A child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the cornerstone of his special education programming. An IEP is a document that identifies the special education placement and services that a child with disabilities requires to make educational progress. IEPs are viewed as contracts between schools and parents; schools are obliged to comply with a child’s IEP and provide her all the programming included in the IEP. In this post, our goals are twofold: to let you know what your child’s IEP must include and to help you understand each part of the IEP.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal law guaranteeing students with disabilities a free and appropriate public education, sets forth specific requirements for IEPs. IEPs must include (1) a statement of the child’s present level of academic achievement and functional performance, (2) a statement of measurable goals, including academic and functional goals, (3) a description of how the child’s progress towards the goals will be measured and recorded, (4) a statement of the special education supports, related services, and supplementary aids that the child requires, and (5) an explanation of the extent to which the child will be educated outside of the regular education setting.
A statement of the child’s present level of academic achievement and functional performance.
This statement is a summary of, among other skills, your child’s academic, behavioral, language, social, and leadership skills. The statement is supposed to provide you insight into how your child is developing; it is supposed to provide you insight into whether your child is meeting her potential.
The statement should identify your child’s reading, writing, and math levels (i.e., first-grade reading level, third-grade math level, etc.). The statement should also describe how your child is behaving in class and how she manages interpersonal relationships at school. Finally, the statement should include examples of specific educational tasks your child has recently worked on.
A statement of measurable goals, including academic and functional goals.
This statement is a list of educational goals for your child. The purpose behind the goals is to provide a roadmap to teachers for educating your child. Your child’s teachers should tailor their instruction towards achieving the goals.
The goals must target educational deficits that your child has as a result of her disabilities. If your child has a speech and language impairment, she should have speech and language goals. If she has a reading disorder, she should have reading goals.
A description of how the child’s progress towards the goals will be measured and recorded.
This description must provide you a means to determine whether your child is meeting her educational goals. The description must explain how the school will measure progress towards the goals, how often the school will measure progress towards the goals, and how the school will record its measuring. If your child has a reading goal of reading 60 words per minute at a third-grade level, her IEP should state, for example, that the school will test her words per minute with reading probes every week and that the school will record the results of the probes in progress reports.
You should use your child’s educational goals to hold your school accountable. If your child is not meeting the goals (or your school is failing to provide you the information necessary to discern whether your child is meeting the goals), you should ask the school to explain.
A statement of the special education supports, related services, and supplementary aids that the child requires.
This statement must describe the specific educational services that the school will provide your child to help her overcome the effects of her disabilities.
“Special education supports,” or “specially designed instructions,” are classroom accommodations, such as extended time on tests, graphic organizers, and enlarged font, that ensure your child is able to access her academic instruction.
“Related services” are services designed to improve non-academic skills which are critical to a child’s development. These services include, among other things, speech and language therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.
“Supplementary aids” are devices, such as FM systems, magnifying glasses, and stress-relief toys, that help your child access instruction in the regular education classroom.
An explanation of the extent to which the child will be educated outside of the regular education classroom.
Your child’s IEP must identify what percent of the school day she will be included in regular education settings and what percent of the day she will be placed in special education settings. The IEP must also explain why the school the chosen percentages are appropriate for your child. Children must be educated with their regular education peers to the greatest extent possible. This part of your IEP is supposed to help you ensure your school is satisfying this “inclusion” requirement.