Individualized Education Plans
This article presents information on the history, development, and components of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The IEP serves as the "road-map" of the why, when, how, and where of activities and services for the individual with a disability. According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004, each individual who receives special education and/or related services in an educational setting must have a current IEP in place to receive services. When developing the IEP, states and local school districts are allowed to develop different alternatives for each individual as long as the key components outlined by IDEA 2004 are addressed. The IEP should be creative, flexible, and individualized in meeting the needs of the individual with disabilities.
Keywords Child Find; Disabled Students; Individualized Education Plan (IEP); Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP); IEP Team/Committee; IEP Components; Informed Parental Consent; Service Delivery
In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act Public Law 94-142 (P.L. 94-142) was established to provide free appropriate public education to individuals with disabilities. P.L. 94-142 has undergone reauthorizations by Congress and is currently referred to as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004). This federal law continues to mandate special education and related services to individuals with disabilities age birth to 21 years. The key components of IDEA are:
• Unbiased assessment,
• Individualized family service plan (ifsp),
• Individualized education plan (iep), and
• The least restrictive environment (lre)
The IDEA is divided into four parts: Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D. Each part focuses on a different aspect of IDEA. For instance Part A, addresses policy and its purposes. Individuals three to 21 years of age receive services under Part B regulations and infants to age 2.11 years receive services under Part C guidelines. The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is required for individuals receiving services under Part B and must contain certain elements for each individual receiving special education and related services in public schools. Although the federal government makes certain that each state provides special education and related services, each state decides how to design the IEP. For individuals receiving services under Part C, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is required and must also contain certain components for each infant and toddler receiving services. Part D of IDEA includes explanations of research, teacher training, and state grants. Typically, one can find information about state laws and policy through their respective state department of education.
Before an IEP can be developed an individual must be identified, evaluated, and found eligible for special education and/or related services. Each state has a system in which to identify individuals with disabilities. "Child find" is a mechanism of IDEA designed to locate children in need of special education or related services. Anyone with a vested interest in the child can refer the individual for an evaluation through child find activities such as mailing information to parents, distributing fliers at schools or health clinics, sponsoring workshops. Additionally, a parent and/or teacher can refer the individual for an evaluation at the school level. However, an individual should not be evaluated without informed parental consent.
Once the individual is identified and written permission is obtained from the parent, an educational evaluation is conducted by a variety of professionals such as school psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and teachers at the school or district level. The educational evaluation process must include the parents and target the areas of suspected disabilities which initiated the referral for the evaluation. The educational evaluation should include the reason for referral, areas of strengths and weaknesses, impact of disability on educational performance, eligibility for special education and related services, and recommendations of needed services and educational modifications. IDEA requires the educational evaluation to be completed in a reasonable amount of time following receipt of the informed parental consent. Although the timelines vary by state, the range of "reasonableness" is typically 30 to 60 days to complete the educational evaluation (Moore-Brown & Montgomery, 2001). If the parents do not agree with the educational evaluation, the parents can ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE).
Once eligibility for special education and related services is determined by the educational evaluation, an IEP meeting must be convened within 30 calendar days. The purpose of the IEP meeting is to develop an educational plan that is specific and unique to the individual. Blosser & Neidecker (2002) stated that the plan should provide a "cohesive picture of who the child is, where the child has been, where the child is currently, and where the child is going" (p. 186).
IEP Team / Committee
The primary purpose of the IEP team/committee is to address specific educational areas and the vocational, social, and emotional needs of the individual with disabilities. The team should collaboratively develop the IEP so the individual can progress in the general education environment. Each IEP should reflect the individuals' unique learning needs and be tailored specifically for that individual. There should not be a customary set of services required by disability as each disability affects each individual differently. Therefore, the team/committee is charged with determining what the plan should include or exclude.
The IDEA requires the IEP team/committee to consist of members who have knowledge or special expertise relevant to the individual. The following members must be included:
• Parents of individual;
• A minimum of one regular education teacher and special education teacher;
• Evaluation team members;
• School administrators;
• An individual who can interpret the evaluation results;
• The individual with the disability, if appropriate; and
• Related service personnel (e.g., school psychologists, speech-language pathologists, school nurses), if applicable (idea, 2004).
The IEP team/committee must hold at minimum an annual meeting to review progress or lack of and any needed changes in educational service delivery. However, a meeting can be held before the annual meeting date if there are new developments in the individual's program such as new learning or behavioral difficulties; changes in the plan such as the addition or deletion of a service; or if a team member requests a meeting. If a re-evaluation, for any purpose, were completed during the year, the IEP team/committee must reconvene.
Components of the IEP
States and local school districts are allowed to develop many different alternatives when developing the IEP. The IEP should be creative, flexible, and individualized in meeting the needs of the individual with disabilities. However, as mandated by federal law, there are required components of the IEP. The mandatory components are:
• Evaluation data, indicating how the disability affects the individuals' participation in educational activities;
• Current levels of educational performance;
• The types of special education and related services and supplementary aids and services necessary for the individual to benefit from the educational program;
• Measurable long-term and short-term goals;
• The extent the individual will not participate in the general education and extracurricular activities with individuals without disabilities (also known as least restrictive environment);
• Modifications needed for the individual to participate in district or state wide assessments;
• Timelines to include the dates to begin services, length and duration of services, and location of services;
• Transition plans;
• How individual progress will be measured and reported; and,
• Team members (Blosser & Neidecker, 2002; Mccormick, 2003; Paul, 2007).
Evaluation data as discussed earlier should include formal (standardized) and informal (observation) assessment data and the procedures used to determine the disability. The goal of evaluation should be to determine how the disability affects the individuals' participation in educational activities in terms of learning and ability to function in the school environment.
Current Levels of Educational Performance
A profile of the individual is developed from current levels of educational performance. Information to determine...
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