, include appropriate activities and to allow for inclusion in the regular education environment to the maximum extent appropriate.
A well-written goal is meaningful, measurable, able to be monitored, useful in making decisions, and aligned with learning, behavior and industry standards.
A Note About Goals:
- Disability does not determine what services, including goals, a student will need.
- Goals are not written for the disability, but rather to address the academic, functional, and behavioral needs of the student.
- The IEP Team must determine a logical link between the PLAAFP and the proposed goal.
- When possible, related service needs of the student are addressed in existing goals.
- Behavior concerns that interfere with learning can be addressed through IEP goals regardless of diagnosis.
- Not specific enough: John will increase his ability to do math problems.
- More specific: By the next IEP, utilizing Fourth Grade Curriculum level multiplication problems with (2) multi-digit whole numbers up to (3) digits each (e.g. 468 x 44), John will independently set up and use the standard algorithm to solve the problem in (3) minutes or less, with 80% accuracy across settings. Baseline: John can complete 2 digit by 1 digit math problems independently with 90% accuracy across settings.
4. Reporting Progress
Notes how often progress will be reported to parents.
5. Related Services, Supplemental Aids/Services and Supports for School Personnel Required to Accomplish the Goals and Objectives
The minutes, frequency and location of these services, as well as the begin and end date of services is documented on the IEP on the Services Summary page.
- Related Services are services that are required to assist a student in benefiting from special education.
- Supplemental Aids/Services are those necessary to enable the student to benefit from the regular education environment such as use of an assistive technology device, assistance with note taking or support to help facilitate social interactions at lunch, recess or on a field trip.
- Supports for School Personnel include any specialized materials, training or consultant services needed in order for school personnel to work effectively with the student.
- Program Accommodations include specific supports needed by the student because of his or her disability and provide equitable access during instruction and assessment. Examples are using an assistive device, large print or extended time. Accommodations do not reduce learning expectations; they provide access.
- Program Modifications indicate changes in the curriculum content and performance expectations, such as reduced number of math problems or fewer objectives. Modifications change, lower or reduce expectations.
Services vary based on the needs of the student. The IEP team will make the decision on whether the student needs transportation as a necessary service. If so, the accommodations or modifications will be listed (e.g. an aide, accessible bus or door-to-door transportation), if determined necessary.
7. Regular Education Participation
For any child not participating in the general education classroom 100% of the time, the IEP must include to what extent the student will not participate in regular education and why full participation is not appropriate.
8. Placement Considerations and Decisions
Upon the completion of the IEP, the team will discuss placement options for your child. Several factors are taken into consideration and by law, your child’s placement will be in the least restrictive environment.
Indicates attendance at the meeting.
10. Transition Planning
Required for students age 16 and older or who will be age 16 before the next annual IEP. However, there is not reason to wait until then to start the conversations about future goals and transition!
11. IEP Amendments/Addendums
- If the parent and the districts all agree to amend or modify the IEP, they may revise the IEP by agreement without convening an IEP meeting.
- The team must create a written document that describes the changes or modifications in the IEP and note that, by agreement of the parties, an IEP meeting was not held.
- Every part of an IEP can be amended and there is no limit to the number of amendments that can be made.
- An amendment does not change the date of the annual IEP. Upon request, a parent shall be provided with a revised copy of the IEP with the amendments incorporated (Missouri State Plan for Special Education Revised 2005).
Note: Significant changes in the services to be provided should be handled by a full IEP meeting.
Tips & Resources
Preparing for an IEP Meeting
- Review any previous IEPs for your child.
- If you have not received recent updates on goals, request updates and data prior to the meeting.
- Make an outline of what you believe your child needs to learn. Examine long-range goals you have for your child and rethink them if necessary. Consider annual goals that will have value for your child and your family, and which will help your child accomplish his or her long-range plans.
- Become knowledgeable about your child’s disability and how it may affect his or her education.
- Use the IEP Preparation and Participation Form for Families to help you gather your thoughts so you can share what you know about your child and your goals for your child in the coming year.
- Talk to your child. Involve your child in the process and get his or her understanding or agreement as to the things you will be addressing at the meeting. Talk about what he or she feels is their strengths, what they would like to learn or do, or do better.
- Prepare a list of questions. Many of these may be answered as the meeting progresses; however, don’t hesitate to ask questions that have not been addressed
- You should be notified in writing who will be attending the conference beforehand. If you are not, call your child’s teacher or area coordinator.
- Feel free to invite anyone you feel can provide information for the IEP committee. This may include any therapists, counselors, or doctors who may be working with your child outside of school. In addition, you also may want to invite someone to attend, relative or friend, who can provide moral support or who makes you feel more comfortable participating in a group. Remember, this is a team effort and everyone working with your child needs to be working together in order to produce the best results.
Note: As a courtesy, please inform the teacher/team if you plan to.bring someone with you to ensure enough seats and handouts.
Tips for a Successful IEP Meeting
- Discussion should focus on both the student’s strengths as well as their needs.
- Ask for introductions if the person chairing the meeting does not have everyone introduce themselves. If you are not sure what each person’s role is at the meeting, ask him or her to explain.
- Each person has something to share and should have a chance to say what he or she thinks. Stick with the issue at hand; i.e., your child’s education.
- Each meeting should provide both an agenda, so everyone knows what to expect, and data, which will help during discussion of goals.
- If you do not understand something that is said, ask to have it explained. Do not hesitate to ask for clarification of any detail.
- If you find that you disagree with a part or parts of the IEP, bring your concerns and suggestions to the team and work together to try to reach a compromise.
- Be flexible enough to accept minor revisions, but be firm about the major issues.
- Share relevant information about your child using the the IEP Preparation and Participation Form for Families, which has questions relating specifically to the various components of the IEP. Inform the committee of any activities or significant events that may influence your child’s performance in school.
- Participate in developing your child’s goals and, when applicable, objectives.
- Take note of what nonacademic school activities are included in the program of your child. Do not forget areas such as lunch and recess and other areas such as art, music and physical education.
- Be sure all services that are necessary to implement your child’s educational program will be written into the IEP.
- Make sure your child’s medical history is up-to-date and that the committee knows if there are any special needs or services provided by other sources.
- Make sure team members talk with, rather than about, your child if he or she is in the meeting. Maybe your child can suggest a goal and/or objective or benchmark (when applicable) and take responsibility for it.
- When you feel teachers and school personnel are doing a good job, compliment them. Praise, when deserved, is a great thing!
- If the group needs more time to complete the IEP, there can be more than one meeting.
- Your child’s progress must be reported to you as frequently as that of a child without disabilities. The IEP, as a whole, must be reviewed once a year. You also may request a team meeting at any time.
- Remember, you have the right to ask questions and request changes either during the meeting or later.
Self-Advocacy/Self Determination: Student Participation in the IEP Process
It is important to encourage your son or daughter to take part in, or even take charge of, his or her IEP meeting.
It is important for your child to realize that it is his or her plan and that his or her opinions are valued.
By law (IDEA), students must be invited to participate in their own IEP beginning no later than age 16. Students can be involved at younger ages, and it makes good sense to do so. When your son or daughter reaches the age of majority (18), parent procedural rights transfer, and he or she becomes the educational decision-maker.
What students gain from participation:
- Learn more about their strengths and skills and how to tell others
- Learn more about their disability and how to talk about it to others
- Learn what accommodations are and what might help them succeed
- Learn how to speak for themselves
- Develop skills necessary for self-determination and decision-making
- Learn about the goals and objectives that form the basis of their education, and why this is important to them
- Motivation by meeting goals and the development of future goals important to them
Make certain your child knows exactly what the purpose of the IEP is and that he or she is expected to put forth their best effort in reaching the goals of the plan. Before the meeting you may want them to practice describing their disability, their strengths, their needs, the accommodations that would help them achieve in class, their goals for the future and the goals and objectives they feel are most important to work on.
The forum can be a positive experience when your child understands that he or she can have some input in the meeting and that growth in self-confidence may occur as a result of participation.
The more times your child is able to speak for him or herself, the easier it will become in the future. If your son or daughter has some long- or short-term plans, encourage him or her to communicate these to the IEP team.
Visit the resources below for more information about student-led IEPs and how to help your child prepare for the IEP meeting.
The IEP Meeting is Over - Now What?
- Maintain close contact with your child’s teacher(s). Consistent two-way communication is key to making any program work.
- Ask for suggestions on how you can continue to practice and reinforce what is going on in school.
- During the year, keep a list of anything you want to consider for your child's next IEP.
- If you think teachers or other team members are doing a good job, tell them. Let them know when they have done something you appreciate.
- Remember that other people such as the school bus drivers, custodians, lunchroom workers and administrative staff may help your child in informal ways.
- Get involved in your child’s school. Join the PTA/PTO, go to school plays and other activities, volunteer in the library. The more you are involved and the more people see you, the better you will get to know each other. This sometimes makes it easier to work together for your child.
What if the IEP is Not Working?
At any time you may ask for a team meeting of all the people involved.
- When issues or concerns arise, reach out right away to the person who is closest to the issue.
- Put your questions or concerns in writing. If the concern is with general education, keep your special education teacher in the loop.
- If the problem is not being resolved, reach out to the Special School District area coordinator and school principal or director of special education for your district or school. If you are served in an SSD school, you would reach out to the SSD school principal and if no resolution, the executive Director for SSD schools.
- Do not get personal: mention the problem and not the person. For example: My child has not received speech and language services for three weeks, or my child has not received the assistive technology evaluation we agreed upon.
Be specific about times, dates, meetings, phone calls or emails used to try to resolve the issue previous to your letter. Find out who the Parent Advisory Council representative is in your building or district. He or she should be able to help you with questions and networking within your school.
Participate in training sessions or workshops offered by the school districts or other community agencies. SSD’s Parent Education & Diversity Awareness Program offers over 50 workshops during the school year designed especially for families. Call Parent Education & Diversity Awareness at 314.989.8460 or click here for the workshop calendar.
What if I Don't Agree with the IEP?
Like all students, those with disabilities can be suspended or expelled for violating the school’s code of conduct. However, IDEA provides some additional procedures that schools must follow when disciplining students with disabilities. These procedures were put into IDEA to prevent schools from suspending or expelling students without considering the effects of the child’s disability. These procedures are different depending on:
- the length and type of disciplinary action the school proposes to take;
- the nature of the conduct that led to the disciplinary action; and
- whether the conduct is found to be connected to the student’s disability.
- If a student with an IEP is suspended up to a total of 10 days (does not have to be consecutive - just in the same school year), school policies regarding suspended students apply.
- Upon the 11th day of suspension, the student is considered to have a “change of placement”. At this point, two things will happen:
- the school will have to provide the special education services in the IEP to the student (though in a different setting) and
- a Manifestation Determination review will be conducted
- If the student is charged with a violation involving weapons, drugs or causing bodily harm to another person, the school has the authority to remove the student to an alternate educational setting for no more than 45 days without having to determine if the violation is a manifestation of the disability.
- If you have questions or concerns regarding discipline or suspension, please contact your student’s SSD area coordinator, SSD principal or SSD director.
- Click here for more information on the discipline process.