About Stephanie DeLussey

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Stephanie DeLussey has created 794 blog entries.

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 Binders2020-10-13T12:38:45-04:00

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.


Read Previous Post | Back to the Blog | Read Next Post

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.

Read Previous Post | Back to the Blog | Read Next Post

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, they must have a transition plan written into their IEP.


U is for Universal Design

Universal design is a concept or philosophy for designing and delivering products and services that are usable by people with the widest possible range of functional capabilities. This might include accessing products using assistive technology.


V is for Very Organized

When writing an Individualized Education Plan, it is best to be very organized. You should keep the student’s data all in one organized manner, have work samples and have data and information from the student’s general education teacher and related service providers to enter into the IEP. 


W is for Weaknesses

IEP meetings can be hard because, although student strengths are discussed, much of the meeting can tend to focus on the child’s weaknesses and how the team can put a plan in place to help them succeed. This information can be difficult and overwhelming for parents and guardians to discuss. It is also important to remember to Keep the IEP Strengths Focused on the student when writing it.


X- Xtra Time

When writing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), it is best to give yourself plenty of time and planning to write it with much consideration for the student. Try not to wait until the night before the meeting and rush the work. Check the IEP over for correct punctuation, grammar, data and dates and send a copy home to the family before the meeting so that they have time to look it over.


Y is for “Yes We Can Do That.”

“Yes we can do that” is a great phrase when discussing a student’s needs with his/her special education team at an IEP meeting. Parents want to feel that the professionals working with their child will do anything possible to help their child be successful. 


Z is for Zoom Meeting

If you are reading this in the year 2020, in the middle of the Covid19 Pandemic, you are a teacher or parent who understands how important Zoom Virtual Meetings have become. Zoom is a free app for schools that allow you to hold virtual meetings and many schools have been holding virtual meetings this year so as not to spread germs within the school building. Besides this, virtual meetings can sometimes be easier for working parents or even stay-at-home parents who do not have a babysitter for their little ones when they need to attend their child’s IEP meeting.

We hope that the list above helps you to identify and better understand the many words and jargon are used when being a part of Individualized Education Plans. IEPs work best when the entire team understands the language and process in order to help the student be the most successful.


The ABC’s of IEPs2020-08-27T12:56:08-04:00

Basic Anatomy of an IEP

Special Educators are professionals at writing Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs, for their students. And while all states have different requirements and guidelines for IEPs, all of these IEP documents have the same basic anatomy. 

Below you will learn about the number of basic parts of a student’s IEP, and if you’re looking for more training on how to write an IEP, check out Intentional IEP Writing provided by TII.

Cover Page / Student Information Page

This is simply the first page of the IEP document and it has all of the child’s pertinent information on it: name, date of birth, address, phone number, case manager, type of disability, when their annual review is due, when their reevaluation is due, the date the meeting was held, the date the IEP will be initiated and all of the meeting participants listed and their roles.

Present Levels of Academic and Functional Performance

Some call it a PLEP and some call it a PLOP, others call it the PLAAFP, but it all means the same thing. The present level is one of the most valuable parts of an IEP. It discusses how the student’s disability affects their involvement and progress in the general education setting, as well as the child’s strengths and weaknesses, and any concerns that the parents or IEP Team have. 

The biggest informational piece of this section is the Changes in Current Functioning section. Changes in Current Functioning is where you can list how the student progressed on past goals and where they are presently at with their learning and needs. 

Besides this, the Present Level section will also list in summary any previous evaluations that were done on the child and their scores.

If you need help writing the PLAAFP, The IEP Toolkit from TII includes a copy/paste fill in the blank Present Levels template.

Special Considerations

The Special Considerations section is pretty short and to the point. It is a series of boxes to be checked at the meeting by the team asking very specific questions about the student such as: 

  1. Is the student blind or visually impaired?; Is the student deaf or hearing impaired?
  2. Does the student exhibit behaviors that impede his/her learning or that of others? 

There are also boxes to check if they have communication needs (maybe the student receives speech or language services), require assistive technology (i.e., does the student need to communicate through a Dynavox or using LAMP on an iPad?). 

Finally, if they take state or district-wide assessments also gets mentioned here and any post-secondary transition services. 


This is where the IEP Team will list the student’s new IEP goals and objectives that the team has decided upon based on the student’s current present levels of performance and how they progressed with past goals. Coming up with functional and measurable goals can be time consuming and difficult at times. Some educators prefer to have access to The Vault of over 9,000 goals through The Intentional IEP membership to help with the stress of IEP writing.


The services page will state what special education services they will receive and for how many minutes per week. For example, will they receive reading services for 300 minutes per week (basically 60 minutes per day X 5 days per week) or maybe social skills instruction for 150 minutes per week. 

Related services such as Speech, Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy are listed here as well. You may also check if the student will receive transportation as a related service under this section.

Regular Education Participation

This section will ask if the student will participate 100% of the time in general education. Since the child has an IEP and needs supplemental supports due to their disability, usually “no” is checked and their percentage of time spent in special ed vs. regular ed is calculated here.

Placement Considerations

Based on their services and their percentage of time spent in special education, this section of the IEP determines the student’s placement while at school in regular education vs. special education. For example, one placement consideration is “in regular education at least 80% of the time.”

State and District Wide Assessments

Typically all grade levels must take district-wide assessments, but students on an IEP can get accommodations such as a quiet setting where they are not distracted or getting the assessment read to them if it’s not needed to assess their actual reading ability. Students in 3rd grade and up in most states are required to take State Assessments. Some students on an IEP might participate in an alternative assessment due to not being taught grade level material but showing their progress through their IEP goals. Usually students are given assessments in the areas of ELA (English Language Arts), Math and for older grades- Science. 

Modifications/ Accommodations

Accommodations are changes in procedures or materials that increase equitable access. Accommodations generate comparable results for students who need them and allow these students to demonstrate what they know and can do.

Modifications are changes in procedures or materials that change the construct of the educational task making it difficult to compare results with typical peer results. Modifications allow students to demonstrate what they know and can do in a non-standardized way. 

Some examples of modifications or accommodations that students in special education might need are: having a test read to him/ her, modified grading, repeated review and drill of a skill, use of concrete reinforcers, non-distracting environment; able to type on a device instead of write if their writing is not legible, etc. 

TII also has an IEP Toolkit that includes 300+ editable accommodations and modifications.

IEPs can be tedious and overwhelming to write for special education teachers. Once you know the basic anatomy of an IEP, you can start developing some systems in place to help make writing an IEP faster and less stressful.

Read Previous Post | Back to the Blog | Read Next Post

Basic Anatomy of an IEP2020-08-19T13:35:53-04:00

Following Directions | Task Completion

Given directions for an assignment, student will begin working on an assignment with # or less prompts from a teacher, paraprofessional, or tutor, in X of X occurrences.

Following Directions | Task Completion2020-08-18T15:41:25-04:00

Coping Skills + Strategies

Given a frustrating or anxiety-inducing task, student will use pre-taught coping strategies (insert strategies) to prevent escalation of challenging behaviors in X of X incidences, on X of X school days per week.

Coping Skills + Strategies2020-08-14T09:53:51-04:00

Why are IEPs Important?

We all know what IEP’s are- Individualized Education Programs. However, we may not understand why an IEP is so important! Did you know that IEPs didn’t even exist until 1975? Before that, millions of children with disabilities were denied a free, appropriate public education due to their disabilities.

IEPs give students legal protection, and make it possible for parents and teachers to work together to provide students with disabilities an education. Let’s take a look at all of the ways that IEP’s are important!

Working Together

A written IEP allows parents, teachers, and students above the age of 14 to work together to decide what is best for a student’s education. By meeting at least once per year, multiple parties can contribute their ideas on what would serve the student best.

On the Same Page

By having all of the student’s information about their present levels, goals, supplementary aids and services, related services, and service time on one document, everyone stays on the same page and knows what everyone else is doing. There is never a question about whether a student should be receiving speech therapy or how much service time they get in math.

This transparency helps with accountability and monitoring student progress.

Knowledge is Power

By previewing the student’s IEP prior to the school year beginning, teachers can be prepared for each student’s special needs. This allows teachers to plan for classroom accommodations and modifications, build in service time, and learn what the student’s areas of need are prior to the school year beginning.

By knowing what your student needs ahead of time, you will be better prepared to help them be successful.

Legal Protection

Having an IEP gives a student and their parents legal protection. They have certain rights when an IEP is in place, including:

  • The right to a free, appropriate public education.
  • The right to supplementary aids and services.
  • The right to all of the service time written in the IEP.
  • The right to any related services deemed necessary by the IEP team.
  • The right to prior written notice before any change in educational placement or program.
  • The right to give or deny consent for evaluations.
  • The right to an outside evaluation.

Prior to IEPs, students with disabilities and their parents did not have these rights. Special education has come a long way since parents began advocating for their children with disabilities in the 1930s.

Roadmap To Success

Finally, an IEP is important because it can serve as a roadmap to student success. The IEP outlines the service time, supplementary aids and services, and related services that the team feels that a student needs in order to be successful.

By following the IEP carefully, you are helping to set your student up for success.

We may take IEPs for granted now, but it is important to remember that these important documents did not exist until 45 years ago. Take some time today to reflect on some student IEPs, and what you can do to help implement them.


Read Previous Post | Back to the Blog | Read Next Post

Why are IEPs Important?2020-09-22T15:43:33-04:00

General Ed Teachers: Here’s What You Need to Know About IEPs

General education teachers have a lot on their plates, just like special education teachers do. General ed have an entire classroom to manage, papers to grade, and a million things to think about on a day-to-day basis.

With full inclusion becoming the norm in most school districts around the country, general education teachers who may not have previously had to think about IEP goals or accommodations now have to take the IEPs of students into consideration when planning instruction.

Most general educators may not be familiar with what’s found in the IEP or with the IEP process. Learning about IEPs can seem daunting to someone who may not have much experience with special education.

Luckily, here is a mini crash course on the most important parts of the IEP for general education teachers.

Service Time

A student’s IEP will include IEP goals in the areas in which he or she struggles. The Present Levels sectin of an IEP shares more info on all of what a child exceeds and/or struggles with across all areas of performance.

Additionally, the service times section will include how much service time the student is to receive each week. During their service time, the child will receive individualized instruction either one-on-one or in a small group. This service time allows them to work on skills that will help them “close the gap” between their present level of academic performance and the grade-level standards.

Accommodations and Modifications

Another important section of a child’s IEPs are the accommodations and modifications. Accommodations and modifications are written into the IEP in order to give the student with an IEP better access to the general education curriculum.

Classroom accommodations are things that are used in the classroom in order for a student with special needs to be able to access the general education curriculum. Accommodations do not change the content, vigor, standards, or grade level of the material that is being accessed. On the flip side, modifications do change the content, vigor, standards, or grade level of the general education curriculum.

Accommodations and modifications should be followed closely in order to allow the student to access the general education curriculum, and keep them in their least restrictive environment.

Related Services

Related service providers might become your new best friends! By taking a look at a student’s IEP, you will be able to see if they have related services in speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, counseling, or another area.

The related service providers will work with the student for a designated amount of time, and can provide you with suggestions to use in the classroom. For example, a counselor could suggest ways to help the student calm down, or an occupational therapist could give recommendations on different types of paper to use with a student with fine motor deficits.

Legal and Binding

Did you know that an IEP is a legal document? This is an important fact to remember! Students are entitled to everything that is included in their IEP, and you are legally obligated and required to provide the services outlined in the IEP.

If the IEP is not followed, this is not only doing the child a disservice, it is also leaving the school open to legal action taken by parents. This can be avoided by reading the IEP carefully, following it, and making sure that everything is documented. If you have questions about a child’s IEP, reach out to the child’s caseload manager or special ed teacher.

You Can Do It!

General educators can provide IEP services, too! As long as what you are teaching in a small group, like guided reading, aligns with the student’s IEP goals, service time can be provided by general educators.

Talk to your school’s special education staff to work out who will be providing services and how.

Full inclusion can be so rewarding. Follow the TII Team’s advice to ensure that student IEPs are understood and followed, and watch the magic of inclusion happen in your classroom.


Read Previous Post | Back to the Blog | Read Next Post

General Ed Teachers: Here’s What You Need to Know About IEPs2020-08-05T15:20:40-04:00

Special Ed Jargon Everyone Should Know

No matter what subject you teach, chances are that you will eventually teach students with IEPs. Because of this, it’s important that you know common special ed jargon!

The Oxford Dictionary defines jargon as “special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.” This means that not only do we special education teachers use acronyms, but we also live and work by special education specific jargon.

The more you understand about special ed, the better equipped you will be to help your students with IEPs access the general education curriculum and find success.

Special Education Placements

Depending on the severity of the student’s disability, they may be placed in a number of different educational placements. Educational placements are fluid- students may move back and forth between more and less restrictive environments, depending on their performance. Here are some of the most common placements.

Least Restrictive Environment

The 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.

General Education

Students in general education learn topics based on grade-level standards and are all graded on the same criteria. Students with IEPs may be placed in a general education setting with supports in place for them.

Special Education

Special education refers to the specially designed instruction that addresses the needs of each student with an IEP. Special education can take many forms, including small groups, pull-out instruction, special classrooms, special schools, or altered curriculums.

Alternate Outcomes

Students following alternate outcomes may still work within a general education classroom, but are working on standards that are lower than grade level. Students following alternate outcomes may not earn a high school diploma.

Types of Disabilities

As a teacher, you will come across students with a variety of disabilities, but these are some of the most common.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder is a broad term that indicates that a person is having difficulty communicating with, interacting with, and learning from other people. ASD can range from very mild to extremely severe.

Specific Learning Disability

This refers to a student with average or above average cognitive ability who has difficulty in one of more of the following areas: reading, writing, listening, processing, and/or math.

Social/Emotional Disability

Students with social or emotional disabilities are unable to recognize or control their emotions to the point where it interferes with their learning.

Intellectual Disability

An intellectual disability used to be known as “mental retardation”, although that term is now considered to be offensive. Students with intellectual disabilities have deficits in both cognitive functioning and adaptive skills.

Related Services

You may have heard the term “related services” and not known what it means. Related services are special education services given in addition to classroom instruction to address different issues that may interfere with a student’s learning.

Speech Therapy

Speech therapy works to address articulation, expressive language, and receptive language. Speech therapy sets the groundwork for students learning letter and phoneme sounds, which is the foundation for learning to read.

Occupational Therapy

In a school setting, occupational therapy often addresses fine motor skills, as well as hand-eye coordination. These skills are imperative for writing.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy in a school setting often addresses trunk strength (for sitting in a classroom), as well as navigating adaptive equipment such as walkers.


Counseling as a related service focuses on identifying feelings, self-advocacy, task completion, and managing emotions.

Other Special Ed Jargon


Goals are written into a student’s IEP so they can work on skills in which they have deficits. Goals are written with the intent of the student achieving them in 1 year.

Service Time

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


Classroom accommodations are things that are used in the classroom in order for a student with special needs to be able to access the general education curriculum. Accommodations do not change the content, vigor, standards, or grade level of the material that is being accessed.


Modifications change the content, vigor, standards, of grade level of the general education curriculum.

One beneficial quick tip is to create a running log of special education jargon you and/or the IEP Team uses most frequently and share this with parents/guardians.

Working with students with IEPs requires a lot of patience, diligence, and dedication, but it is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. This information should help you begin supporting your students with IEPs. It’s part of our profession, but part of our profession is also advocating for our students and the families we serve, and we cannot do that if we are not on the same team. Keep this in mind when speaking with parents/guardians, whether in a friendly conversation or parent conference, and especially during the IEP meeting.


Read Previous Post | Back to the Blog | Read Next Post

Special Ed Jargon Everyone Should Know2020-08-05T14:57:54-04:00

Quick Tips for Holding a Virtual IEP Meeting

Many schools are going back virtually this fall. School systems are rightly concerned with helping to stop the spread of Covid-19, but going back using a virtual model presents some challenges to teachers.

One of these challenges is how to hold virtual IEP meetings. There are many effective ways to hold effective IEP meetings virtually, so let’s take a look to learn about some of the best practices for virtual IEP meetings.

Prepare Beforehand

In order to be prepared for a virtual IEP meeting, several factors must be taken into consideration. One of the biggest factors is the Internet capabilities of the family. If the family does not have Internet access, a call-in option can be arranged for the parent through a soft phone extension. The school or a local library may also have Internet access that a parent could utilize in the parking lot of the facility.

Even though the meeting is virtual, paperwork still must be mailed home in the time frame it would have been mailed if school had been in session. For example, a draft IEP should go home 5 days prior to the meeting. This IEP Timeline is a great reference.

Arrange for an interpreter of the parent requires one. Additionally, be sure that all parties involved in the meeting receive clear directions about logging in and have a backup plan in case of a technology glitch.

Don’t Rush

Meeting virtually will require more patience than meeting face-to-face. Taking a minute every so often to make sure that everyone can hear, everyone’s tech is working, and nobody has any questions will help to prevent confusion and frustration.

Share Your Screen

If your technology allows, sharing your screen can be a great way to give everyone a visual aid. Even if everyone has a printout of the IEP or evaluation, screen sharing will allow everyone to stay on the same page and lessen confusion. Screen sharing allows people to focus on one section of the IEP at a time.

Signatures and More

Much of the paperwork associated with an IEP requires signatures from teachers, building coordinators, and parents. The parents must sign the invitation, everyone must sign the NOREP, and there may also be other forms, such as medical assistance, that need signatures.

Your district should decide on a consistent way of obtaining signatures. Some districts may mail the papers to the appropriate parties, but this can get time-consuming and expensive. Another option is using an electronic signature service such as DocuSign. Electronic signature services are legally binding and work as a great option when signatures are needed and people cannot be together.

By following these quick tips and moving forward with patience and a sense of humor, your virtual IEP meetings will be a success!


Read Previous Post | Back to the Blog | Read Next Post

Quick Tips for Holding a Virtual IEP Meeting2020-08-05T14:58:37-04:00

Important Special Ed Acronyms

LRE? FBA? LMNOP? Anything associated with special education can sound like alphabet soup to the untrained ear, and as special educators we talk in a special lingo – acronyms and jargon.

The only thing the IEP team wants is what is best for the child, and if we aren’t speaking the same language, it’s only hurting the child. No one wants that. Which is why it is so important that parents and teachers are on the same page when it comes to important acronyms when it comes to all things special education.

Luckily, we’ve got a handy list of some of the most common special education acronyms.

The IEP Process

From the initial referral to the completed IEP, the IEP process can be full of acronyms and legal jargon. Here are some of the most important acronyms that relate to the IEP process.


Functional Behavior Assessment. This process is done prior to the development of an IEP to determine the cause(s) of student behavior.


Prior Written Notice. This notice must be sent to parents prior to any evaluation, change in IEP, or denial of services, and include an explanation and justification.


Behavior Assessment System for Children. This tool is used by a school psychologist to aid in writing an evaluation report on a student. The BASC asks for parent and teacher input.


Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. This tool is used by a school psychologist for children over the age of 6 to measure cognitive functioning in several different areas.


Parts of the IEP

An IEP can contain a massive amount of information, depending on the severity of the child’s disability. You may hear some of these acronyms being thrown around.


Least Restrictive Environment. This means that students with IEPs should spend as much of their day as possible with their same-aged peers. LRE includes the idea that students should not be removed from general education unless their disability is so severe that they cannot learn in a general education environment, even with supplementary aids and services.


Behavior Intervention Plan. This plan is based on the FBA that was conducted on the student. It identifies negative behaviors and how to respond to them in the classroom. A BIP is part of the IEP and must be followed.


Present Levels of Functional and Academic Performance. This section gives a breakdown of the student’s skills in various areas, such as reading, phonics, math, adaptive skills, and writing.


Assistive Technology. This refers to any product, equipment, or systems that enhance learning for a student with disabilities. Assistive Technology can include iPads, communication boards, a sound amplification, pencil grips, closed captioning, and a variety of other devices.


Extended School Year. Not to be confused with summer school, Extended School Year is offered to students with IEPs who may regress during summer break. Students receiving ESY services work on their IEP goals during their ESY service time. .



Students can qualify for special education under 14 different categories. These are the acronyms for some of the more common disabilities.


Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism spectrum disorder is a broad term that indicates that a person is having difficulty communicating with, interacting with, and learning from other people. ASD can range from very mild to extremely severe.


Specific Learning Disability. This refers to a student with average or above average cognitive ability who has difficulty in one of more of the following areas: reading, writing, listening, processing, and/or math.


Emotional Disability. Students with emotional disabilities are unable to recognize or control their emotions to the point where it interferes with their learning.


Traumatic Brain Injury. This is a disruption to normal brain function caused by a head injury.


Other Health Impairment. This is an umbrella term for health conditions such as ADHD, epilepsy, or Tourette’s Syndrome that negatively affect learning.


Legal Stuff

We all know that an IEP is a legal document! Legal terms sometimes include acronyms, such as the ones found below.


Notice of Recommended Educational Placement. This is commonly known as the IEP signature page, and explains the student’s educational placement or program. Parents have the right to disagree with the NOREP. Disagreement will then trigger mediation or a due process hearing.


Family Educational Right to Privacy Act. This protects the privacy of educational records of students.


Free Appropriate Public Education. Every student in the US has the right to a FAPE.

This is by no means a list of every acronym used in special education. However, these are the most common, and the most important ones that you need to know.

Read Previous Post | Back to the Blog | Read Next Post

Important Special Ed Acronyms2020-08-05T15:03:24-04:00

Improving the IEP Meeting Experience for Parents

Attending an IEP meeting as a parent can be a scary and emotional experience. Parents want to make sure that their children are given every opportunity to succeed, and they are a vital part of a child’s IEP team.

It’s our job as educators to make parents feel heard and to let them know that they are an important part of their child’s team. Following these steps during an IEP meeting can improve the experience that parents have at an IEP meeting.

Introduce Everyone

It is imperative that the parent knows who is interacting with their child! Take time at the very beginning of the meeting to introduce everyone at the table and explain their roles.

Parents may not know what a building coordinator or a school psychologist is or does. When a parent understands what role each person plays and why, they will be better equipped to help make decisions about their child.

Take the Parent’s Needs Into Account

Sometimes parents need an interpreter for American Sign Language or in their native language. Arrange for this well in advance of the meeting, and be sure to introduce the interpreter!

Parents may also need to attend the IEP meeting over the phone, or may need transportation to the school to attend the meeting. Take these needs into account. Work with your district to arrange transportation if necessary. Involve the parent over the phone as much as possible.

An engaged, involved parent is an integral part of the IEP team!

Start Positive

After introductions, move to stating positive statements about the student.

IEP meetings can sometimes take a negative turn if the parent is receiving bad news from an evaluation or if a child has not met their IEP goals. Beginning the meeting on a positive note can help balance this. Plus, parents love to hear good things about their kids!

Try saying something like “I love working with Johnny because….” or “Sarah has improved so much in X area this year!”

Explain Jargon

Not all parents understand the acronyms and jargon that go along with special education. When using an acronym, explain what it stands for and what it means.

For example, when explaining something like “least restrictive environment”, give an example of what it means.

Leave Time for Questions

IEPs contain a huge amount of information, so it is important to not only leave time for questions at the end of the IEP overview, but also at the end of each section.

This is especially important when the parent is attending over the phone. Without being able to see the parent and read their body language, you may not know if the parent is confused, intimidated, or upset.

Leave time for parents to ask questions and express their feelings about the IEP.

Parents are a crucial part of the IEP team! By making the parent feel comfortable and understood, they will be more likely to contribute to the IEP process and become involved in their child’s education.


Read Previous Post | Back to the Blog | Read Next Post

Improving the IEP Meeting Experience for Parents2020-08-05T15:04:17-04:00

Why You Should Be Using an IEP at a Glance

Depending on the severity of a child’s disability, IEP’s can contain a massive amount of information! Although all of the information on an IEP is important for documentation purposes, there are some parts that need highlighted for proper IEP implementation.

But how do we make sure that teachers get enough information about a student with an IEP without overwhelming them with information?

Enter IEP snapshots! They’re also known as IEP at a Glance or IEP Data Sheet.

IEP snapshots give a condensed version of the entire IEP. Using an IEP snapshot can help teachers quickly reference the essential IEP information they need to know about a child’s IEP.

Information Overload

Depending on your state and the severity of the child’s disability, IEPs can be 50 or more pages long! That’s overwhelming for teachers, especially teachers who are not familiar with IEPs.

In order for teachers to get the information they need, an IEP snapshot is a perfect way to access information without wading through all 50+ legal pages.

Everyone on the Same Page

A great practice is for a special education teacher to provide each general education and special area teacher with a copy of the IEP snapshot prior to the school year (in addition to a copy of the child’s actual IEP).

By doing so, general education and special area teachers are able to preview the student’s areas of need, classroom accommodations, and supplementary aids and services.

When teachers are armed with information about students with IEPs, and given time to prepare, then they can prepare instruction that is inclusive for kids with IEPs. By giving teachers this information ahead of time, they are more familiar with the student and the student’s needs, and will have an easier time following the IEP.

A Chance to Ask Questions

When the special education teacher gives out the IEP snapshots, they should take some time with the general education or special area teacher to see what questions they have.

The student may have an accommodation or modification that the general education teacher is not familiar with, or may have a behavior intervention plan.

By taking the time to talk through the IEP snapshot, the special education teacher is helping to set the general education teacher and the student up for success!

By giving teachers easy-to-access information about the student, they will be more prepared to accommodate that student in their classroom. An IEP snapshot makes important information about the child’s IEP easy to find and easy to understand.

The process of IEP snapshot distribution also opens up the line of communication between the special education teacher and general education teacher. IEP snapshots benefit everyone and help students be more successful!


Read Previous Post | Back to the Blog | Read Next Post