Why are educational plans needed for students with severe/multiple disabilities? What are the names of the required plans, and what are the legal mandates for these plans? What is the importance of planning to achieve intending outcomes for students with severe disabilities?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was initiated to protect the educational rights of student with disabilities "by ensuring that everyone receives a free appropriate education (FAPE)" ("IDEA (The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)"). The special education services provided under IDEA can include individualized teaching or teaching within small groups, modification to curricula or teaching methods, supportive technology, "transition services and other specialized services such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy" ("IDEA"). What's more, the services also include the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, every public school child with a learning disability is entitled to his/her own IEP. IEPs are as many and as diverse as students with learning disabilities (LD). They are designed only for one and each child in question and put together by "teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel and students" ("What Is an IEP?"). Each IEP must address each student's unique needs. The development of an IEP is critical so that every public school student can achieve required learning; there are no legal limits to how many meetings can be held to develop, assess, and modify IEPs and such meetings can be held continually throughout a school year to ensure that each child with a disability is learning.
Students with an LD or Attention-Deficit/Hyeractivity Disorder (ADHD) may also qualify for a 504 plan if their disability "'substantially limits them in performing one or more major life activity'" ("Is a 504 Plan Right for My Child?"). The notion to create a 504 plan stems from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a section prohibiting "discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities, public or private, that receive federal financial assistance" ("Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973"). Based on this act, if a child meets the broad qualifications specified under Section 504, then the school must develop a 504 plan in order to accommodate the child's needs. The 504 plan is useful for those students who do not qualify for educational services under IDEA. Qualifications for special education services under IDEA are much more specific. For example, a student with dyslexia and dysgraphia may not qualify for services under IDEA if he/she is only "[0.5] grade levels behind," even though that student has a disability ("Is a 504 Plan Right?"). Instead, since the disability definitions under Section 504 are much broader, a child can be tested for qualification under Section 504, and a 504 plan be drawn up. Again, just like IEPs, 504 plans are as numerous and as diverse as the children with disabilities, and each 504 plan is drawn up to meet the child's unique needs.
Students with disabilities need to have IEP's, or individualized education plans, that outline their disabilities, their present level of performance (what they can do in terms of academic, social, and functional skills), and goals to help them make progress towards being able to function at the highest level of their ability. These plans are mandated by federal law and teachers MUST follow these plans once they're written. These plans give assistance and protect the students as well as the teachers by laying out a clear plan of action on how to find and enrich the specific needs of the student. These plans are important because they allow for the student to receive instruction in areas that will help them to become as independent as possible as adults; sometimes, this means being able to live in a group home and work in a sheltered workshop. This can also mean that they have learned how to feed themselves, that they are able to maintain a checkbook, or that they are able to live independently. The goals are directly related to the individual's disability and what their needs are to function once they leave public education.