The individualized education plan

by Maryann Lombardi

Section 504 plan of the Rehabilitation Act was created for students with handicaps such as ADHD and offers extended time for test taking. Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a program developed to ensure that a child who has a more severe disability receives services.

Students requiring 504 plans do not necessarily need specialized instruction. It depends on the disabilities these students have in addition to ADHD. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) controls the procedural requirements for those requiring individualized instruction, and an IEP is developed. The IDEA process is more involved than that of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. It requires documentation of measurable growth with respect to the plan’s goals and objectives.

Goals clearly identify what knowledge, skills and/or behaviors a student is expected to be able to demonstrate within the year. The goals must meet the student’s needs, and compared to the present levels of performance.

As the saying goes, “a problem well stated is a problem half solved.” Understanding and implementing the student level of performance is one of the most important components in developing an effective individual educational plan. The present levels of performance is based upon the school district’s evaluation, as well as information provided by the parents, including all evaluations conducted by independent professionals.

The present levels of performance must be communicated in a fashion that allows new teachers to understand your child’s learning style. This information includes how the student’s disability impacts his or her ability to learn in the general curriculum, and serves as the foundation on which the rest of the IEP is developed.

An important section of the evaluation includes present levels of performance input from the student’s parents. Parents provide the school a written statement of their concerns about their child’s learning issues at the PPT meeting.

• Use clear, understandable language. No jargon. Avoid vague terms.

• Identify supports and accommodations that have been used successfully in the past.

• Be specific and use data. Without data, the present levels of performance are only your opinion!

The next step is writing meaningful goals and objectives. A commonly used strategy for writing meaningful goals and objectives is called SMART.

Specific — Be very specific about the appropriate action. For instance: raise his/her hand for attention, use a classroom voice, complete homework, or keep hands to him/herself.

Measurable — Be clear in the objective about what will be changed and by how much. Know and understand the evaluation procedures that are written at the bottom of each goal and objective page on the IEP.

Achievable — Be realistic about what the program can achieve in terms of the scale/scope of the goals, as well as the time and resources available.

Realistic and Relevant — Objectives need to relate to and be relevant to the goals. Remember objectives are the building blocks/steps toward meeting the goals.

Time Specific — Be clear in the objectives about the time frame for the program goals.

The next component will be accommodations and modifications. Generally, most accommodations can be grouped into five categories:

• Timing — giving a student extended time to complete a task or a test item.

• Flexible scheduling — allowing a student two days instead of one day to complete a project.

• Accommodated presentation of the material — material is presented to the student that incorporates assistive technology.

• Setting — including accommodations such as completing the task or test in a quiet room or in a small group with other students.

• Response accommodation — student might need to respond either orally or through assistive technology.

A well-constructed IEP should allow your child to make appropriate annual progress and master each of his/her goals and objectives.