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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 Teachers2021-01-18T16:23:30-05:00

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 alphabet without a model. If you verbally ask the child to write the letter A, the child is unable to perform the task without a written model to trace or physical prompting.
Here is another IEP goal from within The Vault:
With minimal physical prompting, student will trace and then print 26 lowercase letters of the alphabet with 75% accuracy in 3 of 4 trials.
Your IEP goal benchmarks might then look something like this:
1. With hand over hand assistance, student will trace and then print 13 lowercase letters of the alphabet with 75% accuracy in 3 of 4 trials.
2. With hand over hand assistance, student will trace and then print 26 letters of the alphabet with 75% accuracy in 2 of 4 trials.
3. With minimal physical prompting, student will trace and then print 13 letters of the alphabet, with 75% accuracy in 3 of 4 trials.
The IEP goal benchmarks are still stacked, meaning the skill is being built upon each marking period – but the child has more realistic and achievable benchmarks to meet each marking period. While the skill itself does not change, the level of prompting, the level of accuracy and trials, and the number of letters the student is expected to trace and then print does change.

How will this quick lesson change the way you are writing IEP goals and benchmarks for the students and families that you service?

If you are struggling with writing IEP goals and benchmarks, The Intentional IEP is here to help you. The Vault is a growing IEP goal bank with over 11,000+ 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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Determining IEP Goals and Benchmarks2020-12-28T13:48:47-05:00

The Best Thing I Ever Did for My IEP Writing Self

There are so many parts to a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)… and these parts are constantly being changed and revised on at least a yearly basis at minimum. An IEP is a living document!

As part of the IEP Team, you are responsible for drafting the entire IEP (this depends on what state you live in and how your district handles caseload responsibilities)… and this can be very time consuming.

You’ve got to make sure the student information is correct and updated, service times, additional services, accommodations and modifications… not to mention the IEP goals and Present Levels!

Over the last 10 years, I’ve written an IEP or two (or hundreds) and the best thing I ever did was make myself an IEP Toolkit. IEPs are so important and it does take time to write everything up – but it takes less time when you have templates ready to go and can plug and play!

Play? You’re probably thinking, “There’s no playing when it comes to writing IEPs – this is serious business!” And you’re right, just like the IEP Toolkit is serious business.

But what do you put in the IEP Toolkit?

And how and when do you use each part of the IEP toolkit for? Why do you need all of these parts and how will these editable templates be helpful for you?

I want to walk you through each part of the IEP Toolkit and not only share how you’ll use it, but also why it’s going to be a game changer for you.

IEP Meeting Timeline

Starting here makes sense because it outlines what needs to be done and by when. This simple chart is a printable visual that keeps you on top of your game when it comes to all the IEP paperwork… oh yeah, and when to schedule the meeting, send home the draft, and all of the in-between.

IEP Planning Calendar

The editable calendar lets you plan out all of your caseload meetings, due dates, testing schedules, and more. You’ll never lose track of what’s coming up between the calendar and the timeline.

The IEP meeting to checklist is also a great addition to your timeline and planning calendar because it tells you what to do before the IEP meeting, what to do during the IEP meeting, and what to do after the IEP meeting.

Present Level Template

The Present Levels should tell the story of the child. If Mr. B picks up Celeste’s IEP, Mr. B should have a full painted picture of who the child is, what the child can and cannot do, including baseline data and skills to be mastered, strengths and weaknesses, preferences, etc.

And without a properly written PLAAFP (or PLOP), the IEP goals won’t align or make sense to the greater good of the rest of the IEP.

List of 340 Accommodations and Modifications

Now depending on what program your school or district uses to write IEPs, you may have a built in accommodation list to plug into student IEPs.

BUT – from experience, those lists are not extensive or categorized by student need. You scroll and scroll waiting for the right one to pop out.

OR – your school has a basic list of accommodations that every child with special needs gets, whether they actually need it or not.

I’ve been in both situations, which is what prompted me to build this list of 340 accommodations and modifications. I wanted something where allllll of the accommodations and modifications were in one place, that I could edit and then copy/paste into an IEP, and really make the student’s services individualized (that IS what the I in IEP stands for).

The list includes accommodations under these categories: Presentation of Academic Content, Methodology, Giving Directions, Behavioral, Note Taking and Writing, Reading, Mathematics, Transitions and Changes, ESL/ELL, General Materials, Highlighting, Technology, Grading, Organization, Assessments. Accommodations also include environmental accommodations: environmental, seating, peer interaction, rules and expectations, sensory.

Editable Progress Report Comments

While an IEP is individualized, and your report card comment should be very individualized based on student IEP goal progress, the report card comments gives you a home base starting point. There’s no need to start from scratch every marking period or semester.

The range of achievement scale partnered with the powerful words to use in progress reporting makes writing progress reports and filling in IEP goal data so much quicker and more meaningful to you and to parents.

IEP Meeting Toolkit

The IEP Meeting Toolkit portion of the IEP Toolkit brings everything full circle. Inside is everything you need to schedule, plan and prepare for, and hold an IEP meeting… and all of it is editable so you can change wording to really make it work for you and the students and families you service.

  • IEP Tracking Calendar (keep track of what’s due when on one page)
  • IEP Meeting Calendar (keep track of when you need to hold meetings on one page)
  • IEP Scheduling Log
  • IEP Meeting Checklist (for before, during, and after the meeting)
  • Parent Questionnaire (send home before the meeting for parent input)
  • Regular Ed Teacher Questionnaire (print 2-sided)
  • Letters home to schedule the meeting (3 total)
  • IEP Meeting Agenda (for Initial and Annual IEP meetings)
  • IEP Meeting Ground Rules
  • Meeting Reminder slips (for parents and other IEP team members)
  • “Before we begin this meeting…” Poster
  • IEP Meeting Notes format
  • Contact Me cards (to attach to finalized IEPs)

Teacher Testimonials

Nothing puts all of this into your teacher perspective more than hearing first hand from a classroom teacher just like you.

Beth sent me this email at the beginning of November and it made my heart so very happy (for her and for the families she serves!):

“Let me describe my current evening: dread and doom as I write my first IEP of this COVID year…..Then I remember that I am a member of the Intentional IEP!!

I truly just copied and pasted PLAAFP verbiage and plugged in my data! It was that easy! My county just switched IEP systems, so we are “building” the new IEPs from the ground up. I really was dreading writing this document – but with the present levels template from the IEP toolkit AND The Vault of goals (with the professional verbiage!!) made it quick and painless. I really loved that I can search the goals by subject and grade level. It helped me plan next steps for the future goals.

I feel like I owe you a debt – seriously! Can I bake you a cake? Clean out your car? Make you dinner? Buy you a coffee? SERIOUSLY! THANK YOU FOR THIS RESOURCE!

I am a second year teacher in a self contained room that is in a new state with new “rules and regulations.” I tried to pin down colleagues last year to explain the IEP system to me – but nobody could lay it out the way this website did.”

Danica says:

“This helps me with IEP meetings! It makes me remember to stop and take a breath because I have it all and the check list shows that, plus it made my IEP meetings for meaningful with the data.”
And Taylor says:
“This is such a beneficial resource for new teachers who are intimidated by the IEP process! All of the paperwork is simple, easy to understand and use, and functional! Thank you!”

As special education teachers we are always strapped for time – with lesson planning, teaching, and simple things like making copies and even using the restroom. Our plates are so full and IEP writing is no stranger as a main course on our dish.

Having simple systems put in place that help you save one minute here, five minutes here, ten minutes there – add up to a lot of saved minutes in one day or week that we get to do more of what we love. And that’s teach!


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The Best Thing I Ever Did for My IEP Writing Self2020-12-03T10:08:07-05:00

Attend Lesson | Participation

Given verbal, visual, or gestural cues, student will remain seated for and visually attend to a teacher-directed learning activity X times per school day, for at least # minutes each X out of X opportunities over the course of # weeks as measured by X.

Attend Lesson | Participation2020-10-20T14:58:13-04:00

How to Make Student IEP Binders

Are you thinking about making data binders for your students? While they are a great idea, knowing what to put in data binders to make them useful is key.

With so many options of materials to put in the binders, sometimes the most challenging part is whittling them down so that they do not contain too many “fillers” or extraneous pages that cause them to become cumbersome and ineffective. The larger and more filled the binder is, the less enthusiastic you may be to pull it out and use it.

And this simple system makes it easy to keep track of independent student work, IEP goals and objectives, notes from home, and everything else in-between.

Below are our recommendations on what to put in your students’ IEP binders to get the most out of them.

What to Put in Student IEP or Data Binders

Grade Level Standards

Having a copy of the grade-level standards is an excellent idea because you will often refer to it. If you work with students in multiple grades, it is especially useful so that you do not have to take on the mental load of trying to remember all of the standards or locating copies of them elsewhere.

The Student’s IEP

The child’s IEP is the essential part in any student binder. It provides you with the framework and guidance on what to address.

It may also be helpful to keep your signed checklist that the IEP team signed when you handed out hard copies of the child’s most recent IEP. Keep everything in one place.

Parent Contact Log

Documenting when you spoke with your student’s parents is essential and keeping everything together in the binder just makes sense. Use a parent contact log with ample space for the date and time, who you spoke with, notes about what was discussed, and possibly even next steps in resolving any parent/guardian or teacher concerns.

Data Collection Notes

While it’s a great idea to have students’ documents in one binder, don’t forget to include plenty of room for data collection sheets and your progress monitoring notes. Having separate pages for each IEP goal will make it easy to keep track of what was worked on and where your student may need more help.

The more detailed the information, the easier it will be to write the next IEP.

Need a simple data collection system? The Intentional IEP has a data collection training just for you (certificate of completion included).

Behavior Plans

If your students have a behavior plan, place a copy of that in the data collection binder as well.

It will allow you to quickly access what they are working on and ensure that their behavior is being addressed appropriately.

Accommodations and Modifications List

Keeping a list of each students’ accommodations and modifications in their data collection binder will make your life so much easier. Instead of wading through the IEP, the list can be quickly referred to when needed.

Samples of Student Work

Reserving a section of the data collection binder for samples of students’ work is the second biggest piece of the child’s IEP binder. Throughout the year, place physical samples or photos (if distance learning) of the student’s work in their binders.

Back up the data you’ve collected by keeping work samples from lessons and activities you’ve collected data on too!

Want to learn even more about student IEP binders? Check out this blog post.

As with all things in teaching, the most effective student data binders are going to be the ones that work best for you and your students. If it makes sense to have other items in the binder, include them. If some of the things are not applicable, leave them out. When you find the perfect mix of forms and information, your student data binders will be lifesavers when working on goals… and ultimately in helping guide you in writing the child’s next IEP.

How to Make Student IEP Binders2020-12-02T12:37:34-05:00

Addressing Play IEP Goals Virtually

Play goals are an essential part of many Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). They are integral to a child’s development, and, for many young students, they are the key to success. However, in this time of virtual teaching, figuring out the best way to address play IEP goals virtually can be challenging.

Whether you are new to play goals in IEPs or a veteran at addressing them, distance learning creates a unique set of circumstances that few teachers are prepared to navigate. Thankfully, there are some practical ways to help students meet their play goals, even while teaching online.

As always, you know your students and their families best, so take the ideas and run with the ones that are most appropriate for them. There are many ways to help students virtually, but the best way is the one that works for them.

How to Address Play IEP Goals During Distance Learning

Get Families Involved

Since in-person teaching is not available, families need to be involved now more than ever. Ask your students’ families to have a variety of play materials on hand that their children can work with throughout the day.

Blocks, simple board games, and LEGOs are a great start as they give students materials to manipulate. When meeting one-on-one with students and their adults, bring out the same materials to work on together.

Let’s Work Together

Work together with students to complete a puzzle or build a castle. Have them describe where you should put the pieces to complete the task accurately.

There are virtual games and puzzles that you can use to achieve this instead of using board games or actual puzzles.

Just Dance

Take turns making up dance moves or have students mimic the dance moves as you do. It is a great way to work on increasing attention and following simple directions.

Dancing is also a lot of fun and is sure to make your students smile and laugh.

Make Activity Kits

If possible, distribute activity kits to your students at the beginning of the school year. They can include things like blocks, flashcards, play dough, and more.

Not only does it break down the access barrier for families who may not be able to purchase their own manipulatives, but it creates consistency in what your students have available to work with.

Presenting everything in a plastic tub or container also ensures that materials are kept together. When it is time to work on the play IEP goals, students and families can quickly find the materials they need to complete the 1-1 activities.

Addressing play IEP goals during distance learning is not ideal, but there are ways to work around it. Having patience and a healthy dose of creativity can go a long way towards making sure your students are hitting the goals they need to reach during this unusual time.

Keep in mind that the data you collect may not be as comprehensive due to the nature of the instruction, but even small amounts of data can help keep your students on track.


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Addressing Play IEP Goals Virtually2020-10-13T12:39:40-04:00

IEP Accommodations for Virtual Learning

With virtual learning comes the need for adjusted IEP accommodations to help students be successful. Figuring out what those accommodations should look like is challenging, though! This list of possible accommodations for virtual learning might help.

1.The student can take breaks throughout the day/class period.

Getting up and moving every 15-20 minutes can work wonders for all of your students – not just those with IEPs. However, students who struggle with maintaining focus will especially benefit from built-in breaks where they are allowed to stand up, move around, and get out their wiggles.

2. Monitor brightness may be adjusted.

Students who are prone to headaches or migraines might benefit from reducing the brightness of their screens. This helps to reduce eye strain and can mitigate potential headaches.

3. The student has access to a personal assistive writing implement.

If students typically use pencil grips in the classroom, one should be provided for them at home.

4. The student may use speech-to-text software.

Many students need scribes for their work, but it can be challenging to provide that in a virtual setting. Speech-to-text software acts as a virtual scribe and helps students communicate their ideas without having to type or write them.

5. The student has access to alternative seating.

While in the classroom, students may have various seating options to help them stay on task and focus. Including that as an accommodation for virtual learning ensures that students are not relegated to desk chairs all day and permits parents to allow their children to sit on exercise balls or even under the table for distance learning.

6. Students may use text-to-speech software.

While having software that transcribes students’ ideas is important, equally as important is software that reads text to them. This is especially good for your students with dyslexia or other reading disabilities.

7. Visual distractions while teaching virtually will be reduced.

A distraction reduction accommodation could be even more specific to include only one slide per screen or limiting the slide to be in black and white versus many colors and graphics. It might also mean that student cameras are off, and the only one visible is the teacher.

8. Students may have a reduced number of assignments.

Completing an assignment in class with a teacher’s assistance can be challenging for some students, but when they are at home, and there is no direct teacher supervision, it can be even more difficult. Reducing the number of assignments or the amount of work on each task can set them up for distance learning success.

9. The student may use a privacy shield or study carrel.

By reducing the visual clutter outside of their screens, students can focus on their tasks more. A study carrel is a great way to limit what they see, provide privacy, and help them concentrate on assignments or virtual classes.

10. The student may have multiple attempts to complete the assignment.

One attempt at an assignment may not be enough for students who are learning virtually. They may need to complete a task, get feedback, and re-attempt it. This allows them to demonstrate what they learned after getting helpful feedback and gives a more accurate depiction of their understanding.


Whatever accommodations you use with your students while distance learning, make sure they are tailored specifically for each student. While it may not be the best scenario for delivering instruction for some students, it can still be an effective way to teach. The right accommodations can help.

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IEP Accommodations for Virtual Learning2020-10-06T11:03:49-04:00

Why IEPs Create Sleepless Nights for Teachers

No matter how many Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) a teacher has written throughout her career, writing IEPs keeps teachers up at night!

For some teachers, the stress of finding the right words makes sleep impossible. For others, the worry that the services will not be enough is what causes sleepless nights. No matter the reason, IEPs are stressful and often challenging to write.

If you are struggling with your own IEP writing, know that you are not alone! We asked veteran special education teachers what worries them most about IEPs and why.

They are Overlooked

After spending hours on end crafting an IEP that addresses the services and support that students need, it is not uncommon for the documents to be hastily perused, never to be referred to again. Although everything a general education classroom teacher needs to know is contained in the document, the IEP is often overlooked. Not only is this harmful to the student’s progress, but it is also frustrating for the teacher who created the report.

Here’s .

Meeting Anxiety

There is no doubt about it, IEP meetings are stressful! Meeting anxiety is very real and can keep teachers up at night, worrying about how the document will be received. Running the meeting is a similar concern and one that is easy to stress about.

Here are and .

Good Enough Goals?

Worried about how your IEP goals stack up against others’ goals? You are not alone. Concern and anxiety about the wording and effectiveness of IEP goals is common amongst special education teachers. “I feel my goals are never strongly written” and “[I worry] that the next teacher will think my goals are poorly written” are common statements from teachers. Many also worry about where to go next with the goals to make sure that students are getting the support that they need to grow and succeed.

Having Enough Data

Collecting enough data on present levels to demonstrate progress and justify the next goals is also a common worry. Between coordinating with general education teachers and doing their own data collection, special education teachers frequently worry that they do not have enough or do not have the right type of data for the IEP or progress report.

Family Support

Every family is unique, and support can look drastically different from one family to the next. Not knowing whether a family will be arguing about a goal or accommodation can create anxiety that is hard to shake until the meeting is over. Building a rapport with the family from the start, before the IEP meeting, can help alleviate some of this concern and create a better working relationship for all involved.

Here’s .

Did I Do Enough?

Above all, teachers worry that the IEPs that they create will not do enough to help students grow to be their best selves. It is that care and concern about the students on their watch that ultimately keeps teachers up at night.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Know that you are not alone, and The Intentional IEP Team is here for you.

Aside from TII (Did you hear that TII now offers a ? You can to make sure it truly is exactly what you need.), , and , is there anything we can do to help you?

Let us know. We’re here for you!


Why IEPs Create Sleepless Nights for Teachers2020-09-17T17:32:54-04:00

Behavior Interventions for Any Situation

Behavior Interventions for Any Situation Blog Header

Anyone that works with students in special education knows that dealing with different types of behaviors is always part of the job whether you are a teacher or their parent.

Knowing some intervention strategies for dealing with different types of situations and to prevent certain situations can always be helpful in the special education world.

Offer Choices

Some students do not get a lot of say in their day. If they are forced to wear an outfit  that they do not want to and eat something for breakfast that they did not really like, they could already be having a rough start to their day. When they come to the classroom, if they are demanded to “start your morning work” right when they enter the room, their cup may overflow and a meltdown could occur. It is best to give students choices whenever possible throughout their day to make them feel empowered, even if it is as simple as asking them, “do you want to write your name at the top or bottom of your paper?”


Break Student Work into Small Chunks

Giving students 3 pages of math work could feel overwhelming for some. A tip is to fold the page in half so that the student can only see half of the problems at once. Keep the other 2 math pages face down on the table or save for later work at a different time so as not to overwhelm them all at once.


Have a Visual Schedule and Preview it Often

Having a visual schedule is extremely important for students in special education, especially for students with Autism and students who are non-verbal. Students like to know what is happening at certain times of their day, when they can expect to have breaks, eat lunch and even go home. It is also a nice visual for them to be able to see how many of their tasks that they have completed for the day and how many items are left to complete. Having a visual schedule and showing what is expected of them (even in small chunks) can help students have a more successful day with fewer behavior issues. Parents can implement visual schedules to help with routines at home as well.


Have a Quiet Area for Breaks

Most all of the students in your classroom will need to take a break at some point. Certain students will need a quiet place to sit or lay when they are angry and upset over something. You could use a corner of the room with either mats or carpet on the floor and some calm-down sensory tools to utilize nearby. Setting a timer to signal them to come let you know when they are feeling better can also help.


Preview the Rules and Expectations Consistently

Some students might misbehave because they are impulsive and do not think through the consequences of their misbehavior before they act. It is best to briefly review rules and expectations at certain times of the day, especially before a student may be entering a potentially challenging situation or setting. If the instructor has a rewards system in place, he or she can use that to encourage positive behavior and the behavior that they want to see from that student.


Use Yes Language

How would it feel to be told no all day? It wouldn’t be the greatest feeling. Students are much more empowered to do what parents and educators need them to if they are going to get something that they want in return.

For example, if a student asks, “May I have an M&M?” Instead of saying “No, not right now,” you could choose to answer this way: “Yes you can, after you complete your independent work station.” 

Dealing with student behaviors can be difficult and exhausting. Implementing these intervention strategies can help you try to prevent some of these situations with students.


Behavior Interventions for Any Situation2020-09-08T14:49:14-04:00

The ABC’s of IEPs

There is so much planning that goes in to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for students with disabilities. There are many different things to think about when planning and writing an IEP to make sure it is the best possible plan for each student. After all, the I stands for Individualized.

We decided to come up with a fun list of ABC’s for IEPs.

A is for Advocacy

As the child’s biggest advocate, being a parent of a student with a disability can sometimes prove very overwhelming. Some parents choose to hire an advocate from an outside company to help them navigate the IEP process and special education laws in order to provide their child with the best possible education.

Here are 3 Ways to Help Parents Advocate for their Child.


B is for Behavior

Some students need data taken specifically on their behavior and the IEP team needs to discuss appropriate replacement behaviors. Sometimes the special education team needs to perform a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) on students and create a Positive Behavior Support Plan (PBSP) that is attached to their IEP.


C is for Changes in Current Functioning

This is a section on the IEP that explains where the student is currently performing in school on his/her current IEP goals and where data taken is listed. You can read more about it HERE. (The blog post I wrote last week on Basic Anatomy of an IEP)


D is for Disability

Every student on an IEP has a different type of disability that affects their learning in many different ways. Some examples of types of disabilities include: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Specific Learning Disability, Social Emotional Disability and Intellectual Disability. There are also many more types of disabilities that we did not list.


E is for Evaluation

Every student that is on an IEP has had an educational evaluation in order to qualify for Special Education. Some areas that the student may be evaluated in are: Cognition, Speech & Language, Fine Motor, Gross Motor, Adaptive Behavior, Social Emotional Behavior and Academics. 


F is for FAPE

FAPE stands for Free and Appropriate Public Education and EVERY child has the right to one, including students with disabilities. 


G is for General Education

Time spent in general education is always a big topic during an IEP meeting. As students get older, the curriculum gets more difficult and the student’s disability can greatly impact how much they may or may not be able to participate in the general education setting. 


H is for Highly Qualified Teacher

A highly qualified teacher is a teacher who meets the requirements set out in No Child Left Behind and IDEA.

I is for IDEA

IDEA stands for Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), which is Public Law 108-446 (generally referred to as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. IDEA is the Federal special education law that provides a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment to all eligible children with disabilities.


J is for Jargon

It is no secret that the world of Special Education has many different abbreviations and words that can be overwhelming for staff to learn let alone parents and caregivers. Special Ed Jargon Everyone Should Know can be a helpful resource for staff, parents and caregivers of students with disabilities. 


K is for Kids

Sometimes we get temporarily lost in the jargon, acronyms and multiple disabilities, and we must remember that the student that we are discussing in the meeting is still just a kid. Our goals should be measurable, functional and age appropriate for kids. 


L is for Least Restrictive Environment

Least Restrictive Environment, or LRE, is the amount of time that a student spends in a general education classroom. Students who have general education LREs spend most or all of their day in a general education classroom with their same-aged peers. Students with more severe disabilities that cannot be accommodated in general education classrooms may be pulled out frequently or placed in a special classroom.


M is for Modifications & Accommodations

Modifications and accommodations are two words that are frequently tossed around in the world of special education, and sometimes used interchangeably. 


N is for New IEP Goals

Each year a new IEP is written for each student in special education. The special education team will meet and discuss the student’s current functioning on their current IEP goals, and in turn, write new IEP goals for the student to master in the areas of special education that the student receives services in over the next year.


O is for Observation

It is a Special Educator’s job to be watching and recording systematic information on their student-facts, data, behavior, time on task, etc. in a structured or unstructured observation. 


P is for Paraprofessional

A paraprofessional is an individual who provides direct support to a child, teacher, or other school professional and who works only under the direct supervision of qualified personnel.


Q is for Qualified Examiner

A Qualified examiner is a person licensed or certified in the state in which the evaluation is performed, who performs a formal diagnostic assessment in the area of disability in which the person is qualified to perform the assessment. 


R is for Related Services

Related services are special education services given in addition to classroom instruction to address different issues that may interfere with a student’s learning. Some examples of different types of related services are speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and counseling.


S is for Service Time

Service time refers to how much time the student spends receiving specially designed instruction.


T is for Transition Plan

If you are teaching pre-teens and teens, you will become very familiar with IEP Transition Plans.The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) tells us that once a student turns sixteen years old, the