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Michael Dorfman
BY Michael Dorfman
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An IEP Refresher: Everything You Need to Know About an IEP

We often hear discussion about IEPs and the good, the bad and the ugly that surrounds them. Many times there is confusion as to what the IEP and its process is all about. From time to time it is important to review the basics of an IEP and how it is supposed to be deployed. Here is a refresher post about IEPs and its role in special education.

What is an IEP?

IEP stands for Individualized Education Program (alternatively called an “Individualized Education Plan,” “Individual Education Plan,” or some combination thereof). This is a legally binding document that spells out exactly what special education services your child will receive and why. It will include your child’s classification, placement, services such as a one-on-one aide and therapies, academic and behavioral goals, a behavior plan if needed, percentage of time in regular education, and progress reports from teachers and therapists. The IEP is planned at an IEP meeting.

What is Required by Law to be in an IEP?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) requires that the following components be included in the IEP; the specific details of each requirement will be discussed in detail herein:

1. Academic Achievement

A statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, (Sometimes called the PLAAFP) including how the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general education curriculum (i.e., the same curriculum as for nondisabled children); or for preschool children, as appropriate, how the disability affects the child’s participation in appropriate activities. This portion describes what your child is able to do and what your child’s unique needs are that result from his/her disability;

2. Measurable Goals

A statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals designed to meet the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability.

Functional skills include daily living activities, social skills, mobility skills, employment skills, and skills that increase your child’s independence.  Measurable goals must use baseline data from the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance and written so the child’s progress is clear and measurable.  The IEP team may conclude that the child does not have functional needs so the IEP may not include functional goals;

3. Short Term Objectives

For children with disabilities who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate academic achievement standards, a description of benchmarks or short-term objectives;

4. Progress Report

A description of how the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured; and when periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the annual goals (such as through the use of quarterly or other periodic reports, concurrent with the issuance of report cards) will be provided;

5. Services Required

A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research should be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child (this refers to research that is reviewed by qualified and independent reviewers to ensure that the quality of information meets the field’s standards before publication). to the extent practicable.

A statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided to enable the child to advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals; to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum, and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and to be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children in such activities;

6. Participation

An explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with “typical” children in the regular class and in activities;

7. Necessary Accommodations

A statement of any individual appropriate accommodations that are necessary to measure the academic achievement and functional performance of the child on State and district-wide assessments. If the IEP Team determines that the child must take an alternate assessment instead of a particular regular State or district-wide assessment of student achievement, a statement of why the child cannot participate in the regular assessment; and the particular alternate assessment selected is appropriate for the child.

8. Timelines

The projected date for the beginning of the services and modifications and the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services and modifications.

9. Updated Goals

Beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team, and updated annually, thereafter, the IEP must include appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills; and the transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals.

10. Majority Age

Beginning not later than one year before the child reaches the age of majority under State law, the IEP must include a statement that the child has been informed of the child’s rights under Part B of the Act, if any, that will transfer to the child on reaching the age of majority under §300.520.

Other Considerations in the IEP

The IDEA also requires that the IEP team consider other factors when developing the IEP.  The easiest place to document the discussion of these considerations is in the IEP.

1. Extended School Year Services:

ESY must be provided only if a student’s IEP team determines that the services are necessary for the provision of FAPE.

2. Nonacademic Services:

The school must take steps, including the provision of supplementary aids and services determined appropriate and necessary by the child’s IEP Team, to provide nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities in the manner necessary to afford children with disabilities an equal opportunity for participation in those services and activities.

Nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities may include counseling services, athletics, transportation, health services, recreational activities, special interest groups or clubs sponsored by the public agency, referrals to agencies that provide assistance to individuals with disabilities, and employment of students, including both employment by the public agency and assistance in making outside employment available.

3. Placements:

In determining the educational placement of a child with a disability, including a preschool child with a disability, the school must ensure that the placement decision is made by a group of persons, including the parents, and other persons knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data, and the placement options; and is made in conformity with the Least Restrictive Environment (“LRE”) provisions of the regulations.  The child’s placement must also be determined at least annually; be based on the child’s IEP; and be as close as possible to the child’s home;

4. Nonacademic Settings:

In providing or arranging for the provision of nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities, including meals, recess periods, and services and activities, each school must ensure that each child with a disability participates with nondisabled children in the extracurricular services and activities to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of that child. The school must ensure that each child with a disability has the supplementary aids and services determined by the child’s IEP Team to be appropriate and necessary for the child to participate in nonacademic settings.

5. Other Factors

The strengths of the child; the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of their child; the results of the initial or most recent evaluation of the child; the academic, developmental, and functional needs of the child.

Michael Dorfman

Written on January 6, 2015 by:

Michael R. Dorfman is an attorney and partner at Nykanen Dorfman, PLLC in Farmington Hills, Michigan.  In his special education law practice, Michael represents students and their families when there is a conflict with the school district or when an appropriate education is not being provided.
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