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Drafting an IEP

(October 25, 2011): When drafting an IEP, it essential that you first evaluate which special education and related services are needed by the student.  Generally, the IEP Team will begin by looking at the child’s evaluation results, such as classroom tests, individual tests given to establish the student’s eligibility, and observations by teachers, parents, paraprofessionals, related service providers, administrators, and others. This information will help the team describe the student’s “present levels of educational performance” -in other words, how the student is currently doing in school. Knowing how the student is currently performing in school will help the team develop annual goals to address those areas where the student has an identified educational need.

I.  Information Needed When Drafting an IEP:

Before drafting an IEP, the IEP Team must assemble a wide range of specific information about the child. This includes:

• The child’s strengths;
• The parents’ ideas for enhancing their child’s education;
• The results of recent evaluations or reevaluations; and
• How the child has done on state and district-wide tests

II.  An Evaluation of the Child’s Needs Must be Conducted:

It is important that the discussion of what the child needs be framed around how to help the child:

• Advance toward the annual goals;
• Be involved in and progress in the general curriculum;
• Participate in extracurricular and nonacademic activities; and
• Be educated with and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children.

Based on the above discussion, the IEP Team will then begin drafting an IEP. This includes the services and supports the school will provide for the child. If the IEP Team decides that a child needs a particular device or service (including an intervention, accommodation, or other program modification), the IEP Team must write this information in the IEP. As an example, consider a child whose behavior interferes with learning. The IEP Team would need to consider positive and effective ways to address that behavior. The IEP Team would discuss the positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports that the child needs in order to learn how to control or manage his or her behavior. If the team decides that the child needs a particular service (including an intervention, accommodation, or other program modification), they must include a statement to that effect in the child’s IEP.

III.  Special Factors to Consider When Drafting an IEP:

Depending on the needs of the child, the IEP team needs to consider what the law calls special factors. These include:

• If the child’s behavior interferes with his or her learning or the learning of others, the IEP Team will consider strategies and supports to address the child’s behavior.
• If the child has limited proficiency in English, the IEP Team will consider the child’s language needs as these needs relate to his or her IEP.
• If the child is blind or visually impaired, the IEP Team must provide for instruction in Braille or the use of Braille, unless it determines after an appropriate evaluation that the child does not need this instruction.
• If the child has communication needs, the IEP Team must consider those needs.
• If the child is deaf or hard of hearing, the IEP Team will consider his or her language and communication needs. This includes the child’s opportunities to communicate directly with classmates and school staff in his or her usual method of communication (for example, sign language).
• The IEP Team must always consider the child’s need for assistive technology devices or services.

IV. Will Parents Need an Interpreter in Order to Participate Fully?

If the parents have a limited proficiency in English or are deaf, they may need an interpreter in order to understand and be understood. In this case, the school must make reasonable efforts to arrange for an interpreter during meetings pertaining to the child’s educational placement. For meetings regarding the development or review of the IEP, the school must take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that parents understand the meetings–including arranging for an interpreter. This provision should help to ensure that parents are not limited in their ability to participate in their child’s education because of language or communication barriers.

Therefore, if parents need an interpreter for a meeting to discuss their child’s evaluation, eligibility for special education or IEP, they should let the school know ahead of time. Telling the school in advance allows the school to make arrangements for an interpreter so that parents can participate fully in the meeting.

Ashley Morgan Healthcare AttorneyAshley Morgan, J.D., represents students and their families in connection with the initiation, drafting and implementation of a comprehensive IEP that is designed to meet the specific needs of a child.  For a complimentary consultation, please give Ashley a call.  She can be reached at:  1 (800) 475-1906.

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