Developing Individualized Educational Plan (I.E.P) for students with disabilities

Developing the Individual Education Plan

Planning the instructional program for students with autism is complex, because these students have significant differences from most other students in learning style, communication, and social skill development, and often have challenging behaviors. There is considerable individual variability in how these characteristics affect a particular person.

Programs must be individualized and based on the unique needs and abilities of each student. Knowing how the student’s ability to process information and communicate are affected by autism is critically important to planning.

A student’s education program could include a combination of instructional activities from the regular curriculum as well as activities based on goals and objectives that are unique to the individual and set out in an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

The Individual Education Plan (IEP) is developed through collaboration by a team of people directly involved with the student, such as the classroom teacher, parents, the student if appropriate, and special education teacher. In some cases, planning involves others, such as teacher assistants, speech and language pathologists, behavior consultants, and school psychologists.

It is important for school staff to be aware of interventions being used to support the student, so that the school program can be as congruent as possible with that program or therapy.

Because students with autism have difficulty with change, it is important to try to plan so that supports complement each other.

The needs of some students with autism and the support required to meet those needs sometimes go beyond the mandate of the school system. To be most efficient and have the best outcomes for students, a collaborative approach among all those working to support them is desirable.

Some school districts have found it helpful to develop protocols with local agencies for how they will work together in order to plan supports for students and their families. Such protocols deal with areas such as information sharing, communication methods, meeting locations, and areas of responsibility. Such issues as service providers from outside the school working with the student in school can be dealt with smoothly when there is a protocol. 

Contents of an Individual Education Plan (IEP)

The written IEP is intended to guide the work of educators and to provide information on the types of modifications, adaptations, strategies, and services that will be used to support the student.

Effective Individual Education Plans include:

1 Personal and educational data, including assessment information

2 Information about the student’s strengths and needs

3 Long-term goals, short-term goals and objective. The long-term goals include the future vision for the student as an adult. Short term goals and objectives can be related to the regular curriculum or developed as individualized goals organized into developmental domains such as the following:

  • communication, including the development of expressive skills through speech and/or augmentative systems, development of receptive language, and pragmatic skills
  • socialization, development of social skills
  • behaviors, appropriate to a variety of contexts and situations
  • functional skills for independent living
  • level of the student

4 Transition goals and objectives, including vocational skills

5 Resources and strategies that will be used in working toward the goals and objectives

6 How the student’s progress will be assessed and evaluated

7 Assignment of responsibility for carrying out specific aspects of the plan, with the level of service and who will carry it out

8 A process for review and evaluation of the plan, at least annually

The Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a broad plan, not intended to delineate the daily instructional activities for the student. It is reasonable to expect that the Individual Education Plan may need to be revised throughout the year, to increase the effectiveness of the student’s support program, as the student and teachers become more familiar with one another and as changes take place. Flexibility in implementing the Individual Education Plan during the school year is needed to accommodate changes in such things as the student’s behavior or other needs.

When developing a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), it is important to plan adaptations to instruction, classroom environment, and classroom management that address the needs of the student and that will enable him or her to function

optimally in the classroom. Communication and social skills are key areas of development for students with autism and must be addressed in the plan.

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