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Who Is on an IEP Team?

Who Is On An IEP Team

Preparing for your first IEP meeting? Before you get too far into planning, make sure you know who is on an IEP team.

By law, there are mandatory members of an IEP team. This ensures that the IEP is created collaboratively and not based solely on one person’s evaluation of the child.

Let’s take a look at each required IEP team member, as well as others that may be invited to the meeting.

Members of an IEP Team

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) Section 300.321, the IEP team must be comprised of individuals who can provide an overall picture of the child’s disability, competency, and growth. Those team members include:


1 – The Parents or Legal Guardians of the Child

Including parents or guardians in the IEP process is not optional. The law very clearly lists parents as part of the team. In fact, the law goes so far as to give parents the ability to excuse other members of the IEP team along with the school district.


2 – At Least One General Education Teacher

While IDEA permits more than one general education teacher to attend the IEP meeting, it is mandatory that there is at least one in attendance. Although some gen ed teachers may be reluctant to attend, the law requires that one be present.


3 – At Least One Special Education Teacher

The special education teacher on the IEP team should be familiar with the child’s progress. There may be more than one special ed teacher invited, but, as with general ed teachers, there must be at least one in attendance.


4 – A School District Representative

This person is typically your supervisor or the director of special education for the district. The representative should, by law, be able to provide and/or oversee special education services, be knowledgeable about the general education curriculum, and be aware of the services that the district can or does provide.


5 – Someone Who Can Interpret the Results of the Child’s Evaluation

IDEA requires that there be an expert present who can interpret “the instructional implications of evaluation results.” This person may be the special education teacher or representative that is already in attendance. However, in some instances, it may be the school psychologist.


6 – The Child Being Discussed

The law very clearly indicates that the child about whom the IEP is being written should be in attendance whenever possible and appropriate.


Other Individuals Who May Be Present at an IEP Meeting

The law provides parents and guardians with the right to invite or request additional people to the meeting. Those people are:

An Advocate

Parents may wish to invite an advocate to the meeting with them. This may be done for a multitude of reasons and should not be considered an act of aggression on the parents’ part. Sometimes families just need the support of someone who is not associated with the school to help them clearly communicate their child’s needs. While advocates are all different, they too have the same goal in mind – helping the child about whom the IEP is written.


A Translator

If English is not the family’s first language, they may request that the school provide a translator for the IEP meeting. Typically, this is done ahead of time in writing. If you know that your student’s family may require a translator, it is a good idea to touch base with them a few weeks in advance of the meeting to confirm their request as it is up to the school to arrange for such support.

Understanding who makes up the IEP team and who should be in attendance at an IEP meeting can help you organize and plan ahead.

If you’re struggling to keep all of your IEP meeting data and forms together, learn how the IEP Toolkit can help make it easier. It not only has everything you need to write comprehensive IEPs, but it also comes with access to the IEP Meeting Toolkit that includes everything you need to plan and implement a productive meeting. That means you save time and energy! Learn more about the IEP Toolkit here!


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Who Is on an IEP Team?2021-04-08T12:38:47-04:00

Writing an IEP for a Student with Excessive Absences

Writing an IEP for Students with Excessive Absences

Writing IEPs is challenging enough, but when a student has excessive absences and has not been there, it is even more difficult.

Writing an IEP for a student with excessive absences requires determination, honesty, and documentation.

IEPs for Students with Excessive Absences

Before beginning to write the IEP, take a look at why the student has been absent. There may be health issues or other things to consider. However, in many cases, there is no indication as to why the student has not been attending school and the parents provide little insight. It is in those instances when documentation is especially key.


Has There Been Progress?

One of the hardest parts about writing an IEP for a child with excessive absences is that it is difficult to determine how much, if any, progress has been made. The inconsistent attendance makes it difficult to track progression and get an accurate read on a child’s present levels. Collect as much data as you can based on the days when the student was in attendance.


New Year, Same IEP Goals

Since you may only have a small amount of data from the days the student was in attendance, it may be necessary to repeat a goal. If this is the case, be sure to cite the number of absences and inconsistency in attendance to justify keeping the same IEP goal. Getting an absence report from the attendance secretary and including it in the IEP documentation is an important part in justifying the repetition.

If there is an open line of communication with the child’s parents, explain this ahead of time so as not to surprise them during an IEP meeting. While most families will be aware of their students’ absences, there may be some that are not. This may be a difficult conversation so consider bringing in your supervisor or head of special education.


Consider Writing an Attendance Goal

In some instances, it might be appropriate to write an attendance goal for a student. This should be based on your school district’s policies and in collaboration with your supervisor, the school principal, or district representative. With the documentation of absences and how it has impacted the student’s ability to progress and learn, it could be a justified IEP goal.


Review After 30 Days of Attendance

There is nothing wrong with including language in the IEP about revisiting the goals after a student has been in attendance for 30 consecutive days. Within that time a baseline can be established and a student’s progress can be monitored. The documentation may prove that the student has made progress and needs a more robust IEP goal than he currently has, or it may show that he needs more remediation in that area. Either way, reviewing the IEP after a set number of in-attendance days shows that the entire IEP team is committed to helping the student progress and meet him where he is academically.


Excessive absences can cause havoc with a student’s ability to make progress with his IEP goals. Documenting absences, describing how the attendance issues have impacted the ability to get complete data on his current academic levels, and putting in place ways to help him succeed when he is at school are important.

In challenging cases such as this, do not hesitate to seek advice from supervisors and make them aware of the situation long before the IEP meeting.


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Writing an IEP for a Student with Excessive Absences2021-03-30T11:43:11-04:00

IEP Writing Suggestions for First Year Teachers

IEP Writing Tips for First Year Teachers

It is never easy being a first-year teacher. There is so much to learn, so much to experience, and so much to do. For first-year special ed teachers, one of the most daunting tasks is writing those first IEPs.

While colleges do their best to prepare future teachers to write them, there is nothing like being in the school and having to write an IEP alone. Thankfully, there are resources and tips to make it easier.

Tips for IEP Writing for First Year Teachers

1 – Ask for Help

Everyone was a first-year teacher at one point and they know the challenges associated with writing those first IEPs. Do not be afraid to reach out to colleagues and supervisors for support if you need guidance. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but of strength and being self-aware.

Samples of IEPs that your co-workers have written can also be a good resource as it gives you a clear picture of what your district expects.


2 – Use Your School or District’s Forms

Many schools and districts have their own IEP templates and form that teachers are required to use. Be sure to get a copy of them before attempting to re-create the wheel only to find out you need to redo everything on the district’s forms.


3 – Use a Checklist for the Entire Process

From collecting data to observations to setting up the IEP meeting, use a checklist to track what needs to be done and when. Not only does it make it easier to write the IEP because you will have the information you need, but it also helps you stay organized.

Not sure where to start? The IEP Toolkit has everything you need – including an IEP Writing Timeline, present level templates, lists of accommodations and modifications, and more! It also includes guides and forms for holding a successful IEP meeting. It’s a special ed teacher must-have!


4 – Understand Current Goals and Present Levels

Before you can write a new IEP, you need to have a firm understanding of the previous IEP and the student’s progress. Review the current goals and assess the student’s present levels to see where he is ready to make progress. Use the current IEP as the backbone for the new one that you are writing.


5 – Communicate with Parents

While it is important to contact parents about the IEP meeting, it is even more important to communicate with them ahead of time about their child’s progress. Ask them what their concerns are and what they have observed. Do not be afraid to call or meet with them face-to-face to talk about their child’s strengths and weaknesses.

Making parents feel like they are part of the IEP team and that you are all working together for the good of the child goes a long way toward establishing great relationships with your students’ families.

For more on how to help parents advocate at an IEP meeting, read on here.


Above all else, remember that the document you are writing is about a child. It is easy to get lost in the data and the jargon of special education and forget that at the heart of the IEP is a student who needs your help and guidance. Writing an IEP is never an easy task, but when done well, it can change a child’s future forever.


If you struggle with writing IEP goals and objectives, The Intentional IEP is here to help you. The Vault is a growing IEP goal bank with over 12,000+ prewritten IEP goals, each written by a certified special education teacher on the TII Team. The IEP goals span 40 domains across all grade levels and subjects.

Want to take a look inside? Let me show you.


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IEP Writing Suggestions for First Year Teachers2021-04-08T11:38:52-04:00

Writing an IEP for a Student with an Emotional Disturbance

Writing an IEP for Students with Emotional Disturbances

Writing any IEP can be challenging, but writing an IEP for a student with an emotional disturbance can be even trickier.

Whether you are new to writing IEPs or even an IEP writing veteran, the following teacher-tested tips and tricks can make it easier to write an appropriate and effective IEP for students with emotional disturbances.

IEPs for Students with Emotional Disturbances

As with all IEPs, making sure that you have appropriate goals and benchmarks is important for students with emotional disturbances. However, in order to write the best IEP, it is important to delve deeper and look at things that might not make it into an IEP for a student without emotional goals.

Here are some ways to make sure that you are writing the best IEP possible.


Focus on the Cause of the Behavior

It can be very easy to focus on the behavior itself, but it is important to look at and focus on the cause of the behavior in the first place. Not only does this make it easier to define the goals, but it also makes it easier to focus on observable behaviors that indicate progress.


Define Terms

When writing the IEP, be sure to define and explain the terms you use. If you indicate that the student had a “meltdown” define exactly what that behavior looks like. Other common words that may need explanations include tantrums, shut down, defiant, etc. Not only does this help the teacher who is reading and implementing the IEP, but it also helps the student’s family understand exactly what the IEP is describing.


Consider Any Sensory Needs

Many times, although not all, students with emotional disturbances also have sensory-related issues. Take those into consideration and try to find a way to account for them in the IEP.


Involve Other Staff Members

Look beyond just the special and general education teachers for providing support for the student. The school counselor and others may be able to provide weekly counseling sessions and support.


Include an Excerpt About Field Trips

While it would be wonderful if every child was able to participate in field trips every time, for those students with emotional disturbances, it may be appropriate to have information in the IEP that relates to a day-of behavior evaluation. This ensures that the student’s behavior is safe and appropriate for the trip that day.


Build a Relationship with the Student

Above all else, take the time to build a relationship with the student. Recognizing that beyond the behavior, the student is a child. Spend time talking with him or her and really getting to know the child. Sometimes the students who are struggling the most need the connection even more – in spite of their behavior.

Think of the relationship as a marathon and not a sprint. It will take time to develop, but once you build that relationship, it will be easier to write an IEP that is reflective of the child’s true needs.

If you are struggling to write an IEP for a student with emotional disturbances, do not hesitate to reach out to your supervisor or other special education teachers in your district. They can be challenging to write, but you do not have to do it alone.


Did you know?!  The Intentional IEP membership it comes with over 12,000+ SMART IEP goals, so there’s never a doubt that the goals you include are going to be effective and appropriate for your students. Take it for a test spin with our trial member here.


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Writing an IEP for a Student with an Emotional Disturbance2021-04-08T11:39:36-04:00

The Difference Between IEP Goals and IEP Objectives

The Difference Between IEP Goals and IEP Objectives


There is a lot of terminology that Special Ed teachers must become accustomed to in order to effectively write an IEP. Understanding the difference between terms can be confusing for even the most experienced educators.

Knowing the difference between IEP goals and IEP objectives is one area that commonly trips teachers up as they sit down to write IEPs.

If you are struggling with remembering the difference, or need to explain the difference to parents, check out the advice below.

Is It an IEP Goal or IEP Objective?

Here are some ways to remember the difference between IEP goals and IEP objectives.


IEP Goals

IEP goals are the overall target by a set time. It is where the student should be or aim to be, by the next IEP meeting. They are the backbone of the IEP and provide educators and students with an end outcome in mind.

Goals are driven by what the student needs and are SMART in nature. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. They explain exactly what the outcome should be based on the student’s needs, how it will be measured and achieved, and when it will be accomplished.

An example of an IEP goal from The Vault is:

With minimal physical prompting, student will trace and then print 26 lowercase letters of the alphabet with 75% accuracy in 3 of 4 trials.

The goal is specific (trace and print 26 lowercase letters), measurable (75% accuracy), attainable (3 of 4 trials), relevant to the student’s needs, and can be bound by the term of the IEP.


IEP Objectives

If IEP goals are the overarching framework, IEP objectives are the baby steps to get there. They support the goals by providing clear parts or steps to reach that end result.

While objectives are not always required, they can vary state by state, they are especially useful for complex goals. Objectives break down the steps of those complex or large goals so that students can make clear progress in an organized and appropriate fashion.

Objectives should not match your main goal, as they are not the same. Instead, they should provide students with the supports they need in order to reach mastery. The main goal of the IEP is usually written to include little or no supports so that the student demonstrates the skill independently.

When writing IEP objectives, keep in mind that they usually build upon each other. For instance, the first objective will not be the student writing the first three letters of the alphabet if he or she cannot currently hold a pencil. Instead, an objective related to pencil grip would be a more appropriate place to start.

Writing IEP goals and objectives can be confusing and time-consuming. It is common for teachers to second-guess themselves while writing IEPs which, in turn, takes even more time.

If you struggle with writing IEP goals and objectives, The Intentional IEP is here to help you. The Vault is a growing IEP goal bank with over 12,000+ prewritten IEP goals, each written by a certified special education teacher on the TII Team. The IEP goals span 40 domains across all grade levels and subjects.

Want to take a look inside? Let me show you.



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The Difference Between IEP Goals and IEP Objectives2021-03-10T09:12:38-05:00

7 Go To Tips for Your First IEP Meeting

7 Go To Tips for First Time IEP Meetings

IEP meetings are intimidating, most times for all parties involved!

While many veteran teachers still feel butterflies when they enter the conference room, first year teachers experience the nerves of IEP meetings ten-fold.

To help alleviate some of those nerves, we asked experienced special ed teachers to share their best tips and tricks for IEP meetings. Their advice is teacher-tested and spot-on!

First IEP Meeting Tips and Tricks

1 – Have an Agenda

An agenda not only keeps you organized as you lead the meeting, but it also helps the meeting flow. If you are worried about time constraints, try putting times next to each section, so that everyone knows when it’s time to move on.


2 – Have a Checklist of What to Bring to the Meeting

Create or use a checklist of what to bring to the IEP meeting so that you do not forget anything. The last thing you want to have happen is forgetting something important and not realizing it until mid-way through the meeting!


3 – Lead with Positives

IEP meetings are hard for many families for a variety of reasons. They know that their child needs help, but when a meeting starts off pointing out all of the things that are wrong, it can leave them feeling defensive and angry. Instead, break the ice and build rapport by leading with positives. Talk about what the student does well. Give examples of how he or she has helped in class, been a role model, been kind to others, tried hard on assignments, etc. Win families over by showing that you notice more about their child than what needs improvement.


4 – Give Parents All of the Information Ahead of Time

Prevent surprises at the meeting as much as possible by giving parents advance copies of the IEP draft, a sheet defining special ed/IEP terminology, and any other important information that they need to know. Whether they review it ahead of time is up to them, but it can save a lot of frustration by allowing them to review the documents ahead of time.


5 – Realize Parents Come to the Table with Many Emotions

Parents of children with special needs often come to the IEP table with a myriad of emotions. They have concern over their child’s progress, they may be embarrassed, there may be guilt, and they may even struggle with decisions about their child’s care if the child can not be independent. Make the IEP meeting easier for them. Compassion, empathy, and kindness go a long way in the IEP meeting and beyond.


6 – Explain the Lingo

While you may have a firm grasp of special ed lingo, most families do not. Spend time explaining what each acronym and term means – especially if it is the family’s first IEP meeting as well.


7 – Save Time for Questions

Make sure you build time into the IEP meeting for families to ask questions about things they may not understand or things they may be concerned about.


Bonus Tip – Stop Trying to Reinvent the Wheel

As a special education teacher, you have enough on your plate without trying to create the things you’ll need for your IEP meetings. Don’t reinvent the wheel! The IEP Toolkit not only has everything you need to write comprehensive IEPs, but it also comes with access to the IEP Meeting Toolkit that includes everything you need to plan and implement a productive meeting. That means you save time and energy! Learn more about the IEP Toolkit here!



Remember that everyone enters an IEP meeting with some degree of nervousness. Be professional, be compassionate, and be proactive. Not only will you find that the IEP will run more smoothly, but the rapport that you build with families may last throughout the school year.


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7 Go To Tips for Your First IEP Meeting2021-03-09T12:00:37-05:00

Collecting Data to Show a Need for Extended School Year (ESY)

Collecting Data to Show a Need for Extended School Year (ESY)

Do you have students who would benefit from participating in Extended School Year (ESY) services?

Learn what type of data to collect to ensure that your students get the support that they need!

What is ESY?

Unlike summer school, Extended School Year or ESY is summer instruction that is designed to meet children’s individual needs.

For students who have speech therapy services that may mean seeing the speech therapist over the course of the summer months.

For students with dyslexia, ESY might entail a continuation of their reading remediation services.

Not all students with IEPs qualify for ESY services, so it’s important that if you think your student would benefit from it, appropriate data is collected to support the services.


Data to Document and Collect for ESY

Memory Retention Issues

If your student has trouble remembering concepts or information over a short period of time, document that. While remembering over the weekend may be a struggle for them, without ESY services they may struggle immensely when they return over a break that is months long.

A good place to start can be examining how well they do after winter break and how much they retained. While this is not extra data that you’re collecting, it can be useful in proving that the student will benefit from ESY services.

Behavior Struggles

For students with behavioral needs that may impede learning, ESY can make a big difference. Oftentimes, by the time the behavior is under control in the classroom, a significant amount of time has already passed. ESY helps close that gap for some students; for some ESY lets students catch up and for others it provides instruction to maintain their skill levels. It can also provide continuity and make the transition back to school easier and more successful.

You can demonstrate a need for services by documenting behavior changes after holiday breaks, long weekends, and extended absences. Any change in behavior that is a regression to a previously modified behavior should be noted.

Lost Ground on Any IEP Goals

Any change in academic progress toward an IEP goal after a break should be documented. This applies to all areas of an IEP, not just behavior or memory retention issues.

If a child returns from winter break and is unable to perform at the same level that he or she was before the break, document the regression. This demonstrates that after an absence of direct instruction, the child struggles and that continued instruction is vital to their success.

Before any extended breaks, collect data on how the student is performing and when you return after break, collect more data to see if regression occurred. The data will show how significant the child’s regression may or may not be.

It is also important to document the amount of time it takes for the student to catch back up to where they were before they left for the break.

Is It Additional Work to Collect Data for ESY Services?

Contrary to what many new special education teachers believe, collecting data for ESY services is not additional documentation. Instead, it is looking at the documentation that would have regularly been done on a student’s progress/regression after an extended break.

Most ESY programs specifically look for a lack of retention as the main qualified for ESY goals. However, if a student is making significant progress toward a goal, ESY services may be recommended to continue that progress. While that does not require additional work or documentation, it does require the teacher to be aware of each student’s level of progress throughout the school year.



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Collecting Data to Show a Need for Extended School Year (ESY)2021-03-17T12:14:31-04:00

Legally – All IEPs Need to Have These Parts

The Legal Parts of an IEP


So you have to write your first IEP. Do you know what an IEP should legally include?

Learn about the legal IEP parts below and make sure your students’ IEPs have all of the necessary components!

What is an IEP?

An IEP or Individualized Education Program is required by law for students who qualify for special education services. The written IEP is a legally binding document that is held to high standards through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Each IEP written must conform to the standards set forth by IDEA and contain a specific set of parts to be legally compliant.


Legally Required Parts of an IEP

According to the IDEA, an IEP must contain:

1 – The Student’s Current Educational Status

A record of the student’s current levels of academic and functional performance must be included as one of the first components in the IEP. It should address how the student’s disability is hindering his progress and growth in the general education curriculum. When including this in an IEP, it should be placed in the Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (acronyms are PLOP, PLEP, PLAAFP, and probably others) section.


2 – Measurable Annual Goals

According to the IDEA, the goals included in an IEP must:

  • “(aa) 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
  • (bb) meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability;”

However, as many teachers know, crafting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) can be challenging. Doing that for every academic and functional need can also be exceptionally time-consuming.

Did you know?!  The Intentional IEP membership comes with over 12,000+ SMART IEP goals, so there’s never a doubt that the goals you include are going to be effective and appropriate for your students. Take it for a test spin with our trial member here.


3- A Description of How the Child’s Progress on Annual Goals Will Be Measured

This section of the IEP should include the specifics of how and how often progress will be monitored on a student’s progress toward the goals outlined in the document. It should include how, how often/when, and how that progress will be reported to the parent/guardian. Typically, this reporting is sent to parents each quarter or semester.


4 – A Statement of the Special Education and Related Services and Supplementary Aids and Services

Related services, accommodations, modifications, and service times are typically included in this section of the IEP. According to the IDEA, these related services and aids should be based on research and move the child toward meeting their annual goals. The services and accommodations should also help the student participate with other children with and without disabilities.


5 – An Explanation of the Extent to Which the Child Will Not Participate with Non-disabled Children in the Regular Class or Activities

In other words, this part of the IEP explains how much time the student will receive services throughout the course of the time period and how much time will be spent in a general education classroom setting.


6 – The Start Date of Services

As IEPs are very time-sensitive, this section of the document states the date upon which services will begin and the IEP will go into effect. According to the IDEA law, it should also detail “the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services and modifications.”


7 – Transition Services

This section of the IEP goes into effect when the child turns 16 (and in some states it might be earlier than age 16). It should include postsecondary goals and transition services that may be needed to help the student reach those goals.


8 – The Instructional Setting or Placement

The recommended learning placement for the child should be included in the IEP at this point. It may include the general education classroom, the special education classroom, a combination of both, or another appropriate learning environment.


Additional Legal IEP Considerations

In addition to the components above, all IEPs must also consider:

  1. Instruction in Braille for blind and visually impaired students (unless deemed not appropriate). – 20 U.S.C.§1414 (d)(3)(B)(iii)
  2. Strategies to address the needs of children with behavioral difficulties. – 20 U.S.C.§1414(d)(3)(B)(i)
  3. Specific language needs of ESL/ELL children. –  20 U.S.C.§1414 (d)(3)(B)(ii)
  4. The communication needs of deaf and hard of hearing children. – 20 U.S.C.§1414(d)(3)(B)(iv)


It can be challenging to keep all of the legally required parts of the IEP in order when creating IEPs. That is why so many veteran special education teachers use templates to create the documents they need. Not only do templates make it faster to write an IEP, but they also ensure that none of the important and legal parts are overlooked. The IEP Toolkit has all of the templates you need to create the most effective IEPs for your students!


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Legally – All IEPs Need to Have These Parts2021-03-17T12:13:34-04:00

The Beginning Steps of the Special Ed Process

Starting the Special Ed Process

Understanding the beginning steps of the special ed process can make the events flow much more smoothly. When the process is smooth and effective, it is easier to get the student the services he or she needs.

Not sure about how the special education process begins? Let’s break it down.

The Start of the Special Education Process

1. Initiating the Process

There are two parties that can initiate the special ed process: parents/guardians and the school.

Parents can initiate the special education process by formally requesting an evaluation of their student. A written request is always better than a phone call, as it creates a record of a paper trail and doesn’t get forgotten as easily as a phone call. It is also recommended to call the school or district and speak with the special ed admin/director to ask about the eligibility process in the district. This may vary from school to school and district to district, so it is important to do some research on the school district’s website.

The school can also initiate the special ed process, but must notify the parent/guardian of its intent. If the school initiates the process, someone from the school will contact the parent/guardian and indicate the areas of concern, and more than likely schedule a meeting to discuss the concerns. The school can then recommend an evaluation, which is the first major step toward special education eligibility. The evaluation then leads into an IEP if the child is deemed eligible for special education services.


2. Understanding the Timeline

There are very clearcut timelines for the special education process and understanding the school’s responsibilities during that time is important. The timeline for evaluation for special ed services is variable, meaning it is dependent upon the state and school district.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) sets a timeframe of 60 days for the initial evaluation. However, each state may choose to set its own timeframe.


3. The Special Ed Evaluation

During an evaluation for special education services, the student will more than likely be tested over multiple days. This thorough evaluation is also known as a comprehensive educational evaluation to some. It must legally take place within the state’s designated timeframe.

Each evaluator must be trained and have credentials in the area they are testing.

The assessment of the child must include: a review of the results of the evaluation, personal observations of the child, and identification of the child’s needs in each of the development areas. 34 C.F.R. § 303.321(c)(1).


4. Eligibility Meeting

After the special education evaluation has been completed, an initial IEP meeting will be held to discuss the evaluation. During the meeting, the IEP team will determine eligibility for special education services. This meeting is known as the eligibility meeting.


5. Formal IEP

If the student is found eligible for special education services, the IEP Team will develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for the child. It will include the student’s current levels, as well as goals and services to address areas of need. This is a legal, binding document and parents/guardians must sign it along with school officials.

While beginning the special ed process may seem intimidating, its systematic approach to providing students with the services they need is both reassuring and helpful.

In order to get the most out of the special education process, make sure that parents and school officials alike understand the road to an IEP.



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The Beginning Steps of the Special Ed Process2021-03-17T12:12:35-04:00

A Great IEP Writer Does These 5 Things

5 Habits of Great IEP Writers

Just like all teaching-related skills, learning how to write an outstanding IEP comes with a lot of practice. No one is fabulous at it their first time out.

However, there are similarities between the things teachers do to create effective IEPs. In fact, a great IEP writer does these five things below to craft a well-thought-out document.

Great IEP writers are not born, they are made through practice, persistence, and patience. They take the time to hone their craft and have a strong drive to master writing IEPs. It is not easy and it is not a quick process, but they do the five things below consistently to make sure they are drafting the best IEP for each child.

If you are struggling with IEP writing or simply looking for ways to improve your skills, take a look at the ideas below and see how you might incorporate them into your own process.

Things Great IEP Writers Do

1 – Get to Know the Child

Great IEP writers understand that an excellent IEP cannot be done on a child they do not know. Without getting to know the student, an IEP is based on data and scores. While those things are important, it is also imperative to understand the person behind those data points.

Get to know the student by talking with them. Have a conversation. Discuss likes, dislikes, home life, and their feelings about school. When the student is truly “seen” the IEP helps to reflect who they are and where they need to go throughout the school year. It also becomes much easier to write about helping a child versus helping an unknown person behind some test scores.

2 – Include Qualitative Data

All IEPs need quantitative data to get an accurate look at how a student performs in the classroom and on tests. However, all IEPs also need qualitative data. That is the data about how hard the student tries in class, how he approaches assignments, and the things he does to help cope.

  • Does he consistently give up when he gets an assignment that’s challenging or does he approach it with a can-do attitude?
  • Does he build himself a file folder enclosure on his desk to help block out distractions?
  • Does he get frustrated easily or is he persistent?
  • Is there a fixed mindset or a growth mindset being displayed?

All of those qualitative touchpoints should be included in an IEP as they help give an overall picture of a student’s mindset and abilities. Without qualitative data, an IEP is simply just numbers and goals.

3 – Ask What the Child Needs

In the rush to complete batches of IEPs, it is easy to forget that one of the most important aspects of writing an IEP is to address the student’s actual needs. Great IEP writers start by asking, “What does this student actually need?”

If there’s no understanding of the needs, the goals that are written will not address the child’s needs not will they help move him forward and keep him progressing. A student’s needs have to be the driving force behind what goals are assigned and great IEP writers know that.

4 – Create SMART Goals

SMART goals are goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

All IEPs should include goals that specifically meet the needs of the student. They should be measurable and easy to assess. The goals should be achievable for a student, not so far-fetched or aggressive that it sets the child up for failure. Relevant goals focus on what the child needs right now – not in the next grade or five years down the line. And each goal should have a specific time-frame for completion so that the student can work toward accomplishing it by a deadline.

Did you know?!  The Intentional IEP membership it comes with over 12,000+ SMART IEP goals, so there’s never a doubt that the goals you include are going to be effective and appropriate for your students. Take it for a test spin with our trial member here.

5 – Use Templates

Great IEP writers know that focusing on the content of the document is the most important part of an IEP. That’s why they use templates. Not only do templates save time, but they’re an easy way to make sure that everything that needs to be included in the IEP is included.

  • The IEP Toolkit is a great resource for teachers and service providers who write IEPs, as it includes the templates needed, like the Present Levels template, as well as 340 accommodations and modifications and lots of other moving parts. The IEP Toolkit really takes the guesswork out of what to put in each IEP. See all of what’s included in the IEP Toolkit here.

Creating the perfect IEP is not easy, but great IEP writers know that when they get to know their students, include qualitative data, have a firm understanding of what each child needs, and put goals in a SMART format, their students’ needs will be met through the IEP document.

Each child is worth the time it takes to craft an exceptional IEP based on what they need and can achieve.


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A Great IEP Writer Does These 5 Things2021-03-17T12:11:19-04:00

First IEP Meeting Tips for Special Ed Teachers

No matter how many IEPs you have sat through, there is always a sense of nervousness when facilitating your first IEP meeting. These teacher-tested first IEP meeting tips for special ed teachers can help make it easier and calm some of those first-meeting jitters!

Even veteran teachers get nervous before IEP meetings, so for the first time special ed teacher, it can be even more nerve-wracking!

And a million and one things running through your mind:
• Will everything get covered?
• Will parents understand what’s being proposed?
• Will the meeting run smoothly and be productive?
• Is the IEP Team doing what is in the best interest of the child?
• Did I take enough baseline data?

With so many variables in play, it is anyone’s guess as to how the meeting will go.

We asked special ed teachers to share some of their best tips for running IEP meetings, and they were filled with great ideas. If you’re getting ready to hold your first meeting or need to revamp how you do your IEP meetings, take a look at the tips below to help them run with as few hiccups as possible!

Have a Copy of Your Agenda

Print out your agenda before the meeting and stick to it. Take the time to review it before the meeting to prepare and then follow it as it’s written. It will help keep everything on track!

Lead with Positives

As one wise teacher pointed out, the IEP is data and goals, but its heart is someone’s child. Lead with positives and strengths so that parents understand that your focus is on more than what needs to be improved. When they know that you care about their child, they are much more receptive to suggestions and ideas for goals and services.

Break Down the Language Barrier

It is so easy to get caught up in teacher-speak that you can quickly isolate and confuse families. Instead of using technical terms and teaching jargon, break down the language of the IEP into words they can understand. Explain terms that may seem second nature to you but are not in a parent’s everyday vocabulary. For parents to feel comfortable with what you are proposing, they need to understand exactly what that is. One veteran special ed teacher suggested approaching the meeting as a conversation instead of a formal meeting. It’s sitting down with people who care about the same child you care about and figuring out how to help him best.

Highlight a Copy of the IEP

Many special ed teachers who are new to holding IEP meetings worry about forgetting to touch on everything that needs to be addressed. One way to help prevent overlooking something is to print out a copy of the IEP and highlight the areas that need to be discussed. On that copy, jot down notes or reminders to yourself about things you don’t want to forget mentioning. It provides great peace of mind to have the reminders and makes the meeting run smoothly.

Send Parents a Draft Ahead of Time

If possible, send home a draft of the IEP prior to the meeting. This gives parents a chance to look it over and make their notes about questions or concerns they might have. It also gives them an opportunity to connect with you before the meeting if you want them to do that.

Have Samples of Work on Hand

Try to gather samples of the student’s work to have available for the IEP meeting. This helps demonstrate current levels so that parents understand what you’re referring to in the IEP.

While most special ed teachers are nervous before their IEP meetings, a little prep work and a positive attitude can make a world of difference. At the end of the day, you are helping to decide the best way to make a difference for a child, and that is a powerful responsibility. Take a deep breath. You can do this!


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First IEP Meeting Tips for Special Ed Teachers2021-02-16T15:55:18-05:00

Data Collection Shortcuts That Save Teachers Time

Teachers are always crunched for time, that’s no secret.

And we have a lot of paperwork, that’s another not so secret secret.

So any little tips or tricks we can pick up along the way to help us save a few minutes are like gold in our book.

Today The Intentional IEP  is going to introduce you to a few data collection shortcuts. You’ll no longer need to write out “hand over hand” when conducting data collection trials.

General use data shortcuts:

I- independent

SC – self corrected

VP – verbal prompt

IV – indirect verbal

DV – direct verbal

G – gestural prompt

M – model needed

PV – picture visual

VC – visual cue

IP – indirect prompt

PP – partial physical prompt

FP – full physical prompt / HOH – hand over hand prompt

RR – reduced responses (can follow with a number to share how many responses the student had to choose from)

OA – oral administration

NR – no response

TP – teacher prompt

WA – with assistance

AP – accommodations provided

MDP / MP – modifications provided

ASL / SL – sign language used

+ successful trial

– unsuccessful trial

SM / circled M – skill mastery

TM – target met

TNM – target not met  


When it comes to behavior data shortcuts, try these:

S – sleeping

NF – not focused on task

PA – physically aggressive

VA – verbally aggressive

RP – restrictive procedure

PD – property damage

SIB – self injurious behavior

L – loud vocals / inappropriate vocals

IB – inappropriate behavior

You can grab a FREE printable version of these data shortcuts by clicking on the image above.

Add this PDF printable to your teacher binder, para binders, sub binders, or each center/station in your classroom for adult reference.


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Data Collection Shortcuts That Save Teachers Time2021-01-18T16:24:15-05:00

Determining How Many Trials Per IEP Goal or Objective

Each IEP you write is individualized, that’s the purpose of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for our students with special needs.

When you are writing IEP goals, you shouldn’t be using one standard measurement for skill mastery. The IEP goal trials also don’t have to be one specific amount of problems or questions per progress monitoring session.

Let me explain. For example, let’s pretend this is your student’s IEP goal:

Given 20 flash cards of Dolch Primer sight words, the student will be able to identify and fluently read each sight word with 75% accuracy in 3 of 5 trials.

The active scenario – we are back in the classroom waiting to begin Guided Reading, but students are still coming back from specials. This transition time is a great quick minute or two to assess a student on the given IEP goal above.

I grab a sticky note to keep data (learn how to collect sticky data in this training) or I write on the back of the flash card, how many words the student got correct… but we did not have time to have the full IEP goal trials of 20 flash cards. We only got through 13.

No big.

Out of the 13 sight words, the student was able to identify and fluently read 11 sight words. That’s 11/13.

I turn the 11/13 into a fraction, which I then can turn into a percent.

Once I have the percentage… which would be 85% for these IEP goal trials, then I will look to see if that meets the mastery criteria of the goal. In the example, the mastery criteria is 75%, so with 11/13 the student would have met the mastery criteria for that set of trials.

On the student’s Progress Monitoring Data Ring, I would also write on the back of that specific IEP goal sheet that this specific trial included 13 flash cards. This is important information that can skew overall data because of how the IEP goal is written (20 flash cards). This information would then be mentioned when it comes time to write progress reports for the marking period or semester.


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Determining How Many Trials Per IEP Goal or Objective2020-12-28T12:05:32-05:00

What to Do When You’re Burned Out on Writing IEPs

There comes a time in every special educator’s life when writing IEPs leads to feelings of being burned out. And trust me, IEP writing burnout is real.

The constant pressure to make sure your students’ needs are addressed in detail with the appropriate accommodations and interventions can weigh on even the most experienced of teachers.

So, what do you do when you are burned out on the paperwork?

The suggestions from seasoned special education teachers we asked ranged from practical to light-hearted, but all of them acknowledge the fact that teacher burn out is real.

IEP Burn Out? Here’s How to Make It Better

1. Start Early

Instead of waiting until the week before (or day of!) when the IEP is due, start early. Take a look at all of your IEPs for the year and create a schedule where you begin work on the reports a month in advance.

The more time you give yourself, the easier it is to manage your caseload and give each IEP the attention that it deserves.

2. Advocate for an IEP Season

Instead of worrying about IEPs all year long, suggest creating an IEP Season where all IEPs are written and meetings held within a two-month time period.

While those eight to 10 weeks will be intense, it means that you do not have to deal with that aspect of your job for the remainder of the school year.

3. Ask Gen Ed Teachers for Contributions

Sometimes having a narrative paragraph from a general education teacher about the student’s performance and behavior in the classroom can make your job a lot easier. Instead of trying to remember present level information for all of your students, you will have a supporting document that provides that glimpse into students’ progress. It makes writing the IEP easier and more accurate.

You can find a general ed survey (and a parent survey) in the IEP Toolkit.

4. Work Stays at Work

While it may be tempting to bring the IEPs home to work on, if you are feeling burned out and stressed, leave them at home.

If you need to stay an hour or so after school to get your work done, or come in an hour early, that is better than bringing it home. You need the separation between work and home life and not bringing paperwork home is the first step.

Teacher self care is very important, and this is also a great way to avoid teacher burnout.

5. Take Care of Yourself

Take the time to do something that energizes you like a walk, run, or yoga practice. If reading in your backyard hammock rejuvenates you, go for it.

And rest assured that sometimes a little chocolate and a glass of wine can be the perfect end to a perfectly stressful day. Taking care of yourself means that you are better able to take care of your family and your students.

As the saying goes, put your mask on first.

If you are facing IEP burn out know that you are not alone. You are not the only one who has felt it and are surely not the last one to ever feel that way. Manage your time the best that you can and have realistic expectations for yourself. You can (and will) get through this! 


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What to Do When You’re Burned Out on Writing IEPs2020-12-21T15:15:58-05:00

Prompt Hierarchy and Using Prompting Effectively

As special education teachers, we often need to give directions and help our students learn how to respond appropriately to complete a task. For example, how to use glue sponges or how to button a sweater.

We can start with the lowest level of prompting, or there are times when a behavior needs to be managed immediately, and we choose a higher level prompt. Essentially, we instruct students to work through tasks by adding supportive prompts and cue into the child’s instruction.

With varying levels of student abilities, we need to be prepared as the teacher to not only provide the appropriate level of prompting, but to also have a plan for eventually eliminating or fading the prompt. The plan for prompt fading needs to begin at the start, and should be a meaningful part of every prompt decision.

As the teacher, you should also teach your paraprofessionals the importance of prompt hierarchy and prompt fading. It is imperative that everyone is on the same page.

What is a prompt?

When it comes to teaching your paraprofessionals, it is best to start at the very beginning.

A prompt is anything that is done after the initial directions are provided. As educators, we are trying to encourage self-regulation and independence in our students.

It’s important to remember, too, that not all prompting is “bad”. Every person needs prompting to learn new skills. And often times, a behavior is exhibited because a child does not understand how to complete a task or action we are asking the child to perform. Prompting can be used to teach those new skills, with the goal of the student eventually achieving mastery without prompting (i.e., independence).

For every prompt dependent student, there has been a prompt dependent teacher. – Judy Endow

Too much prompting can lead to what is known as “prompt dependency”, and we special education teachers see is frequently. For example, a student always needs a prompt to start an activity or skill, even if the child has already gained mastery. One idea to counteract this behavior is by giving the student an opportunity to try the task without the prompts, then start with the least invasive prompts whenever possible.

Prompting should, also, be used in conjunction with positive reinforcement. Focus on the positive statements to encourage the correct behavior. Then you, or your paraprofessional, can add in minimal prompting as needed to shape the behavior when necessary.

NOTE: The end result of everything we teach a child is for the child to be independent.

So we’re talking about prompting like we already know the leveling and how it works and what it looks like. However that may not always be the case. Let’s look at the prompt hierarchy.

Don’t forget to grab your FREE prompt hierarchy handout. It would be an excellent addition to a paraprofessional binder or your substitute plans.

In reference to how the hierarchy is presented, you will see the most invasive prompts listed first and the least invasive prompts near the end of the list.

Full Physical Prompting

Full physical prompting is for students who need full support to learn the action or activity. This prompting involves the student completing a task with hand-over-hand support from the teacher.

By guiding the hands of the student, we are helping them see how the task should be completed.

Partial Physical Prompting

At this point, minimal physical supported guidance may be needed. You could hand the book to the student and point him towards the bookshelf where it needs to be put away.

A second example is a gentle motion to move the student’s body in the direction of where he needs to walk (i.e., towards the bookshelf to put the book away).

Model Prompting

Model Prompting is showing the students how they should act and speak.

For example, you might walk to Ben’s desk, pick up a book, put the book away on the shelf, then walk to the carpet area to sit cross-legged with the rest of the class. As the teacher, you can model the behavior.

Another option is to use verbal reinforcement to bring attention to another student modeling the behavior, or even ask a student to demonstrate the task or direction for the classroom.

Gestural Prompting

Gestural prompting indicates the desired behavior with a motion, such as pointing at the activity that you would like them to do. Any type of gesture can be used to show the next direction, task or step of action that needs to be followed by the student.

For example, pointing to the student’s homework and then pointing to the “finished assignments” box or folder where the homework needs to be delivered.

Direct Verbal Prompting

Be clear with your language to communicate the action that the student should take. You might tell the learner the correct answer to the question. Often, this direct verbal prompting should include step-by-step verbal prompts in the order that the tasks need to be completed.

For example, “Ben, please put your book away on the shelf and join the rest of the classroom on the carpet.”

Verbal Prompting

Use words to help the student understand that something is expected, without telling them the details. For example, you might ask “What’s Next?” or “Now What?”

Another example is giving a verbal cue for the correct answer, such as the first sound or letter of the word.

Indirect Prompting

Indirect prompting uses facial expressions or body language to communicate the actions that should be followed.

For example, “the look” (we all know what look I’m talking about), shrugging your shoulders to indicate a question, asking the student what they should be doing (without using words).


The end goal of everything we do as special education teacher is to have the child achieve independence with a task. This means that the child can perform the task with no prompting.

Grab the free Prompt Hierarchy printable here.

As a teacher, it takes practice to use and fade prompting in the classroom. Don’t get discouraged if a student remains at the same level of prompting. Just keep swimming… okay, but really. Practice and learn more about each of these prompting levels so you can integrate the methods seamlessly into your teaching.


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Prompt Hierarchy and Using Prompting Effectively2020-12-16T10:25:42-05:00

Determining IEP Goals and Benchmarks

Over my years as a special education teacher who has taught in many states (taught in 4, certified in 6) I’ve realized that the district or school you work for probably wants you to write IEP goals differently than your neighboring county or state.

While this isn’t necessarily a “bad thing”, it definitely makes it more difficult to know what a good IEP goal and benchmark pair should look like.

Laptop sitting on a desk with the screen open to The Intentional IEP's vault of iep goals

And this is one of the most common questions I receive when it comes to The Intentional IEP membership: “Does The Vault have IEP goals AND benchmarks?
So today we’re going to work through that. I’ll pull a couple of IEP goals from The Vault and show you how to write accompanying IEP goal benchmarks. But before I show you what to do, I want to show you what not to do – but also give you an explanation of why you shouldn’t do this.

What not to do:

Let’s say you have a student in your class who is in second grade, but is working on a kindergarten level in math. This student needs to know how to add and subtract within 50 to be on grade level, but you’re still working on number identification.
Here is a goal from The Vault. This would be the student’s annual IEP goal:
By the end of quarter 4, when given addition and subtraction problems within 50, student will draw a picture to help her complete the problems, in 3 out of 4 trials with 70% accuracy.
In this example, you might see the IEP goal benchmarks look something like this:
1. By the end of quarter 1, when presented with the name of a number between 1 and 20 in verbal or written format, student will point to identify the correct number in number format in written form with 50% accuracy in 3 of 4 trials.
2. By the end of quarter 2, given visual, verbal, and tactile cues, student will use one-to-one correspondence to count objects up to 20 independently in 3 out of 4 trials with 50% accuracy.
3. By the end of quarter 3, given visual supports and manipulatives, student will use manipulatives to perform single digit addition and subtraction with 50% accuracy in 2 of 4 trials.
The IEP goal benchmarks are stacked, meaning the skill is built upon each marking period.
While this may work for some students, it’s unrealistic in terms of skill mastery. Not only is the IEP team expecting the student to go from number identification and 1:1 correspondence of numbers to 20, to then adding and subtracting numbers within 50 in one school year, it’s essentially 4 different IEP goals in one.

What to do:

Let’s say you have a student who is unable to independently write a letter of the a