FEAT strongly recommends you attend one of Nevada PEP’s free IEP clinics given on a monthly basis. Clinics include an IEP video, a brief overview of the IEP process and a Q&A session. They encourage you to bring your child’s current IEP. They are glad to go over it with you. Nevada PEP has trained individuals familiar with the IEP process and, if necessary, will even accompany you to your meeting for advocacy purposes. There are many other community resources you can draw from. Some others are listed in the Service Providers section of this site under the subcategory of Community Resources.
There are also very useful books and Internet sites you might browse in preparation, many of which are listed within the Resource area of this site. An example of one that FEAT members have found very helpful is: http://www.unco.edu/cetl/TracyMueller/IEP/
If this is not your first, you should be somewhat familiar with the process. One of the first issues the parents are asked to address in writing is their concerns. This area has no limitations so come prepared with your thoughts in writing.
The IEP is broken down into three major sections:
The present levels portion of the IEP is probably the one most important portion as it will drive all other areas (Goals & Benchmarks, Specially Designed Instruction, Accommodations and Related Services) of the IEP. It should represent a clear picture of your child with both their deficits or areas you would like to see improve over the course of the school year as well as their strengths. Prior to your meeting, keep a notepad close by to jot down your own observations over the course of the weeks prior when you notice or recall these so your are sure they will be addressed.
- Does your child: Engage in frequent self-stimulatory behavior?
- Resort to aggression when frustrated, confused or overly challenged?
- Not yet have the communication skills to communicate his/her wants and needs?
- Engage in inappropriate social behavior such as an inability to stay seated for more than a few minutes, make physical contact with others when not socially called for, or engage in repetitive, obsessive or ritualistic routines?
- Choose to play or work alone and avoid outside contact from peers or adults?
- Not yet posses the academic skills of his/her age equivalent peers?
This area should also be used to document your child’s strengths for the purpose of building on them or for professionals to draw from to keep your child successful. If your child’s present level in a certain area is on target with his/her developmentally equivalent peers, goals and benchmarks need not be written for those but should be noted as strengths to draw from and necessary documentation to look back on to monitor any regression later on.
If the present levels you observe at home or in the community are different from those displayed in school, you have the right to include them as “parent observations”. All skills or goals being worked on as part of your child’s IEP cannot be considered “mastered” unless they are present across all environments. It is , therefore, essential for the parent’s input and observations to be included. Always remember, you are an equal member of the IEP team and your participation and input in this process is vital.
GOALS & BENCHMARKS:
This area of the IEP should cover any skills and abilities your child should be expected to achieve within the next 12 months. All the skills your child lacks and behaviors you believe should be extinguished should be addressed here. BE SURE TO WRITE ALL GOALS AND BENCHMARKS IN A SCIENTIFICALLY MEASURABLE FASHION so your are sure they have actually been met when progresses are reported during the year. This also ensures all professionals working with your child are held accountable during the course of the year and stay on task to achieve them.
In the past, Goals could be written slightly more global with benchmarks leading up the goal being more detailed and measurable. However, there has been a recent reauthorization in the senate stating benchmarks will no longer be used in IEP’s.
Some helpful “hints” to stay on track:
- Stay away from relative terms or opinion words such as: “appropriate” unless they are accompanied with measurable words such as “age or developmentally” (appropriate).
- Be sure timeframes are included such as “by the end of the first grading period” or “throughout the instructional day”.
- Quantify skill acquirements such as “eleven basic colors” rather than simply “colors” or “five word utterances” rather than “simple sentences”.
Below is an example of a measurable Goal vs. a poorly written, non-measurable one:
Andrew will interact in an age-appropriate manner with school personnel and typically developing peers during all of his school day by the end of the third grading period as measured by school observation and documentation maintaining 4 out of 5 trials 80% of the time and implemented by teaching staff.
- By the end of the first grading period, when playing with the same collection of toys with a natural peer within three feet of the student, Andrew will play with the same types of toys in the same manner as the peer for at least five minutes without supervisory contact on three consecutive assessments as measured by school observation and documentation.
- By the end of the second grading period, Andrew will demonstrate congruent social play. While playing with three to four natural peers, Andrew will display five behaviors identical to those of peers on three of three consecutive five-minute observations as measured by school observation and documentation.
- By the annual review, Andrew will verbally respond appropriately to simple social initiations from peers in the form of a direction, greeting or farewell while making some eye contact on eight out of ten opportunities as measured by school observation and documentation.
Poorly written, non-measurable:
Andrew will appropriately play with his peers as measured by school observation and documentation maintaining 4 out of 5 trials 80% of the time and implemented by teaching staff.
This is the area of the IEP to document any special accommodations your child will require to succeed in the school environment. The present levels and goals/benchmarks will determine what, if any, accommodations need to be supplied. For example, if the present level states that your child requires constant queuing, redirection and prompting throughout their educational day, then an accommodations such as “Additional adult assistance is required for queuing, redirection and prompting”. If the present level states that the child currently uses a picture exchange communication system to communicate, the need for such should be noted in this area. Very often a parent or another IEP team member must be creative to truly assist the child with their unique needs. An example of such creativity might be a child with a severe sensitivity to the sound of moving classroom chairs across the floor. A creative accommodation might be for the tennis team to donate all their used balls so they may be glued to the bottom of each chair leg.