The Individualized Education Plan gives a framework for the teacher, parent, or guardian, and often the student to communicate and create an education plan that emphasizes the student's strengths while helping to build up areas where the student needs more help. Together, these players can pool their knowledge and experience to craft an educational program that allows the student to continue to learn and keep up with the general curriculum.
The Special Education IEP is developed in a meeting or series of meetings. As a master’s level special education teacher, you will play an integral role in developing a student’s IEP. The parents are informed of who will be attending and have the option to invite people who have special knowledge or expertise about the child.
It’s been the case for a while now, but in public schools and many private schools, every child enrolled in special education who receives related services must be provided with an Individualized Education Plan. IEPs are required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which assures quality education for children with disabilities.
Based on the initial IEP meeting(s), an IEP will be written for the student. Take some time to consider these questions before and/or during the meeting to best assess the child's specific needs and how to best serve the child. Many of the questions do not apply directly to academic performance. As special education students and professionals know, for a child to be appropriately served by special education services it is necessary to consider the whole child, with attention on talents, gifts, character traits, and abilities.
- What school subjects or activities bring the child the most joy? (Examples: Bobby loves history class. Susan enjoys art and gym class.)
- List some of the child's greatest strengths. Do not limit these to academic abilities. These strengths can include personality traits, skills, hobbies, and outside interests. (Examples: Elizabeth loves puzzle-oriented computer games. Michael plays really well with others.)
- How does the child learn best? Would you consider the child a kinetic, auditory, or visual learner? (It is possible to have strengths in more than one learning style.)
- What are the goals for the child this year? Where do you want the child to progress to by this time next year? These goals should not be written based on the child's grade level, but should instead be individualized to the child and his or her stated needs. (Example: Ian will read a book of his choice and be able to describe what the book is about after reading it.)
- What related services does the child need to succeed in school? (Example: An occupational therapist on-site.)
- What modifications or adaptations would help the child be successful in the classroom this year? (Examples: Does the child need an aide in every class? Would an electronic tablet help the child take notes and focused? Does the child need more time on standardized tests?)
- What strategies and rewards are most effective for the child? (Does the child work best with a reward system where they can choose a prize at the end of the week or is praise their best motivator?)
- What transition, social, or behavioral issues require special consideration? (Examples: Is the child moving into general education classrooms? Does the child recoil or become distracted by sensory over-load?)
- What is the most appropriate placement for the child during this school year? (Is your child ready to move into general classrooms? Does your child need to be in classes equipped with an instructional assistant?)
- What other concerns, suggestions, or questions should be addressed? (These can be about curriculum, staffing, or the student’s behavior, present performance, or transition plan.)
An IEP allow students with special needs to get the customized attention they need for success in school. By considering these questions and making assessments based on the answers, everyone involved can quickly develop a plan that suits the student very well.
Plans are revisited on a periodic basis to gauge their effectiveness and, if wanted or needed, to amend them to better suit the child's needs and progress or accommodate changes with the student. By periodically measuring the child's performance and progress in school and making a plan of action through the use of IEPs, the teacher, student, and parents are better able to strive for the best educational and social outcomes.