Individualized Education Program
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The Individualized Education Program, also called the IEP, is a document that is developed for each public school child who needs special education. The IEP is created through a team effort, reviewed periodically. In the United States, this program is known as an Individualized Education Program (IEP). In Canada and the United Kingdom, an equivalent document is called an Individual Education System.
An IEP defines the individualized objectives of a child who has been determined to have a disability, as defined by federal regulations. The IEP is intended to help children reach educational goals more easily than they otherwise would. In all cases the IEP must be tailored to the individual student's needs as identified by the IEP evaluation process, and must especially help teachers and related service providers (such as paraprofessional educators) understand the student's disability and how the disability affects the learning process.
The IEP describes how the student learns, how the student best demonstrates that learning and what teachers and service providers will do to help the student learn more effectively. Developing an IEP requires assessing students in all areas related to the known disabilities, simultaneously considering ability to access the general curriculum, considering how the disability affects the student’s learning, forming goals and objectives that correspond to the needs of the student, and choosing a placement in the least restrictive environment possible for the student.
As long as a student qualifies for special education, the IEP is mandated to be regularly maintained and updated up to the point of high school graduation, or prior to the 21st birthday. If a student in special education attends university upon graduation, the university's own system and procedures take over. Placements often occur in "general education," mainstream classes, and specialized classes or sub-specialties taught by a special education teacher, sometimes within a resource room.
An IEP is meant to ensure that students receive an appropriate placement, not only in special education classrooms or special schools. It is meant to give the student a chance to participate in regular school culture and academics as much as is possible for that individual student. In this way, the student is able to have specialized assistance only when such assistance is absolutely necessary, and otherwise maintains the freedom to interact with and participate in the activities of his or her more general school peers.
- 1 Definition of individualized
- 2 United States
- 3 Procedural requirements for development
- 4 Determining the appropriate placement
- 5 Implementation
- 6 Procedural safeguards
- 7 Services that may be provided to a child with a disability
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Definition of individualized
The individual needs of each child in the IEP. Such as resources available to ensure they receive accurate education according to their needs.
In the US, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) requires public schools to develop an IEP for every student with a disability who is found to meet the federal and state requirements for special education. The IEP must be designed to provide the child with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). The IEP refers both to the educational program to be provided to a child with a disability and to the written document that describes that educational program. The IDEA requires that an IEP be written according to the needs of each student who is eligible under the IDEA; an IEP must also meet state regulations. The following must be included.
- The student's present levels of academic and functional performance
- Measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals
- How the student's progress toward meeting annual goals is to be measured and reported to the parents
- Special-education and related services, as well as supplementary aids to be provided to the student
- Schedule of services to be provided, including when the services are to begin, the frequency, duration and location for the provision of services
- Program modifications or supports provided to school personnel on behalf of the child
- Least Restrictive Environment data which includes calculations of the amount of time to be spent each day by the student in general-education settings as opposed to the amount of time to be spent in special-education settings
- Explanation of any time the child will not participate along with non-disabled children
- Accommodations to be provided during state and district assessments that are necessary to the measuring the student's academic and functional performance
- The student should attend when appropriate. If the student is over fourteen, he or she should be invited to be a part of the IEP team.
- Additionally, when the student is sixteen years of age, a statement of post-secondary goals and a plan for providing what the student needs to make a successful transition is required. This transition plan can be created at an earlier age if desired, but must be in place by the age of sixteen.
An IEP must also include other pertinent information found necessary by the team, such as a health plan or a behavior plan for some students.
Procedural requirements for development
The outcome of the IEP development process is an official document that describes the education plan designed to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.
Determination of eligibility for special education
Before an IEP is written for a child with a disability, the school must first determine whether the child qualifies for special education services. To qualify, the child's disability must have an adverse effect on the child's educational progress.
To determine eligibility, the school must conduct a full evaluation of the child in all areas of suspected disability. Based in part on the results of the evaluation, the school along with the parents meet to review the results and the child's current level of performance and to determine whether special education services are needed.
If the child is found eligible for services, the school is required to convene an IEP team and develop an appropriate educational plan for the child. The IEP should be implemented as soon as possible after the child is determined eligible. IDEA does not state specific time-frames for each step. However, some states have added specific timelines that schools must follow for the eligibility, IEP development, and IEP implementation milestones.
As outlined by IDEA, students can receive free appropriate education under special education law if they fall under one of 14 categories:
4. Developmental delay (for children aged 3–9, varies by state)
6. Hearing impairment
7. Intellectual disability (formerly referred to as mental retardation)
8. Multiple disabilities
9. Orthopedic impairment
10. Other health impairment
11. Specific learning disability
12. Speech or language impairment
13. Traumatic brain injury
14. Visual impairment, including blindness
While teachers and school psychologists have the ability to initiate evaluations for special education service eligibility, they are unqualified to make medical diagnoses. Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and physical and developmental delays must be diagnosed by a physician. Although most children with physical or developmental delays, who have received consistent medical care, are diagnosed at an early stage by their pediatricians, it is imperative to include a medical professional in the student’s evaluation process if one of the aforementioned conditions is suspected, but undiagnosed. When children are diagnosed early, they can start receiving services at earlier stages of development. State health and/or education departments offer early intervention services for children under the age of three years. The public school system offers services for children from ages three through twenty-one.
Members of the IEP team
The IEP team includes the student, the student's parent(s) or legal guardian(s), the student's case manager, at least one general-education teacher, a representative of the school or of the school district who is knowledgeable about the availability of school resources, and an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of the results of the student's evaluation (such as the school psychologist).
The parent or school may also bring other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child. For example, the school may invite related service providers such as speech and occupational therapists. The parent may invite professionals who have worked with or assessed the child, or someone to assist the parent in advocating for the needs of his or her child, such as a parent advocate or an attorney.
If appropriate, the child may also participate in IEP team meetings. For example, some children begin participating in their IEP meetings when they reach middle school age.
A typical IEP team, and team meeting includes:
- One or both of the child's parents. Consistent with the IDEA's stated policy, parents should expect to be treated as equal participants with school personnel in developing the IEP.
- A case manager or a representative of the school district (not the student's teacher) who is qualified to provide or supervise special education.
- The student's teacher(s), and principal(s). If the child has more than one teacher, then all teachers are invited to attend, with at least one teacher required to attend.
- If the program to be recommended includes activities with general education students, even if the child is in a special education class in the school, a general education teacher is required to attend.
- Any provider of a related service to the child. Normally this would be speech therapy, occupational therapy, or adapted physical education.
- Professionals who are qualified to explain the results of the testing. Usually this requires at least the presence of a psychologist and educational evaluator, if an assessment or report is reviewed. This usually occurs at the 3-year review, or triennial IEP.
- Parents may bring with them any others involved with the child who they feel are important for the IEP team to hear; for example, the child's psychologist or tutor.
- Parents may elect to bring an educational advocate, a social worker, and/or a lawyer knowledgeable in the IEP process.
- Although not required, if the student is receiving related services (such as speech therapy, music therapy, physical therapy or occupational therapy), it is valuable for related service personnel to attend the meeting or at least provide written recommendations concerning the services in their area of specialty.
- The student's guidance counselor may be needed in attendance to discuss courses that may be required for the student for his or her education.
Role of the parents
Parents are to be considered full and equal members of the IEP team, along with school personnel. Parents have the right to be involved in meetings that discuss the identification, evaluation, IEP development, and educational placement of their children. They also have the right to ask questions, dispute points, and request modifications to the plan, as do all members of the IEP team.
Although IEP teams are required to work toward consensuses, school personnel ultimately are responsible for ensuring that the IEP includes the services that the student needs. School districts are obligated by law to make a proposal for services to the parent. If an agreement cannot be reached, the school district cannot delay in providing the services which it believes are the best services to ensure that the student receives an effective educational program.
Under IDEA Part D, the United States Department of Education funds at least one parent training and information center in each state and most territories to provide parents the information they need to advocate effectively for their child. Some centers may also provide a knowledgeable person to accompany a parent to IEP meetings to assist the parent in the process.
The school is mandated to make an effort to ensure that one or both of the parents are present at each IEP team meeting. If parents do not attend, the school is required to show that due diligence was made to enable the parents to attend, including notifying the parents early enough that they have an opportunity to attend, scheduling the meeting at a mutually agreed on time and place, offering alternative means of participation, such as a phone conference. 
The school is required to ensure that the parent understands the proceedings of IEP team meetings, including arranging for an interpreter for parents who are deaf or whose native language is not English. 
Developing the student's education plan
After the student is determined to be eligible for special education services, the IEP team is required to develop an individual education plan to be implemented as soon as possible after eligibility is determined. Using the results of the full individual evaluation (FIE), the IEP team works together to identify the student's present level of educational performance, as well as the student's specific academic and any related or special services that the child needs in order to benefit from their education.
When developing an IEP, the team must consider the strengths of the student, the concerns of the parent for their student's education, results of the initial or most recent evaluation of the child (including private evaluations conducted by the parents), and the academic, developmental, and functional needs of the child. The team must also consider areas of deficits. Corresponding annual goals and objectives should be created to improve the deficit areas. In the case of a child whose behavior impedes the student's learning or that of other children, the team is required to consider the use of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports to address the behavior. An FBA may be required by the team to address the behavioral concerns. An FBA is conducted by a child psychologist with input from the IEP team.
The IEP team is required to consider the communication needs of the child. For example, if a child is blind or visually impaired, the IEP is mandated to provide for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille unless an evaluation of the child's reading and writing skills, needs, and future needs indicate that this instruction is not appropriate for the child. If a child is deaf or hard of hearing, the team is required to consider the child's language and communication needs, including the need to communicate with school personnel and peers, and the child's need for direct instruction in the child's language and communication mode. In the case of a child with limited English proficiency, the team is required to consider the language needs of the child as those needs relate to the child's IEP.
A matrix is drafted containing the student’s present level of performance, indicators about ways the student’s disability influences participation and progress in the general curriculum, a statement of measurable goals, including benchmarks or short-terms objectives, the specific educational services to be provided, including program modifications or supports, an explanation of the extent that the child will not participate in general education, a description of all modifications in statewide or district-wide assessments, the projected date for initiation of the services and the expected duration of those services, the annual statement of transition service needs (beginning at age 14), and a statement of interagency responsibilities to ensure continuity of services when the student leaves school (by age 16), a statement regarding how the student’s progress will be measured and how the parents will be informed in the process.
IDEA requires a child's IEP be developed solely based on the child's needs, and not based on pre-existing programs or services available in the district. Whether particular services are available in the district should not be considered when identifying the services a child needs to receive an appropriate education.
Determining the appropriate placement
After the IEP is developed, the IEP team determines placement—that is, the environment in which the child's IEP can most readily be implemented. IDEA requires that the IEP be complete before placement decisions are made so that the child's educational needs drive the IEP development process. Schools may not develop a child's IEP to fit into a pre-existing program for a particular classification of disability. The IEP is written to fit the student. The placement is chosen to fit the IEP.
IDEA requires state and local education agencies to educate children with disabilities with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate. A child can only be placed in a separate school or special classes if the severity or nature of the disability is such that appropriate education cannot be provided to the child in the regular classroom, even with the use of supplementary aids and services. When determining placement, the starting assumption must be the student's current academic level and needs as evident by the disability.
Some of the more common placement settings include the general education classroom, an integrated class, a resource class, a self-contained class, and other settings, which include separate schools and residential facilities.
The general education classroom is seen as the least restrictive environment. In addition to the general education teacher, there will also ideally be a Special Education teacher. The special education teacher adjusts the curriculum to the student's needs. Most school-age IEP students spend at least 80 percent of their school time in this setting with his or her peers. Research suggests student's with special needs benefit from being included in general education and from participation in the general education curriculum.
An integrated classroom is made up of mostly neuro-typical children with several children who have IEPs. These are typically higher functioning children with disabilities that require help in areas of social skills. This setting allows them to model the behavior of the neuro-typical children. Typically there is an aide in this classroom setting to assist those children with IEPs.
The next setting is a resource class where the Special Education teacher works with small groups of students using techniques that work more efficiently with the students. This setting is available for students who spend between 40- 79 percent of their time in the general education classroom. The term “resource” in this context refers to the amount of time spent outside general education, not the form of instruction.
Another setting option is a separate classroom. When students spend less than 40 percent of their day in the general education class, they are said to be placed in a separate class. Students are allowed to work in small, highly structured settings with a special education teacher. Students in the separate class may be working at different academic levels. Other settings include separate schools and residential facilities. Students in these settings receive highly specialized training to address both special learning and behavioral needs. The students will acquire both academic and life skills instruction. These schools have the highest degree of structure, routine, and consistency.
After the IEP is developed and placement is determined, the student's teachers are responsible for implementing all educational services, program modifications or supports as indicated by the individual education plan.
Schools are required to have an IEP in effect at the beginning of the school year. Initial IEPs are required to be developed within 30 days of the determination of eligibility, and the services specified in the child's IEP are required to be provided as soon as possible after the IEP is developed.
The IEP team is responsible for conducting an annual review to ensure that the student is meeting goals and/or making progress on the benchmarks specified for each objective. If an IEP is not helping the student in the classroom, an immediate revision is to occur.
Acceptance and amendments
An initial IEP is required to be accepted and signed by a parent or guardian before any of the outlined services may begin. Formerly parents had 30 calendar days to take the paper work home for their consideration. Currently the IEP must be signed or appealed within 10 days, or the school can implement the most recent version.
School personnel have an obligation to provide parents with a Procedural Safeguards Notice, which is required to include an explanation of all of the procedural safeguards built into IDEA. In addition, the information must be in understandable language and in the native language of the parent.
A copy of the Procedural Safeguards Notice is required to be presented at an IEP meeting. The school is required to give the parent a copy of the child's IEP at no cost to the parent.
An extensive system of conflict resolution procedures are set out in the statutory provisions. They include: the right to examine records, advance notification of intent to change the educational program, the right to engage in mediation, and a right to an impartial due process hearing.
Services that may be provided to a child with a disability
- Specially designed instruction
- Related services
- Program modifications
- Classroom accommodations
- Supplementary aids and services
- Resource room
Specially designed instruction
Specially designed instruction affects the instructional content, method of instructional delivery, and the performance methods and criteria that are necessary to assist the student make meaningful educational progress. This instruction is designed by or with an appropriately credentialled special education teacher or related service provider. Students may have better success with small-group instruction as presented in a resource room (mandated by program and placement outlined in the IEP) particularly with languaged-based instruction.
For some students, teachers may need to present information through the use of manipulatives. For other students, teachers may need to select and teach only important key concepts and then alter evaluation activities and criteria to match this content change.
The IEP team determines whether a specific type of instruction is included in a student’s IEP. Generally, if the methodology is an essential part of what is required to meet the individualized needs of the student, the methodology is included. For instance, if a student has a learning disability and has not learned to read using traditional methods, then another method is used. When including such an IEP recommendation, the Team describes the components of the appropriate type of methodology, as opposed to naming a specific program.
If the child needs additional services in order to access or benefit from special education, schools are required to provide the related services. These are including, but not limited to, speech therapy, occupational or physical therapy, interpreters, medical services (such as a nurse to perform procedures the child needs during the day, for example, catheterization), orientation and mobility services, parent counseling and training to help parents support the implementation of their child's IEP, psychological or counseling services, recreation services, rehabilitation, social work services, and transportation.
- Modifications to the content of the program
- Lowered success criteria for academic success
- Decrease alternative state assessments, such as off-grade level assessments
Some of a student's educational needs may be met using accommodations. Accommodations are typically provided by general educators within the general education environment. Accommodations do not involve modifying the material content but do allow students to receive information or to demonstrate what they have learned in ways that work around their impairment, thereby minimizing the likelihood of a significant disability. For example, a child may complete fewer/different parts of a homework assignment or an assessment than other students. They may also write shorter papers or be given different projects and assignments in replacement of the original task.
Accommodations may also include such provisions as preferential seating, providing photocopies of teacher notes, giving oral rather than written quizzes, extended time for tests and assignments, use of a word processor or laptop, and taking tests in a quiet room.
Modifications in the curriculum can occur if a student needs to learn material that the class has moved on from, like working on exponents while the class is moving on to applying them in the order of operations. They also may occur in grading rubrics, where a student with an IEP may be assessed on different standards than other students.
Supplementary aids and services
- Assistive technology
- Teacher's aide in classroom that provide additional support for one or more specific students
If necessary a student will be provided with specialized transportation. This can be the case if the student has a severe disability and requires a wheelchair, or is identified with an emotional problem.
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