Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What to Expect at an IEP Meeting

Once special education eligibility has been determined, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting is scheduled.  The IEP meeting is developed, reviewed, and revised annually by the IEP team.

Who is on the IEP team?  The players include the parents and student (required by law at age 14), a general education teacher, a special education teacher, a school administrator/designee, an AEA person (if needed) to review or explain assessment data, and any other person the parent would consider helpful in planning the education of a child.  The parent can invite anyone he/she wishes.  The school must have the approval of the parent to invite anyone not required to be on the team.  Other IEP team members may include a school nurse, social worker, or guidance counselor, depending on the needs of the IEP child.

There are five phases of development of an IEP.  The first phase focuses on a student's present level of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFP).  This, basically, summarizes the student's current achievement and identifies areas of need.  At this phase, the parent is invited to and encouraged to help develop the profile of the student including insights to the student's strengths, interests, and preferences.  Strengths are not simply academic.  Strengths are often identified that are social in nature (i.e. a child may have a great sense of humor).  Interests and preferences are not the same.  Preferences focus more on the way a child prefers to learn or play.  An example of this would be perhaps a child prefers to learn by listening to head phones or a child prefers learning in small groups rather than on one's own.  Interests align more with activities or hobbies.  A child may be interested in riding horses or reading fiction books or drawing.

The second phase is geared toward the development of goals that are focused on the child's needs (as a result of the assessments done to determine eligibility).  While there not a magic number of goals required, experience substantiates at least two to adequately address an identified area.  For example, if a child is eligible in math, an IEP may contain a goal on computation and correctly reading story problems.  In addition, a social skills goal may be appropriate to support growth in an academic goal area.  Many times, IEPs have academic goals and then a goal on organization or work completion.  Goals, whatever they are, must be measurable.  IEP goals are worthless if they are not able to be measured to show a child is strengthening an identified weak area.

The third phase in the IEP meeting is focused on special services that may be needed to support the child's progress toward meeting the IEP goals.  Accommodations (such as extended time on assignments or preferential seating) and modifications are identified.  Modifications are different in that they are really focused on changes in the curriculum or the programming in some way.  Accommodations are simply supports in place to help the child accomplish the same curriculum or programming.  For a visually impaired child, an accommodation in PE may include a soccer bell with a ball in side of it. Parties responsible for implementing the special services are identified in this section as well.

The fourth phase focuses on how the student will participate in the least restrictive environment (LRE), which is the general education setting, and for how much of a respective school day.  The goal, of course, is to have the IEP student in the regular education setting as much as possible.

The final phase states how often parents will receive written progress of the student toward IEP goals over the course of that IEP year.  It is common to report out quarterly to parents.

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