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Roger N. Meyer "...of a different mind "
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STEPS TO BE FOLLOWED IN THE IEP PROCESS

Copyright 1999 Roger N. Meyer

 

By law, evaluation and re-evaluation must occur before any discussion of placement is made. The special education IEP steps are as follows:

(1) Request for evaluation/re-evaluation and its completion. This includes parent requests for independent evaluation and evaluation team consideration of the request and other documentation the parent submits. These documents shall be made a part of the student's official special education record. Evaluations may include a functional behavioral assessment, testing for Central Auditory Processing Disorder, Central Vision Processing Disorder, Motoric functionality, Specific Learning Disabilities, and other conditions commonly associated with a high functioning autistic student.

(2) Determination of continued eligibility/finding of non-eligibility for special education.

(3) Writing of the IEP. Until modified or replaced, the present IEP remains the operant document. IEP's do not "die" upon completion of re-evaluations. Contrary to myth, they remain in effect until another IEP is completed, though modified as a result of evaluation and IEP team determinations.

Steps to the completed IEP must be completed in order, not out of order, missed, or revisited. Here's what they are.

a) Determination of the child's needs as a foundation of the plan.

These needs become and remain the entire foundation and focus of the IEP. All subsequent steps must fully acknowledge these needs. Failure to do so by the school authorities means that the student's plan is not, by definition, "individualized." The students' needs can be identified through independent evaluation findings and recommendations as well as documentation presented by the parent in addition to whatever the school provides. The student him/herself can also participate in this determination through presence and participation in the Evaluation meeting as well as the IEP meeting. The parent is the sole member of the team authorized to determine how appropriate their child's participation and presence is to the IEP process. School authorities must justify, in writing, their reasons for objecting to the student's direct or indirect participation in this process.

b) Determination of the student's present level of performance (PLOP).

Some of the student's present level of performance information may be determined through direct examination and observation in school. Other aspects of the student's level of performance are observed at home, or in other non-school environments. The reports of parents, caregivers, family and friends familiar with the child, and diagnostic, treatment, and other professional reports, evaluations and recommendations must be considered by the IEP in the PLOP determination. All areas of function having a substantial impact on the child's education must be considered. It is not enough to determine the student's academic level of performance. Social skills, motor abilities, level of expressive language (speech and writing), level of math competence and understanding, level of reading competence (including all components essential to level and comprehension), social, emotional, and motoric functionality are to be considered and must be included in the student's special education record. This is not an exhaustive list. This information must be summarized and written into the IEP document.

(c) Goals

Goals must be directly related to the special education student's PLOP. While reference to the achievement requirements of the general education curriculum can and should be made in the meeting itself, the IEP must reference those goals related directly to the student's needs. Goals must be concrete. They should refer to specific, objectively measured, validated, and reliable levels of achievement, and refer to the student's needs. Terms such as "teacher observation" (unless plotted and charted), meaningless percentages relating to general curriculum or even IEP curriculum achievement, and other subjective measures should NOT be the basis for goals. These goals should be sufficiently clear to allow the parent and educators to determine throughout the school year whether the child is progressing toward specific, objectively measurable behaviors and levels of mastery of the student's performance as compared to his initial, baseline PLOP. This is the only way to distinguish the IEP goals from the student's general education achievement. Remember that special education is individualized, and progress toward the child's goals is the sole determinant of "achievement" in an IEP. Because of this fact, a "report" is to be made at each of the regular school reporting periods, if not more frequently. Such a report is NOT the same as the student's regular report of general curriculum achievement. It is a separate document.

 d) Objectives

These are the student's anticipated levels of performance to be achieved along the way. They must be expressed in language sufficiently clear and with content capable of being objectively measured. Despite what may have been said in the past, the number of objectives related to subset aspects of the child's goal may, in fact, be enumerated here. It is essential that benchmarks determinative of progress must be identified. Throughout the year, they may be modified as necessary depending upon the student's performance. It is impermissible and illegal for school authorities to insist that this information must "fit" within the space designated in any IEP page template that is computer program generated. Such a form is by appearance and function a "standardized document." The student's plan is to be individualized, and if the information for the plan exceeds the physical space of any pre-printed form, the form must be modified or replaced with a document that serves the purpose of the individualized educational plan as determined by federal law. States are free to add additional information or contents to IEP's, but the minimum information requirements as determined by IDEA 1997 and its attendant regulations bind them from limiting required information.

Objectives identified as essential to attain the goal should be numbered for ease of reference. If there is insufficient room to include them in a principal IEP page, additional numbered objectives are to be attached as a part of the IEP record for each of the components of the IEP. If the team members refuse to let you do that, stand by your right to be an active participating parent member of the team. Ask specifically to see any written rules that prohibit adding such material, and attach such rules with your statement of objection as an official part of the IEP record. Make written reference to your objectives, by number, in your own hand on the "official" form that may be used use, and note either that the objectives are to be found as an attachment to the form page, or have been refused for inclusion by [name the party (ies) refusing]. If they refuse to allow this entry, have this refusal witnessed or tape-recorded. [At this point, a parent encountering such behavior should document it and have this information included in the official record. It may be essential for the parent to caucus with an advocate or other guest, and decide whether the IEP Team process has been compromised to such an extent as to warrant departure for cause.

e) Modifications

This term refers to educational adjustments to be made to the general curriculum once the student is mainstreamed or placement is in "inclusion". This term does not refer to modifications of his IEP. (Those are a given and guaranteed by IDEA, and addressed separately as a part of the ongoing IEP process.) If the student is to participate meaningfully and on an equal level with his/her peers, the curriculum, teaching methods, and other accommodations necessary for that participation are to be written here. Here is where it is best not to be too specific about general training or teaching methods, although, again, under recent court orders and interpretations from OSEP, you can be quite detailed if this is necessary to have your child achieve the academic and other objectives of the general curriculum.

For example, the IEP team can specify that the student be given additional time to complete tests, that a keyboard or computer OR ANY ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY (low or high level) be provided and that the student be instructed as to its use and be permitted unhampered access to this technology throughout the day and at home. Information in this section also identifies the supports, aids, aides, and other related services to be provided to your child, and how they will be provided in the inclusion setting.

Seating, methods of addressing your child, instructions about how he learns, and how a teacher or trainer is to approach his individual learning style, and establishment and maintenance of an environment minimizing stress and reducing the antecedents to disruptive behavioral manifestations can and should be included here.

Special emphasis may be needed to describe school personnel interventions and actions regarding the student's behaviors directly related to his disability. This relates specifically, to matters of discipline and methods of preventing or addressing disruptive or distracting behaviors. ALL TEACHERS CAN AND MUST BE SHOWN THIS PORTION OF THE IEP. Their being aware of their responsibilities to assure his education in an included environment is critical to his success. This notice becomes the basis for notice to the school authorities on what their behavior and environmental standards must be for the student. Failure to provide them indicates a failure to provide FAPE.

e) Placement.

This is the last item to be considered in the IEP process. Some of it is alluded to in "modifications" above, but this is where such discussion should take place. Since placement is critical to the operation of the plan, information relating to placement should be placed at the front part of the IEP document Placement represents the culmination of the IEP process. Decisions leading to placement must take place in the order outlined above. Any deviation from the process leading to placement is considered a material indication of non-compliance with the law, and may be invalidated and corrected through mediation, due process, state and/or OCR complaint, or court intervention. If placement is not agreed to, ordinarily the last placement of the previous IEP is to remain the current placement, unless agreement about an interim placement can be made. Recall the fact that the that the previous IEP does not "die." All during the IEP process, changes and modifications to the old IEP can be made to include those things agreed upon in the current IEP design process, and placed into immediate effect as an interim measure assuring continuity of your child's special education support and related services.

Copyright Issues

 

This article is copyright, all rights reserved by the author, Roger N. Meyer.  It may be reproduced in single copy once for personal use, and in no more than ten copies total for educational purposes.  Fair Use is authorized for all purposes and under conditions established by US Statute and the International Copyright Convention, to which the United States is a signatory nation.  No person shall publish, distribute, copy, or by other means make this material available to others for purposes of personal gain or professional self-aggrandizement.  Individuals wishing permission to exercise other than fair use or limited distribution as outlined above must contact the author, in writing, and receive explicit written permission from the author prior to engaging in further use of this material.

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