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How to write an IEP: an introduction

As soon as you learn that an IEP is like a contract with the school and that an IEP is a document that determines the path that your child will take in education you may well decide that writing an IEP is overwhelming. Only by understanding the basics of how to write an IEP, you will have more confidence. This knowledge also will make your child an effective member of the IEP team. Who makes an IEP? Usually, it is required that only the following persons can participate in the creation of your child's IEP program: either you (one or both parents) or the student (if appropriate). The student must take part in all parts or at least one part of the ARD meeting as soon as possible. A younger student may attend to express their interests or share their portfolios with the committee; at the same time, senior students can participate more actively in the meeting and in the development of the IEP. The earlier the student starts participating in the process (even if they can spare as many as 5 minutes on each ARD meeting) the easier it will be for them to attend. See the recommendations at the end of this article to learn more about how the IEP meetings can be led by a student. It is essential whether a student attends the meeting or not since it touches certain issues, namely: transition services, the setting of after-school goals, etc. Traditionally, at least one tutor/teacher will work with your child (if your child is prepared to follow the traditional education process). Also, there will be at least one teacher with a special education background (he or she must meet the requirements of being a Highly Qualified Teacher).

Who takes all the responsibility for the organization of an IEP? Very often it is the manager or representative of the school. This person should be knowledgeable about the general education curriculum and resources available in the school, and must be eligible to monitor or provide special education services. Parents, of course, want to make sure that this person is able to make effective decisions as should any person authorized to make decisions on behalf of the school. Anyone able to interpret the results of assessments that your child has been subject to, must also explain what to do with your child's education (this person could be considered a diagnostician).

Either you or the school can invite other people who are knowledgeable about your child or that may offer some special expertise (related to your child). These people may be personnel of related services (e.g., a physical therapist, psychologist, or speech therapist), professionals who work with your child outside of school, or even a trusted friend to give you their support during the meeting. There is a lot of flexibility in this area, so let us overlook briefly what options are the most suitable:

  • A question of etiquette. You should remember that the most effective ARD committees are based on open communication and respect between people. In order to create and maintain confidence, try to inform the school personnel if you are going to invite any person to attend the meeting with you, and ask if the school has its own requirements regarding who may and may not attend meetings.
  • Should you invite an advocate from outside? First, you may consider inviting a catechism teacher, or a neighbor, or even a friend of the family to support you during the ARD meeting and take notes for you. Anyone can act as an advocate for your child's rights. But under certain circumstances, that advocate can cause a somewhat counterproductive situation. The presence of a defender of rights can put staff on alert and bring an end to effective communication. If you are about to invite an advocate with a special education background, you must notify the school that you have made a decision to invite that person. In addition, before it happens, the ARD meeting must clearly define their expectations of the role that the defender of rights will play during the meeting, whether it's just a neighbor or some person you have hired, to provide yourself with the support you need.
  • Finally, how about lawyers? In case you are inviting a lawyer to attend the meeting, you must notify the school in advance because the school might also want to invite a lawyer. Similarly, the school may not invite a lawyer to the meeting without notifying parents.

How to write an IEP: important requirements

Some institutions made important changes in the requirements for IEP teams. The changes allow the exclusion of certain people from ARD meetings or compel certain individuals to leave before the end of the meeting. First of all, you do not need the presence of a member of the ARD committee during all or a single part of the meeting if everyone (both the school and parents) has authenticated their agreement (in written form) that assistance of this person is not necessary. This could happen due to the person not being ready to specify or discuss his or her specialty area during the meeting. Also, you can allow a team member to attend all or a single part of the meeting, even if their specialty will be discussed. This condition will be effective only if all parties (the school as well as parents) agree in writing, and if that person provides their ideas in writing to the parent and the ARD committee before the meeting is held. Note that the law does not define the meaning of the last part - before the meeting is held. We recommend that you ask any written information early enough to allow yourself to review the document and ask questions about its content before it is set at the ARD meeting. A notice of an ARD meeting usually contains a list of people who are invited to the meeting. It does not mention the name of each person, though, only the title or area of specialty. If it is a small school, maybe you already know these people. If you are in a larger district, you can always ask for specific names to know who will attend the ARD meeting. A notice of the ARD meeting gives the opportunity to ensure that exclusively appropriate individuals are invited to the meeting.


How to write an IEP: other crucial issues

Primarily, the IEP is a statement of the current level of academic achievement of your child and his or her functional performance. This statement tells what is your child's current academic level. Academic performance refers to the types of educational attainment, such as math skills (the ability to add and subtract) or language skills (the ability to write a complete sentence). Functional performance refers to another group of skills, such as pragmatic skills needed in a daily life. Functional skills vary greatly from child to child, but we can offer some examples: dressing skills (buttoning a button, tying a shoe), social skills (the ability to look directly at people, hold a conversation according to the age of the person) or additional skills as preparing a simple meal. Think about what your child will have to do to live in the world and call those skills functional. The PLAAFP statement will be based on various sources of information about your child, including any evaluation, which has been reported as accomplished; it also includes the strengths and weaknesses of your child and a summary of their participation and progress in the general school curriculum (TEKS).

Measurable annual goals (and, possibly, targets) belong to academic and functional ones. The goals set out what your child will learn during this year. It is important to ensure that the goals are truly measurable or quantifiable so that you and the school know when your child has reached the goal. Seek for the paper on how to write an IEP with goals and objectives to learn more about writing goals. In addition, a parent must provide a statement of the specific services of special education and related services. The activity of those services must be based on peer-reviewed research. In other words, schools must ensure that instructions and related services provided to your child serve as strategies that have proven to be successful, instead of having dealt with just one method or another. There should also be a statement of any necessary adaptation for the way the curriculum is taught, and how it will be made accessible (e.g., printed in large letters). Accommodations must be devices that students use regularly in the classroom. It is allowed to use these devices during state assessments. For more information about accommodations that are allowed, see the Resources Adaptations and Accommodations provided by TEA.

Finally, parents must provide a statement about participation in all statewide assessments. They are required for all children taking annual examinations of basic academic skills. Although they undergo many changes from year to year (from the name to which test subjects are presented in the examination to totally different grade levels), there will be at least one consistent factor for a child taking an exam statewide each year. Currently, every student takes one of the four versions of the TAKS test (Evaluation of knowledge and skills of students in Texas) according to the needs of an individual student. The ARD committee will discuss what appropriate examinations and what adaptations will be used during the exam. For more information about the four versions of the test, see our data on the TAKS. You can find specific information about the accommodations during examination at TEA Accommodation Resources.

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