Individualized Education Plan
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An individualized education plan (IEP) is a legal document written for a public school student who has special needs. The plan is personalized specifically to address the individual’s needs. The team of people who write the plan may include any of the following individuals: Student, Parent/Guardian, Director of Special Education Services, Principal, Assistant Principal, School Psychologist, School Counselor, Speech and Language Pathologist, Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, General Education Teacher, Special Education Teacher, other professionals and/or friends of the family (ie. Advocate, Outpatient Therapist, Aunt, etc.).
The plan includes goals and special services necessary for the student to successfully learn and perform in the educational system. Progress on the IEP is monitored and can be updated as necessary, specific to the student. The law enforcing IEP’s can sometimes be confusing.
Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati Education Resources
Joanie Elfers, School Age Matters Coordinator - Joanie has expertise in a variety of school topics. At no charge to families, she is available to attend school meetings, assist in IEP planning and work with educational professionals to achieve a desired goal.
Mariclare Hulbert, Outreach Coordinator - Mariclare engages with schools to provide valuable information, create connections, and expand the impact of our work and support. She is available to do "Peer Presentations" in the classroom setting to enhance the students and teachers understanding of Down syndrome.
5 Tips to Help Parents with School Team Conversations by Global Down Syndrome Foundation
- BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
Even though we are halfway through the year, it is important as the year progresses to continue to take some time to get to know the team members that are working with your child each day. In order to have an effective and open team, I believe it is important to get to know your child’s teachers and service providers and their preferred methods of communication. When is the best time of day to connect with them? What mode of communication works best?
There is less of a chance of misunderstanding or misinterpretations if everyone on the team knows and understands each other.
- ASK ALL OF YOUR QUESTIONS
Before heading into a meeting with your school team, make sure you take the time to review your child’s IEP and any, or all current paperwork. I tend to ask my families to look at them on their own and keep track of questions you have while reading through them. Once you have reviewed them individually, take time to sit down with your spouse or family support person and talk through the questions you both have to ensure nothing is being missed. Remember to make the time to ask every question. IEP meetings are full of acronyms and jargon that may not make a lot of sense. Take a moment to stop the discussion and ask, “What does this mean for my child?” Try to remember that the teachers and school staff are involved to help and support your child, even if you may not agree with them.
- BECOME A PART OF THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY
Of course, IEP meetings and parent-teacher conferences are good opportunities to talk with the school team and learn about your child’s progress, but I would challenge you to look at other places to get involved in the school as well (and not just within the special education setting). What about the PTA or the School Accountability Committee? By volunteering to be a part of those groups, you are allowing your voice as a parent of a child with Down syndrome to help guide discussion around curriculum changes, teacher staffing, and overall mind-set of your school community.
- PLAN FOR NEXT STEPS (BUT BE READY FOR THE CURVE IN THE ROAD)
Always be open with your team about the next instructional goals you have for your child. I believe it is important to continue to have a target to push towards so that we do not settle with our expectations.
High five, fist bump, and cheer every little success and step forward—not only does your child need that encouragement, but so does the staff working with him or her each day. When you see your child demonstrating a new skill at home that they have generalized from the school environment, share it with the team. Nothing feels better than getting to step back.
Create an IEP Binder
Creating an IEP binder for your child with special needs is a great way to stay organized, increase positive communication, promote collaboration, and monitor the progress your child is making throughout their educational career. There are various ways to organize a binder, however, if you would like a sample to start with, understood.org provides a comprehensive sample binder. The various sections that they suggest are as follows:
- Report Card/Progress Notes
- Sample Work
You will also find handouts that will help you create your binder:
- IEP Binder Checklist
- School Contact Sheet
- Parent-School Communication Log
- IEP Goal Tracker
For downloads and a video, click here.