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How to Prep for an Annual IEP Meeting

How to Prep for an Annual IEP Meeting

Keeping track of the IEP meetings for your students can be overwhelming. With so much to do and so much to remember, it’s no wonder that sometimes things unintentionally slip by.

This year, set the systems in place that you will need to be successful with all of your annual IEP meetings – from start to finish. It will make things more efficient, more productive, and nothing will get overlooked.


Steps to Prep for Annual IEP Meetings

The timeline below guides you through how to prep for an annual IEP meeting from the beginning of the year through the meeting itself. While it may seem like a lot, with practice, it becomes a streamlined practice that allows you to keep track of everything IEP meeting-related.

1. Beginning of the School Year

The first step to being organized for your annual IEPs is to know when they are. Put all of your annual IEP due dates on your calendar. There are multiple calendar options in the member’s resources area of The Intentional IEPand a mini training on how to do this.

Without knowing when your students’ IEP meetings are due, you will be hard-pressed to get everything done in the time in which it needs to be completed.

 

2. 30-45 Days Prior

30 to 45 days prior to the meeting start to send the formal invitation to parents. Not only does it help them plan and reserve time from their schedule, but it also gives you ample time to reach out to them again if they do not respond right away. Be sure to document all contact attempts.

This is also when you should send the parent input form home and get general ed input requests out to your student’s teachers. These input forms are inside the IEP Toolkit.

3. 2 Weeks Prior

Two weeks prior to the meeting, it is time to send home the draft IEP and the draft IEP goals. The draft IEP should only include the student’s present levels (with information gathered from evaluations, progress data, classroom data, parent and general ed teacher input forms, etc.) and proposed IEP goals.

Providing any more can and more than likely will be considered a predetermination of services. While it may be tempting to provide the parents with more information or ideas, it is best to stick strictly to the things that should be sent out.

4. 1 Week Prior

A week before the scheduled IEP meeting, follow up on the draft with parents. Answer any questions they may have, assure them that nothing has been predetermined, and reiterate the fact that they are a valuable member of the IEP team. Confirm the IEP meeting time and location with the school team and double-check room availability.

5. 1 Day Prior

The day before the IEP meeting, print all of the IEP documents needed for the meeting.

6. The Day of the Meeting

On the day of the IEP meeting, arrive early at the location, make sure everything is set up and ready for the family, as well as the rest of the team. Double-check that you have all of the documents you need. Take a deep breath and feel confident that you have done all that you can to make sure the meeting runs smoothly.


Not sure what to do during and after the IEP meeting? In Module 4 of the Intentional IEP Writing Course, we talk about all things related to IEP meetings. We cover what to do before, during, and after the meeting, where to send prior written notice, and so much more! Go from feeling overwhelmed and frustrated this year to feeling relieved and confident as you prepare yourself with the knowledge and tools that will make this year different. Learn more about the Intentional IEP Writing Course here.

 

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How to Prep for an Annual IEP Meeting2021-09-23T11:46:58-04:00

3 Tips for Progress Monitoring with a Large Caseload

3 Tips for Progress Monitoring With a Large Caseload

Progress monitoring is an important part of a special education teacher’s job. Ensuring that students are making progress on their IEP goals is key to helping them achieve success.

However, monitoring progress for multiple students can quickly become overwhelming… especially when your caseload is 10+ students!

Having strategies in place to help with progress monitoring will not only make your job easier but will allow you to identify the areas where your students need additional supports and practice.


Structuring Progress Monitoring for a Large Caseload

Special education caseloads are larger than ever and that means that for each special ed teacher, there are often a dozen or more students whose IEP goals need to be monitored.

The strategies below may make that easier despite the large number of students that you are responsible for during the school year.

1 – Make “Fun Friday” All About Progress Monitoring

Set aside one day of the week for progress monitoring across all of your classes. Break students into groups with similar goals and check their progress during small group time. By grouping the students together in a way that allows you to monitor several similar goals, it frees up planning time and gives you more exposure to the students’ actual progress.

Some teachers also have their paras participate in the progress monitoring by assigning them a small group as well. This can work well if your para is explicitly trained on what to look for, how to record progress, and how to implement the lesson or activity.

While you are working with the small groups, other students can be working independently on goals.

2 – Daily Progress Monitoring by Goals

When you have a large caseload of students, it’s important to make sure that none of their goals get overlooked. Create a master list of all of the IEP goals that they are working on. From there, group similar goals and separate those out by day. For example, reading goals could be monitored on Mondays, math goals on Tuesdays, etc. By streamlining the progress monitoring into daily chunks, it helps you keep the focus for the day and ensures that all of the goals are being monitored.

While this method works well, it’s also important to set aside time each week to work with students who have been absent so that you can monitor the goals that they did not have assessed on the day when they were not in school.

3 – Schedule It Out

One of the easiest things to do is to get overwhelmed and forget to schedule in progress monitoring time. At the start of each month, grab your calendar and mark off the days when you will be doing the monitoring. While the rest of the schedule may change, those days should remain the same. Be sure to let your supervisor/principal know that those days are important and that interruptions should be few and far between.


While there is no easy way to manage a large caseload of students, planning and committing to a specific time when you will monitor students’ progress is key. Not only will it help you stay on track, but it will give you the data you need to shape the rest of your lessons. Recruit help if needed and do not be afraid to limit interruptions during those progress monitoring times.

And if you’re in need of a simple, effective way to progress monitor your students’ IEP goals in any setting, Intentional Data Collection is included in The Intentional IEP and will teach you the strategies that you can implement tomorrow. Learn more here.

 

 

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3 Tips for Progress Monitoring with a Large Caseload2021-09-23T11:47:44-04:00

9 Functional Skills for Independence

9 Functional Skills in Special Ed

Functional skills are skills that students need in order to gain independence and live independently. They range from simple to complex, but all of them have one thing in common: they help the student prepare for the world outside of school.

When including functional skills in an IEP, it is important to understand the different types of skills and when and why they might be appropriate. It’s also important for IEP teams to be aware that you can write functional academic skills into an IEP.

Below we break down nine functional skills for independence.


Gaining Independence with Functional Skills

1 – Behavior Skills

Behavior skills are skills that influence interpersonal and self-regulatory behavior in relation to interactions with self and others. They also include task-related behaviors and a student’s ability to successfully navigate those situations while maintaining appropriate behavior.

2 – Communication Skills

Being able to communicate wants and needs, ideas, concerns, and emotions come into play when students are working on their communication skills. Can they communicate about financial matters? Can they express concern about a situation? Can they ask for directions and then understand the information they are given? Providing practice both in and out of the classroom is important to ensure that the student can handle a variety of situations where he will need to communicate effectively.

3 – Daily Living Activities

When adding daily living activities to the IEP, they should include things like personal hygiene, cooking or preparing meals, budgeting money, and having good time management skills. They are the basic things that everyone needs to do in order to survive and live independently.

These skills are sometimes also called ADLs, or Activities of Daily Living.

4 – Employment & Vocational Skills

Marketable skills will vary from student to student, but all of them should know how to apply for a job, how to behave at an interview, and what to do after they have received a job offer. Specialized training, if applicable, can give students experience as apprentices or in trade schools so that they have additional vocational skills.

5 – Life Skills

Much like daily living activities, life skills focus on the activities students need to do on a daily basis. Typically, life skills classes provide additional out-of-the-classroom experiences to expose students to different scenarios. There may a field trip taking public transportation or a shopping excursion to buy ingredients for a meal that they will prepare at school. The curriculum may vary, but the end goal is for students to be more independent.

6 – Mobility Skills

Can students get around? Are they able to move physically from place to place? Are they able to navigate public transportation? Do they know how to read train schedules? All of those things fall under mobility skills that can be addressed in the IEP.

7 – Safety Skills

Making sure that your special ed students understand how to take safety measures to ensure that they do not get hurt is a critical skill for independence. It is everything from shutting off the oven after baking to not leaving a candle burning unattended to wearing a seatbelt while riding in or driving a car. The skills may be simple and taught over a long period of time (i.e. – no running in the hallways) or specific to a certain time period or level of development.

8 – Self-Care Skills

Self-care includes basic skills like brushing teeth, bathing, getting dressed, eating, etc., but it also includes understanding how to care for one’s mental health. Do students know how to decompress in a safe and appropriate way? Can they manage anxiety and stress levels? Teaching them how to care for their mental and emotional health is just as important as teaching them how to shower.

9 – Social Skills

Social skills are something that can be tricky to teach. Some students are inherently more socially adept than others, but it is still a good idea to practice social interaction skills. That can be everything from understanding personal space to waiting to speak and not interrupting someone. The best way to practice is to get students out and about in the school and community. The more feedback they receive about what is appropriate and what is not, the better their social skills will become.


Functional skills should be developmentally appropriate for each student and help guide them towards independence. Making sure that those skills are included in a student’s IEP ensures that he will get the practice and reinforcement that he needs to succeed.

 

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9 Functional Skills for Independence2021-09-16T05:29:21-04:00

5 Things to Do at Every IEP Meeting

5 Things to Do at Every IEP Meeting


IEP meetings are not for the faint of heart! They can be overwhelming, stressful, and downright difficult. They can also be encouraging, motivating, and positive. The problem is that you never quite know how a meeting is going to go until you are in the thick of it.

Thankfully there are five things that you can do at every meeting to ensure that you are doing your part and working toward the most positive outcome for the child, the family, and the school.

 

Five Things Special Ed Teachers Can Do at IEP Meetings

1 – Be on Time

Punctuality is key when it comes to IEP meetings. Not only are you asking your colleagues to give up time from their day to sit in on the meeting, but you are also asking families to spend time away from work. When you are on time, it shows that you are taking the meeting seriously, that you are invested in the student’s success, and that you are a professional.

2 – Introduce Everyone

Parents have the right to know who is in the room discussing their child. Take time before the meeting officially begins to introduce each person at the table and what their role is at the school. If there will be others coming into the meeting at various times, be sure to indicate who will be stopping by and how they know the student. Even if you think the family has met the teacher or administrator a dozen times, re-introduce him or her. Also, ask the parents to introduce themselves and their advocate if they brought one.

3 – Brush Up on Special Ed Law

While this should be done prior to the IEP meeting, it is also helpful to explain the law and how it relates to the student’s IEP as you are going through it with the family. If you are not sure about the legality of what they are requesting, explain that you will look into it. Don’t try to make up the law or guess at what it says! Not only could that damage your credibility but it could also cause legal issues for the district.

4 – Provide Examples

Families of students with IEPs know that there are differences between how their child learns and how other students may process information. When you are discussing specific things, be sure to provide examples of what you mean. Bring in samples of the student’s work in the classroom to show the family a concrete example. They might even surprise you and bring in work samples from home or indicate that they too have noticed the same behavior or concern.

5 – Listen and Ask Questions

At the end of the day, families do not want to argue with the school to get the support and services that their children need. The majority of them want to work together as a team and come up with a plan of action that will benefit their child the most. Ask questions about why they are requesting certain things and then listen to their answers. If you are not clear about something, ask follow-up questions for clarification. When you show that you are genuinely interested and care about their child, families will typically tell you more about their concerns and why they have them. Instead of a dictatorship, it becomes the collaboration that it should be.


While preparing the IEP document is important and must be done, the five simple things above can also make or break a meeting. Be on time, make sure everyone knows each other, know and be able to explain the Special Ed Law, give families concrete examples of work, and actively listen and ask questions. Before you know it, the meeting will be over and a great school-parent relationship will be forged.

 

 

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5 Things to Do at Every IEP Meeting2021-09-13T16:02:57-04:00

9 Types of Adaptations

9 Types of Adaptations

There are so many different ways to adapt and modify a lesson or activity to make it appropriate for your students.

As teachers, we often fall into a rut where we find our favorite adaptations and stick with them. It is fine to have favorites, but it is also important to look at the big picture and explore different adaptations when the go-to ones are not really working.

Check out this list of nine different types of adaptations that can be used to make any activity or lesson more accessible for students.


Adaptations for Lessons and Activities

Not all adaptations work for all students. Be open to trying new or different ones to address the needs of the students in your class or on your caseload. You may be surprised by what works best and discover new ways to reach learners.

1 – Size of Assignments

Adapt the number of items that the student is expected to learn or complete. This ensures that they have the same grade-level material – just less of it.

2 – Time

Adapt the amount of time a student has to complete an assignment or assessment. Extended time can be time and a half, double-time, or tailored to meet your student’s individual needs. If time is adjusted, encourage the learner to use all of the time that he has been given. Going slowly, checking, and double-checking work may not be something he has had time for in the past and may not know how to do.

3 – Support

Sometimes students just need a little bit more support. Adapt a lesson or activity by increasing the amount of personal support the student receives to complete the assignment.

4 – Input

Students all learn differently and adapting the way information is delivered to a student can greatly improve their understanding and retention of the material. For example, using audiobooks for students with reading difficulties is an easy way to deliver the same information in a different format.

5 – Difficulty

By adapting the skill level, problem type, or the rules on how the learner may approach the work, you make the activity more accessible.

6 – Output

Adapt how the student can demonstrate or present the information that he has learned. For instance, a student with dysgraphia may do better demonstrating his understanding of a subject when doing an oral presentation versus writing a paper.

7 – Participation

Adapt the extent to which a learner is actively involved in the task or activity. Some students may need less participation to be successful while others may need more.

8 – Alternate

Using the same materials, adapt the goals or outcome expectations to meet the student’s needs and ability level.

9 – Curriculum

Adapting the curriculum means providing entirely different instruction and materials to meet a student’s individual goals.


There is never only one way to adapt activities to meet a student’s needs. Remember that the ultimate goal is for the student to learn and demonstrate his understanding of the material. How that happens and what adaptations are needed to make that happen are up to you.

 

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9 Types of Adaptations2021-09-13T16:03:43-04:00

How to Write an IEP

 


Before the IEP

IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. An IEP is a legally bound document created by a team of professionals that work with a child. But more than that, it’s a map for a child’s education program that includes special education instruction, services, and supports. No two children’s IEPs are the same, that’s why the I in IEP stands for individualized. 

IEPs are a part of public education and are covered by special education law under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, also called IDEA. You can find more information on the IDEA here, as well as a few books the TII Team highly recommends for teachers, service providers, and parents here.

To qualify for special education services under the IDEA law, a child must be formally diagnosed with having a disability that is one of the 13 categories outlined in the federal law. Second, the school must determine that, as a result of the disability, the child needs special education services to make progress in school and learn the general education curriculum. 

To be diagnosed, a child must go through the evaluation process and will be assessed by a qualified examiner, in school or through an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). After the evaluation, the IEP Team, which includes the child’s parents and/or guardians, will review the evaluation results and determine if the child is eligible to receive special education services.

Once a child is found eligible for special education services, it’s time to write the IEP.

Writing the IEP

An IEP is a blueprint to a child’s education. An IEP lays out all of the student’s needs and services. Depending upon where you work (state, country, type of school (public, private, or charter)), IEP formats look different… but they all have common parts – and parts that must be included per the IDEA regulations.

It’s up to you as the teacher and caseload manager to follow special education law for your state, and any district rules or guidelines, which may vary.

Let’s take a look at the basic anatomy of an IEP: 

  1. First is always the student’s information. This is the first page of every IEP. Each time you update, amend, or write a child’s IEP, you’ll want to make sure this information is correct and up to date. This section also includes a list of the members on the child’s IEP Team.
  2. Next comes the Present Levels of Academic and Functional Performance. This is called the PLAAFP, PLOP, PLEP depending on your state or school’s preferred acronym. This section of the IEP should answer two questions: (1) How is the child currently performing and what are his/her skills and knowledge? And (2) How does the child’s disability impact his/her involvement and progress in the general education curriculum? The Present Levels are the starting point of an IEP, and should paint a full picture of the child’s current strengths, weaknesses, assessments results, general education curriculum participations, parental concerns and more.
  3. IEPs include annual IEP goals and objectives or benchmarks for academic, functional, social, and behavioral skills. Goals for transition, daily living and self care, feeding, mobility and other areas students are struggling in may have IEP goals written for them. IEP goals are written based on the information shared in the child’s Present Levels, meaning there is a direct correlation between the two. IEP goals should be S.M.A.R.T. goals, meaning each IEP goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-bound.
  4. Progress Reporting discusses how the IEP team will keep track of the child’s progress towards IEP goal and objective mastery. This section also informs the team how often progress updates will be shared about the child’s progress towards the IEP goals and objectives, and how the progress updates will be shared.
  5. The services section of the child’s IEP includes what the specific special education services the child will be receiving, for how long (most commonly described in minutes per week), and the school personnel responsible for providing the service. This section also includes specially designed instruction, services outside of the regular school year, like Extended School Year (ESY), transition planning, and transportation.
  6. Student supports includes the accommodations, supplemental aids and services, and modifications that the child needs to make progress in the general ed 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. This section also includes Assistive Technology.
  7. Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and an explanation of the child’s participation with peers in general education classes and during other activities. This also includes any applicable state testing. In this section, you will also include an explanation of the extent to which a child will not participate with non-disabled peers in class, and other nonacademic and extracurricular activities.
  8. Parental, or Guardian, Consent is a huge part of every child’s IEP and most IEPs have a signature line for parents. In most cases, the parent will agree to the child’s IEP as written. However, the parent does not have to agree with or to the suggestions made by the IEP Team or within the child’s drafted IEP. The parent has the right to decline the IEP.

 


If you find yourself struggling with writing IEPs – whether it’s writing the Present Levels or IEP goals or determining services, Intentional IEP Writing is your step-by-step formula for not only writing IEPs, but gaining the knowledge behind IEP writing to advocate hard for your students and the services they deserve.

Intentional IEP Writing is a self-paced program where you’ll learn and understand what an IEP really is-and isn’t. Get a handle on those pesky acronyms. Understand all of your child’s needs and document them accordingly in an effective way that will ensure help for your student now and into the future. No more bandaid fixes on volcanoes – say hello to confidence and clarity.

If you want to spend less time writing IEPs and regain control of your calendar and are ready to fearlessly advocate for your students through IEPs that empower them and give them the best possible chance of success – then Intentional IEP Writing is for you.

Whether you are a brand new teacher, or a veteran still in need of a structured system for writing IEPs, I personally invite you to join me inside Intentional IEP Writing to gain the clarity you need to make this year’s IEP writing different… and all the school years to come.

 

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How to Write an IEP2021-08-26T11:24:56-04:00

7 Steps to Choose IEP Goals

7 Steps to Choose IEP Goals There is a lot that goes into choosing and creating IEP goals. Do you know what information to use to guide you? Do you know where to find it? How do you integrate the information in the family’s vision statement? With so much to consider, it can be a daunting task to choose the IEP goals that will benefit your student the most. The seven steps below can help guide you to determine what goals should be included in the IEP.


Steps to Choosing the Most Appropriate IEP Goals

1. Look at the Student’s Progress on Last Year’s Goals

The IEP goals should be based on where they are now and what they need to learn next. To create effective goals, you have to look at their progress in relation to the skills already taught. If the student did not reach any of last year’s goals or if there were no appropriate expectations for them, you will need to look at their current level of performance.

2. Look at the Latest Evaluation Report

If goals were created for the student last year, you will want to look at the most recent evaluation report. That information should be included on the annual or triennial evaluation report that is sent home with the student. If there isn’t a formal evaluation completed yet, there should be some indication of the student’s skill levels and needs in their progress reports.

3. Look at Any Work Samples

If the student has not had an IEP or if the one last year was unsuccessful, you will want to look at work samples. This might be from a report card, grades on a homework assignment, samples of how they do in class, or even something from home like a drawing. You could also ask teachers or parents for samples from when they have worked with the student. What is important is to look at how the student is behaving, what his work looks like, and if it is something he can improve upon or not. Technology gives us another option: With so many surveys, checklists, and other forms on the internet, you might be able to find a sample that will help you determine the student’s strengths and weaknesses. When looking, you might want to see what other teachers have used or look at samples from other children your student’s age.

4. Look at the Grade Level Standards

It is important to look at the standards that your state has set or your student’s grade level. They will vary from state to state and even district to district, but it will give you a good idea of what information has been deemed necessary for success in school. This can help guide what should be included in the IEP goals so that they are meaningful and appropriate.

5. Then Determine What IEP Goals to Work On

After going through the previous steps, you should have a good idea of where your student is in relation to their peers. If he is struggling and falling behind, you will want to look at goals that help him catch up. That might mean having short-term goals or review sessions during the school day so the students can work on skills or concepts they are struggling with. If, however, the student is succeeding and doing well at tasks or subjects, then you will want to look at what he can do next. That might be moving on to a more advanced math course or being exposed to different areas of study.

6. Think of How You Can Write Functional Academic Goals

Functional academic goals should be written to include what the student is doing right now, not just what he will have to learn in the future. When writing functional academic goals, make sure you use language that shows progress towards mastery and always describe the expected behavior using positive terms. You should also be looking at functional academic goals beyond just academic areas, but also in the areas of self-care, home living, social skills, and community involvement.

7. Don’t Forget to Align the IEP Goals with the Present Levels and the Family’s Vision

The IEP goals for a student should be related to what he and his family envision for the future. While parents, teachers, and administration will all discuss this statement it’s important to consider it when choosing IEP goals. You can use the information from that meeting, as well as, any prior evaluations or work samples in creating appropriate goals for your students.


IEP goals should be chosen with care and a clear understanding of what the child currently needs and what the goals for his academic success look like. Take into consideration all of the factors of his progress, current levels, and what his family’s goals are for him when choosing IEP goals.    

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7 Steps to Choose IEP Goals2021-08-25T10:02:56-04:00

Using Morning Work to Prepare Students for IEP Goal Work

Morning Work and IEP Goals Recently a first-year teacher asked how morning work could benefit her class, especially if it was repetitive. Would it be beneficial if students had mastered the skills already? Would it be boring and ineffective?

While some morning work may not be appropriate, teachers have found that repetitive tasks are a great way to prepare students to work on their IEP goals.


Why “Morning Work” Works

Students with IEPs come from a wide range of backgrounds and have many different needs. The one thing that is consistent, however, is that before any work can begin on IEP goals, the student has to be ready to learn.

Warming Up the Brain

Morning work helps students get into that learning frame of mind. Activities that are consistent and repetitive allow them to focus on the task at hand. They also signal to the brain that it is now time to start the learning day based on the daily pattern and flow of activities.

Building Consistency

Many students thrive when they have a consistent routine in place. It allows them to know what to expect and when. Morning work is an excellent way to build that consistency at the beginning of the day.

Starting the Day with Success

Building your students up in the morning is a great way to set the tone for the rest of the school day. Repetitive morning work tasks allow students to experience daily success. It is a great confidence builder! When students then move on to working on IEP goals, they start the tasks with a sense of accomplishment.

Working on IEP Goals

Many types of morning work can include IEP goal work. Goals for writing, fine motor skills, life skills, and more are all appropriate for morning work. Adapted morning work binders, for example, give students practice with a variety of skills that might be part of their IEP goals. The key is to find morning work that can be used by a variety of students of all different skill levels. This gives students the opportunity to make progress while still doing the same type of skill but in a different way.

Practice Makes Progress

As students continue to practice a skill, they become more proficient. Continued practice with the same type of morning work gives them the repetition they need in order to make progress both with their IEP goals and beyond.

Easy Progress Monitoring

While repetitive morning work is beneficial for students, it also makes it easy for teachers to track progress. When skills are practiced so often and at the same time each day, true progress can be easily observed and recorded. If you make it a goal to jot down progress notes about students’ morning work each week and you may find that significant progress has been made over the course of the school year.


If your students are struggling to start the day or you find that they are having trouble focusing on morning IEP goal work, consider implementing morning work that will ease their brains and bodies into learning. They will start the school day more focused, more confident, and more willing to try as they tackle their IEP goals.    

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Using Morning Work to Prepare Students for IEP Goal Work2021-08-19T16:43:27-04:00

What to Do When IEP Goals Aren’t Working

What to Do When an IEP Goal Isn't Working A great IEP is the key to success for any disabled individual. If your student’s IEP goals aren’t working or the child seems to be struggling, it’s time to take action. Being proactive can mean the difference between a successful year for the student and one that’s filled with frustration and difficulties.


Steps to Take When IEP Goals Aren’t Working

Step One: Talk with Your Student’s Family

Talk with your student’s parents about the IEP at his or her next meeting. Ask what they think might be going on and how you can help. There may be things going on at home that would directly impact how a student is behaving or performing in school. Since parents know their child best, they should be the first ones who are contacted for input.

Step Two: Talk to Colleagues Who Work with the Student

Check-in with other teachers who work directly with the student to see if anyone else is noticing a pattern of difficulty. You may be able to adjust your teaching style for that individual if it seems to be something about the instructional approach rather than the material being taught.

Step Three: Think About a Re-Evaluation or IEE

Talk to your student’s parents about the possibility of an outside evaluation, or IEE. Evaluations can help identify whether a specific disability is impacting performance in school and if so what accommodations are needed under IDEA. Depending on the district or school, independent evaluations are usually done at the cost of the family (although the parent may request one per the school), so make sure to have multiple resources available for them. Some independent testing organizations, especially those associated with universities, use a sliding scale based on income. That might be a needed option for some families.

Step Four: Talk with Other Special Education Teachers

Exchange information with other teachers who have students with similar needs or disabilities. They might be able to provide insight into why a student is struggling based on their previous experience working with a child with similar needs. It could be that the IEP goal is too much for the student and needs to be broken down into smaller pieces. Other special ed teachers will be able to help detect those issues.

Step Five: Take it to the Top

Share your observations and ask for help from the special education teacher in charge of the student’s case within your district’s central office. They may have ideas and resources for you to help your student meet his goals.

Step Six: Schedule a New IEP Meeting

You can make an amendment to an IEP at any time throughout the school year, and you can have multiple amendments in one school year. Work together with the rest of the IEP team to develop a new plan for success. That new plan might involve providing instructional supports at school or additional services. It may mean re-writing IEP goals and adjusting expectations.


Be sure to involve the parents in the entire process from your first concerns to re-writing goals. They will want and need to know how the expectations for their child’s progress are changing and may want to discuss them further. Above all, be proactive and open to new suggestions and ideas so that you can provide your student with the best education possible.

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What to Do When IEP Goals Aren’t Working2021-08-25T10:05:32-04:00

How to Set Up IEP Work Bins for Your Students

Setting Up IEP Work Bins

Helping students make progress on and master their IEP goals is key to every child’s success, not just for that year’s annual IEP – but for the child’s success with “…further education, employment, and independent living.”

But with dozens of students on a caseload, it can be challenging to find enough hours in the school day to give them both the attention and skills practice needed.

In those instances, IEP work bins can be an effective and integral part of their learning and your teaching.


IEP Work Bins

Before embarking on creating IEP work bins it’s important to understand what they are and why they can be helpful for your students. It’s also helpful to know what materials are needed to create and store them so that you can save time and money.

What are IEP Work Bins?

IEP Work Bins are task boxes that contain learning activities specifically geared toward the individual child’s IEP goals. They are typically designed to be used by one child and activities are added and removed based on the child’s progress with his or her goals.

Unlike traditional work bins or task boxes that focus on one skill at a time, IEP work bins can contain a variety of subjects and activities.

Why IEP Work Bins are Effective

When you are working in a self-contained classroom your students may have anywhere from 10 different IEP goals to 100. That means that a lot of your time will be spent trying to adapt and differentiate your teaching to try to meet them where they are. That can be especially challenging when it comes to having learning centers in the classroom.

IEP Work Bins provide students with hands-on centers that are specifically geared to their IEP goals. That means that they are getting the practice they need to make progress while you are working with a small group or other students individually.

How to Set Up IEP Work Bins

Just like traditional task bins, IEP work bin activities should be stored in a sturdy container. Unlike single skill boxes however, IEP work bins need a little more space so a larger, clear container is often preferred.

Remember, it needs to be easy enough for the student to open, but large enough to hold the centers you’d like them to work on throughout the day.

Adding to and Organizing Activities in the Work Bins

Adding activities to the work bins means keeping track of what centers you have, which ones have been assigned to each child, and which ones the student has already mastered. A simple spreadsheet and labels on each activity makes this much easier.

For example, if your student has a goal for color recognition, you could label the activity on the spreadsheet and with a sticky label on the zip-top storage bag that it’s in as “Color-1”. You could then type in the child’s name who has that center in their IEP Work Bin. Having a separate tab for each child would then allow you to keep track of who has used which center. Make a copy of the spreadsheet I use here.

Activities for IEP Work Bins

There are many different types of activities that you can include in the IEP work bins, but the most effective ones are going to be those that specifically address each child’s needs and learning style.

It’s a good idea to store the activities in zip-top plastic bags that are labeled with the activity code it has been assigned. While you might normally set up work boxes in their own individual clear containers, when those activities are being added to a larger bin, it’s best to store them in clear plastic bags so that they fit better.


IEP Work Bins may not work for every student on your caseload or in your classroom, but they are an excellent resource for those students who can work more independently and who will benefit from extra skills practice.

 

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How to Set Up IEP Work Bins for Your Students2021-08-12T10:27:47-04:00

How to Handle Parents with Unreasonable Expectations

How to Handle Parents with Unreasonable Expectations

Parents with unreasonable expectations IEPs can be a challenge to deal with. They may feel that their child deserves more than your school is willing to offer, and they are not satisfied when it comes time for you to provide them the truth about what you can do.


How to Handle Parents with Unreasonable IEP Expectations

Step 1 – Acknowledge

The first step in handling this situation is acknowledging that the parent may have a legitimate concern. While you may know the child well at school, parents know their child best and can see patterns over time that teachers may not be able to see or may not have noticed.

Step 2 – Ask Questions

Asking questions, and more specifically clarifying questions, before making a decision. You can also offer an opinion that may help prevent disagreements from happening.

Step 3 – Be Understanding While Explaining Your Position

Be understanding and supportive of their feelings while also explaining your position on what you can do for them in this situation. If you have any data that supports the decision, this is your time to use it and bring it in to the conversation.

While you want to help the student and provide families with what they want and need, sometimes your hands are tied and you cannot give them everything they’re asking for.

Step 4 – Offer a Compromise If You Can’t Meet Their Request

If you cannot meet the request, offer a compromise. If the parents want more accommodations for their child, then it’s best to politely decline and help them find another resource that will be able to give them what they need.

Again – data will be your best friend here in making and navigating these decisions.

Step 5 – Table the Discussion

If the parents are not satisfied with your explanation, then it’s best to end the conversation. You can refer them or link them to a resource where someone who specializes in these issues will be able to help out further if needed. Sometimes that means pointing them in the direction of an advocate who can help them fight for the services they want to see implemented.

Step 6 – Document Everything

Make sure to keep notes on how any conversations go, including dates and names of people involved, as well as who was in attendance when decisions were made about the child’s education plan.


Having the Tough Conversations

As a teacher, it can be overwhelming and difficult to collaborate with parents who have what may seem to be “unrealistic expectations” of what their child needs in order to be successful at school. These situations can be tricky because you need to balance your position as an educator and advocate, while also being supportive and understanding of the family’s perspective. It’s important to keep a level head and be understanding of the parent’s perspective while also not shying away from your responsibilities as an educator.

Veteran tip: Take nothing personal. If a parent is upset about something, the majority of the time it is because of the school’s positioning and not you as the teacher. Don’t take it personal, as difficult as it may be.

While you may feel frustrated at times, it’s best to stay calm in these situations. If parents aren’t satisfied with your explanation, it’s may be best to leave the conversation or call admin in to help and advise.

Veteran tip: A lot of the time, a teacher’s hands are tied because of the fine line we walk when advocating for a student’s needs while also being employed by the school district. So if you and the parent are on the same team, you can explain that the family may want to contact an IEP coach or advocate who specializes in these issues.

Remembering to document everything from conversations will help you later when it comes time to make decisions on what is most appropriate for the student. Don’t forget to keep notes of what you discussed, when, and with whom. By documenting the conversation from start to finish, it will make things easier later on in terms of knowing who agreed or disagreed with a certain course of action.

Veteran tip: This is also great advice for having conversations with admin at school when you are advocating for the most appropriate services and supports for your students. Admin may not always agree, so it’s important to keep your own data and ledger.

It’s important for teachers and parents to work together as partners so that children can succeed in school and reach their full potential. After all, IEPs are built to help a child in furthering their education, employment, and independent living.

Communication is key in these situations, so it’s important to be understanding of one another while also being clear about what your responsibilities are as an educator. By following the six steps outlined in this blog post, you can better prepare yourself for any conversation with parents who have unrealistic expectations.

 

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How to Handle Parents with Unreasonable Expectations2021-08-12T10:29:42-04:00

Extracurriculars, IEPs, and the Law

IEPs, Extracurriculars, and the Law

Extracurricular activities in school are a big deal. It’s not just about the fun students have with their friends, it’s also about the skills they get to learn and the experiences that will help lead to future success.

But what if your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or other disability? What rights do they have for extracurricular activities?

Let’s take a look at some of these questions and more!


Understanding IEPs, the IDEA, and Extracurriculars

What is an IEP?

An Individualized Education Program typically includes a statement of what the student needs in order to be educated successfully. It may also include services that need to be provided, accommodations and modifications, assessments, short-term goals for progress reports as well as long-term academic or functional goals.

The IEP team may include the student, their parents or guardians, a teacher who knows the child well, and an expert in the field of disability.

What is IDEA?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) protects children from discriminatory actions based on their disabilities by requiring that every public school district provide each qualified individual with a free, appropriate public education.

In 2004, Congress amended the IDEA to include legal coverage for extracurricular activities in school.

What are Extracurricular Activities?

Extracurricular activities are any school-sponsored or -supported activity that is not part of the regular instructional curriculum, including athletics, art clubs, music education, and student government.

What Does the IDEA Say About Extracurricular Activities?

The law requires that children with disabilities be allowed to participate in all services offered by a public school district, including extracurricular activities.

It is unlawful for public schools to exclude students from any of these programs if their parents request that they be included on the basis that they have a disability.

What Does an IEP Cover in Terms of Extracurriculars?

An IEP can include what is called “extracurricular activities” which are defined as any activity outside of the regular school curriculum that isn’t related to coursework and includes sports, music clubs, cheerleading squad, etc.

An IEP team can determine what type of extracurricular activities a child with disabilities should take part in and how often they participate.

The school district must provide the services that are required by law which may include any equipment or special materials needed for participation. The school district is required to provide any extracurricular activities that are appropriate for the student’s disability and may not require a “fee or charge on behalf of the parents, guardian, or pupil in order to participate therein.”

The IDEA also states that the school district has to provide extracurricular activities in general, including contact sports. The law requires that all students have access to the same educational and extracurricular opportunities, regardless of disability status or need for special education services.

  • Section 300.107 addresses Nonacademic services, including extracurricular activities:
The State must ensure the following:
(a) Each public agency must take steps, including the provision of supplementary aids and services determined appropriate and necessary by the child’s IEP Team, to provide nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities in the manner necessary to afford children with disabilities an equal opportunity for participation in those services and activities.
(b) Nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities may include counseling services, athletics, transportation, health services, recreational activities, special interest groups or clubs sponsored by the public agency, referrals to agencies that provide assistance to individuals with disabilities, and employment of students, including both employment by the public agency and assistance in making outside employment available.

Furthermore, a school district may only use an individualized education program as justification for denying participation in other programs if the IEP specifically states that the student should not participate in these programs.

The IDEA prohibits school districts from discriminating against a child with disabilities because of their disability and requires provision for reasonable accommodation, including auxiliary aids or services to enable students to access benefits, opportunities, instruction, and extracurricular activities on an equal basis with others.


Extracurriculars and the Law

Schools are committed to providing every student with an education, but many students don’t realize that their extracurricular activities in school also have legal protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

There is no need for children with disabilities to feel like they can’t participate because of a disability or individualized educational needs. Schools have a legal responsibility to provide them with equal access.

 

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Extracurriculars, IEPs, and the Law2021-07-23T10:34:36-04:00

To Add More Gen Ed Time or Not?

What to Do If Families Want More General Ed Classroom Time

As special educators, we walk a fine line between the families we service and advocate for and the administration who can make or break our work life. We’re supposed to be the voice of reason, the strategist for a child’s education, and the advocate for what is best for each student. So what happens when a parent requests full or more general ed time for a student?

While a students Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is determined at the IEP meeting based on the IEP supports and services needed for the child to succeed, the answer is not always straightforward.


Is More General Ed Time the Appropriate Placement?

There is no doubt that parents want their children to lead as “normal” of a life as possible. They may see the special ed setting as one that is holding the child back or is keeping him from achieving his potential. They may also see our recommendation for limited general ed time as the worst possible scenario for their child. (Reminder: it is imperative that we listen to parent concerns and navigate these waters carefully!)

Since parents are part of the IEP team and have the final sign-off on the IEP itself, it is important to make sure everyone is on the same page and understands why the placement is what it is. Here are some tips for making that happen:

 

1 – Ask What They are Hoping for with the General Ed Placement

Understanding why the general ed placement is so important for parents and what their priorities are with it will help you discuss the realities of the classroom setting with them. Ask parents what their vision is for their child being in gen ed? Do they envision their child hanging out with a lot of children and making friends quickly in the gen ed classroom? While they may make friends, the fantasy of the gen ed classroom is far from the structured reality of the day.

Explaining the reality to them and asking the general ed teacher to help coordinate the times that would work best for the family’s goals is a good way to help them understand that the best placement for their child might not be all day in a gen ed setting.

In this scenario, having the parent observe the general education classroom for a few hours or half a day may be beneficial. It may also be an option to have the student in this LRE for a trial period (example: 1 month). Collect data during this time and then re-convene to determine if this placement is the child’s most appropriate LRE.

 

2 – Some Service Not Available

It’s important for parents to understand that some of the services their child receives are not available or appropriate for the general ed classroom. Many of the small group lessons that special ed students need and thrive on are simply not things that the general ed teacher is equipped to do, or one that a general ed classroom has. Emphasizing that the more progress a child makes in the current setting, the better equipped they are to spend more time in the general ed setting.

In this scenario, you could trial more general ed time with pull out resource services, or itinerant in-class special education supports.

 

3 – Introduce Them Slowly and Re-evaluate

If parents are insistent that the child spends more time in the general ed setting, propose introducing the child subject by subject. Start with less academically challenging subjects or specials and then evaluate the child’s progress academically, socially, and emotionally after a month.

The data will either show that the student is ready for the transition or that it is not the best placement. There is nothing wrong with letting the child try and it helps parents get a clear picture of the data that is used to determine the most appropriate setting.


In the end, the most important thing to remember is that the parent only wants what is best for their child. They want their child to live and learn in the best, most appropriate least restrictive environment available to the child.

Being a parent of a child with special needs can be challenging and emotional, and as teachers we need to build a relationship with them that is both safe and supportive.

 

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To Add More Gen Ed Time or Not?2021-06-29T17:13:51-04:00

IEP Final Copy or Draft? Helping Parents Understand the Difference

Helping Parents Understand if it's the IEP Draft or Final Copy The IEP process is not the easiest to understand. If you are a special educator who works with IEPs all day long it is a bit easier to know where in the process things occur. But for families, there are many small steps that they may be unfamiliar with that can cause misunderstandings. As the teacher or coordinator, it is your job to help families understand what is happening and when. One of those incidences is when the IEP draft is sent home for review. While you understand that it is just a draft copy and can still be changed, parents may think it is the final version and they have no say in what is included. To help prevent that misunderstanding, there are some tricks to helping them understand the difference.


Is It a Draft of the IEP or the Final Copy?

Long before the IEP draft is delivered to a child’s family, they should be made aware that they are part of the IEP team. Experienced families may already know this, but for those who are dealing with their first IEP, it can seem overwhelming. Reassure them from the start that they are important, they are valued, and that their input is truly needed. This helps set the foundation of teamwork and, even if they misunderstand what is sent home, they will at least feel comfortable asking questions. Below are some easy ways to help keep the parents in the know and make sure they understand what is happening and why when it comes to their child’s IEP:

1 – Sticky Note It!

A simple sticky note on the IEP draft can make a huge difference. It can clearly state “DRAFT” or include a personal note if you choose. Make sure to send it home in an envelope though so the note doesn’t end up at the bottom of the child’s backpack.

Our free Proposed Draft IEP sticker can be found here. Print and go! Learn more in this video.

2 – Pre-Printed Draft Labeling

Some schools use programs that automatically label the IEP draft as a draft. It’s printed in light grey across every page of the document so that there is no mistaking that it is not the final copy.

3 – Give Families a Heads Up

A quick phone call home to let them know that the draft IEP is on its way can also help. Be sure to let parents know that it is open to revision and is in no way the final version.

4 – Ask for Input Prior to Doing the Draft

One way to make sure parental input is included in the IEP is to send home a survey asking for their observations and concerns prior to creating the draft. Explain that after you receive their feedback, you will be crafting the draft that they’ll have a chance to review before the meeting. This gives families a better understanding of the IEP process.

You can find parent, student, and teacher questionnaires inside of the IEP Toolkit here.

5 – Highlight That It’s the Draft Being Discussed

If parents have come to the IEP meeting thinking that the final version is what they received, be sure to mention frequently throughout the discussions that it is the draft that is being discussed. This helps it become clearer that the final draft has not been completed and the working copy is what is being discussed to add to or alter.

Learn more about sending home draft IEPs in this video.


Once parents understand the IEP process and trust the team, it becomes easier to create a very viable draft of the IEP before the meeting takes place. Emphasizing the importance of the parents’ role on the IEP team and how valuable their input is, is key.  

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IEP Final Copy or Draft? Helping Parents Understand the Difference2021-08-25T10:05:35-04:0